We all feel the need to be accepted and the desire to ‘belong’ has been hard-wired into our instincts. Through the hundreds of thousands of years, we have evolved to recognise that our chances of survival increase drastically when we are in a group- and so we learn to collaborate, form bonds, and communicate with each other.

Although we may no longer need the strength as a group to survive in the modern age, we still have a desire to be liked and respected by our peers. Being popular and well-liked may mean that you may get the promotion at work instead of your colleague, or that you’ll appear to be more desirable as a partner.

woman looking out the window behind white curtains

Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

But when we become overly reliant on what others think of us, allowing their opinions to shape who we are and how we feel, that can cause us to lose sight of ourselves. We start moulding ourselves to fit others’ expectations, and we get affected when someone expresses their disapproval or disappointment in us.

If you are someone who cares too much about what others think of you, here are steps that you can take to forge a more balanced relationship between yourself and others:

1. Stop overthinking

We spend our days worrying about things that may or may not happen in the future, and that’s perfectly normal. While a healthy dose of worrying can help us be better prepared for situations that may crop up in our lives, it becomes a problem when you start overthinking or reading too much into situations.

For instance, you may assume the worst and conclude that your partner is upset with you just because he seems distant and his replies to you are curt. However, he may be experiencing stress at work and his behaviour speaks more about his own emotional state than how he feels about you.

As human beings, we tend to see the world through our own perspective, and that perspective may sometimes be a distorted or incomplete picture of the actual reality. This is why we tend to jump to conclusions, overgeneralize, and remember the negative experiences we go through more than the positive ones.

Pay attention to your own thoughts and learn to recognise when you are fretting about something that exists only in your mind. Instead of allowing your overthinking to get to you, try to replace them with positive and reassuring thoughts instead.

2. Cut yourself some slack

People who are sensitive to what others think of them are often the most self-critical. Instead of allowing your perfectionistic streak or fear of failure to dictate how you live, know that it’s ok for you to make mistakes – the world isn’t going to end as a result of it.

When you learn to embrace self-love and shut out your self-critical thoughts, it gives you the freedom to live authentically and with meaning. Instead of seeking validation externally and constantly changing your position to conform with popular opinion, you may actually gain more respect from others when you can be self-assured in what you do.

Focus on becoming the person that you would like to be, rather than what you think others expect you to be.

3. Most people honestly don’t care

Photo by Kartini Maxson on Unsplash

It’s often said that you would care much less about what others think of you if you knew how little time they actually do spend thinking about you.

We all have a limited number of hours in our day and we mostly spend it sleeping, working, interacting with our loved ones. Any time that we still have left in our day, chances are we’ll be thinking about our future, our past, and our own hopes, dreams, and fears. With all that packed into one day, who still has time left to sit around idly thinking about someone else who isn’t in their immediate family?

4. Focus on what’s important

People usually avoid doing or saying things that they think would make them appear silly or make them look bad. Instead of going with their heart, they turn to their friends for counsel and seek approval and support from others before going ahead with their decisions.

We have just one life to live – are you sure you really want to spend your precious time on earth fretting about what others think about you, and allowing it to hold you back from living the life you want?

Ask yourself: at the end of the road when you look back on your life, what would you consider to be the most important things in your life? Would you regret learning  French and making a fool of yourself when you spoke to the locals in their native language, or would you regret not having learnt French at all due to your fear of being judged?

5. The haters are gonna hate

Somewhere out there are people who can identify with you and appreciate you for who you are. Don’t waste time trying to hang on to those who expect you to conform to their wishes and wants. Cultivate authenticity, and you’ll find those you are meant to be with. As Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

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