Munch. The Scream. Wikimedia Commons.
“Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.”
Do you spend time worrying about what other people think of you?
We all do this to some extent, but if we do it to excess, it can be emotionally depleting of both energy and spirit.
Constantly searching for the approval of others will become a fruitless and self-destructive quest.
How can we possibly become what we imagine everyone wants us to be? Obviously we cannot. At the same time, whilst knowing this to be true, how can we also work on our longstanding concerns about what others think of us?
Here are some ways to consider and reconsider this painful issue…..
- Resolving Not To Give Others Power Over You….
Flora Borsi – Subjective Freedom I. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Care about people’s approval and you will always be their prisoner.”
It is a fact that we give our power away to others when we feel dependent on their constant affirmation and assent.
Often, the roots of this lie in our past, with unmet needs for love and approval, which can continue into adulthood.
Nicolai Fechin – The Little Girl. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“We may never realize the extent to which our behaviors impact our children, how they seek validation in our every word and smile, gaze and gesture.”
Lockdown Looks (Of Suspicion)Pekka Nikrus.2020. Flickr.
“The eyes of others our prisons; their thoughts our cages.”
Being able to break free of such restrictions is a liberating experience, for which many people might need therapeutic help.
“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”
When others disapprove of us, unless a part of us agrees with them, their views will not be able to affect us.
“No name-calling truly bites deep unless, in some dark part of us, we believe it. If we are confident enough then it is just noise.”
Laurell K. Hamilton
A disapproving and censorious approach to life, with rigid views about right and wrong, may also mean that we are constantly critical and uncertain of ourselves.
If we are shut inside an entrenched mindset, we are constrained by our own restricted, dichotomous worldview.
Allowing ourselves to relax judgemental and rigid notions about ourselves will mean that we are less dependent on others’ opinions, freer to be whoever we wish.
We also need to consider whether we value the other’s views anyway……
“We should forever forswear the masochistic process wherein we seek another’s approval before we have even asked ourselves whether that person’s views deserve to be listened to.”Alain de Botton
Gustave Caillebote. The Plain of Gennevilliers, Yellow Fields 1884. Wikimedia Commons.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
2. Recognising Your Own Imaginings and Projections…
“We suffer more often in imagination than in reality”
Lucius Annaeus Seneca
“At age 20, we worry about what others think of us. At age 40, we don’t care what they think of us. At age 60, we discover they haven’t been thinking of us at all.”
Most people are principally concerned about themselves, even though we may sometimes feel they are judging us. This is often our own self-judgement, projected onto others.
Self-portrait In Mirror. K. Somov. Wikimedia Commons..
“Remember no one really cares what you look like. They care what they look like. You are the only person in the world to have worried about your face.”Matt Haig
“Nobody is thinking about you the way you are thinking about you. They’re all thinking about themselves.”Brianna Wiest
When we are not too confident in ourselves, we may imagine that everyone is criticising us, when in reality we are judging ourselves.
“Look at other people and ask yourself if you are really seeing them or just your thoughts about them…. Without knowing it, we are coloring everything, putting our spin on it all.”
Knowing ourselves is important here. How do we see the world, and how much of that view is a projection of our own inner landscape?
Max Beckmann – Paris Society  Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”
3. Developing Self-Belief, Self-Knowledge And Self-Care.
Charles Levier – The Good Place [c.1960]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“Believe in yourself and there will come a day when others will have no choice but to believe with you.”
What do you think about yourself? Do you really know yourself? Do you trust yourself? I mean, really trust yourself, deep down?
“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Trusting yourself requires confidence, self-knowledge and a feeling of self-worth- a conviction that you deserve to have faith in yourself, your own opinions, your honesty, decisions and beliefs.
An attitude of tolerance towards our own mistakes is important here. If we can forgive and be kind to ourselves, then it is more likely that we will feel confidence and self-trust.
Self-critical people tend to have a low self-image and struggle to develop this trust. They may doubt themselves and the world.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
Innervision Roberto Matta & Victor Brauner. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”
4. Thinking About Why Others Would Want To Speak Badly About Us…
Munch. Hatred. Wikimedia Commons.
Others may speak badly about us for many reasons. Even if they feel we have wronged them, spreading their own bad thoughts about us will inevitably rebound on the person who promotes such gossip.
Envy may also have a part to play in speaking ill of others. Putting others down behind their backs may be a way of boosting themselves.
“People who repeatedly attack your confidence and self-esteem are quite aware of your potential, even if you are not.”
Wayne Gerard Trotman
“Because they feel unhappy, men cannot bear the sight of someone they think is happy.”
In addition, people may project onto us aspects of themselves which they do not like. It is easier to see the other as ‘bad,’ rather than own this in themselves.
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”
Francisco Toledo – New York Sketchbook [c.1970s] Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“The opinion which other people have of you is their problem, not yours.”
5. Choosing Your Friends Wisely.
Jerry Weiss. Friends, oil on canvas, 2003. Wikimedia Commons.
“I don’t have time to worry about who doesn’t like me … I’m too busy loving the people who love me.”
Charles M. Schulz
If you have good friends, then you can value their loving, thoughtful opinions. Not minding too much about what others think of you does not mean you do not appreciate anyone else’s ways of thinking.
The important point to add here is that we need only take on board the thoughts of those whose opinion we respect.
It is important to assess the people whom we allow to be close to us, as far as is possible.
Choosing genuine friends means that we will have support in our lives from those who really care; we know they will stick by us and never turn against us. Even when there are disagreements, we can trust that they will think long and hard before speaking and acting.
This choice of friends is one key aspect of feeling secure and happy. Then, even if there are those whom we know speak badly behind our backs, we can feel to some extent cushioned from their covert barbs.
Loyal friends can often neutralise and invalidate the gossip-spreaders and give us strength to cope. They will not listen to those who slyly condemn others.
They will most likely have a more balanced view, and encourage us to continue living in a way that is authentic and true to ourselves and others.
“When men speak ill of thee, live so as nobody may believe them.”
6. Being Yourself: Authenticity.
Andrew Stevovich – Subway Loops Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.”May Sarton
Being unafraid to stand out from the crowd, despite the threat of being criticised, is highly important.
It is vital to strive to be true to ourselves, develop the resilience and courage to be authentic, and not allow ourselves to be cowed by public opinion.
Then our voice will be heard above the cacophony of life.
“Be isolated, be ignored, be attacked, be in doubt, be frightened, but do not be silenced.”
Those whom we respect and value will be there, supportive and strong.
“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
7. Being Less Afraid of Criticism.
Two Women, Seated. Edvard Munch. Wikimedia Commons.
“There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.”
“Do what you feel in your heart to be right – for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”
Criticism is inevitable, if we live productive lives and have clear ideas and beliefs.
We need to learn to develop a thicker skin to cope with destructive criticism, whilst valuing and learning from constructive and helpful feedback.
At the same time, it is important not to allow any criticism to distract or discourage us.
“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly.”
Enrico Lionne – Red Roses [c.1915]Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr.
“What other people think of me is none of my business.”
“You have no responsibility to live up to what other people think you ought to accomplish. I have no responsibility to be like they expect me to be. It’s their mistake, not my failing.”
Richard P. Feynman
Wild Flowers No. 1 Robbins, Ellen, 1828-1905. Wikimedia Commons.
“You’re under no obligation to be who people think you are. Change, grow, rearrange yourself. Free and beautiful things always bloom and spark with no holding back.”