As I started to figure out how to build my self-esteem it had the unexpected consequence of helping me to stop worrying about what other people think about me. I stopped turning myself into a pretzel to try to make other people like (read: love) me and that, in turn helped me be able to accept myself for who I am.
A famous self-help author named Wayne Dyer once said, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” The moral of this small tale is that you can not control what other people think about you or anything else for that matter and the sooner you stop trying to do that, the happier you will be.
Part of the reason a lot of us get sucked into this endless vortex is that the vast majority of the people in the world take it upon themselves to share their opinions about everything. Most of them will be all too happy to tell you exactly what they think about your fashion choices, the way you wear your hair, how you walk and what you eat. It’s endless and some of us are really affected by this type of oversharing. We take it into ourselves and think we have to remake ourselves to please the other person. This has a devastating effect because it effectively turns us into social chameleons and makes us untrue to ourselves. You may be acutely aware of your discomfort when you spend time with someone who does this on a regular but I’d bet money that you feel powerless to either get them to stop or stop letting it get to you.
I think that happens because of our own lack of self-esteem and self-worth. We give our power away when we let ourselves be unduly swayed by the opinions of others. My mother-in-law used to do this to me frequently. She would come to visit us and criticize the way I kept my house, the way I prepared meals for my family, and even the way I dressed my children. I spent years trying to please her but never measured up to her standards. She was actually the person who led me to the realization of just how adversely this kind of behaviour affected me and led me to start to make changes in terms of letting it get to me.
When confronted with this kind of passive-aggressive behavior, we usually first can’t believe it. We will question how the other person can be so rude and have the nerve to say what they said to us. The next emotion we will usually feel is anger which though justified is often out of proportion. When confronted, the other person will usually say that they “just want to help” you which, of course, couldn’t be farther from the truth.
In the end, most of us will choose not to walk away from the encounter and the other person but will, instead internalize their comment and take it as gospel truth and therein lies the biggest tragedy of all.
So how do you stop worrying about what other people think of you?
The first step is to develop a little bit of self-trust which starts by learning to give yourself a good, healthy pat on the back when you complete a task well. This is called “self-attribution” and it means standing outside yourself and “observing” yourself accomplishing things and then acknowledging those accomplishments to yourself. Being able to do this is a very important component of self-esteem building.
Challenge your own negative self-talk
Next, is the difficult task of challenging and then halting negative self-talk or self-thinking. This is an extremely difficult thing to overcome because those of us who do it are almost programmed by our family of origin to do it and to believe what we say to ourselves. I learned how to overcome this behavior by practicing daily self-affirmations. You have to break the cycle and loop of negative feedback to yourself and that will help you learn how to drown out the external negative feedback you are exposed to. It will become less important and have less of an influence over you over time.
Get rid of the perpetrators
Next, dismiss the people who do this to you on a regular basis from you life. Invite them to go elsewhere and spread their venom with other people. This may be extremely hard to do but it will be the most rewarding thing you can do. I say surround yourself with a great cheerleading squad and that means that anyone who does not contribute in a positive way to your life has no place in it. Give yourself permission to dismiss them and show them the door and not feel guilty about doing so.
Figure out what you are good and what you like to do and then go and do it with other people who also enjoy doing it. This is one of the best ways I know of to make a new friend or strengthen an already existing friendship. If you like baking but aren’t really good at it and end up just feeling frustrated when your latest loaf of bread doesn’t rise, stop baking bread. It’s that simple. Concentrate on your strengths and build on them instead of devoting time to your weaknesses.
Remember that people who put other people down usually do it because they lack their own sense of self-esteem. Don’t dance with them. Don’t buy into their negativity.
Learning how to stop caring about what other people think about me was one of the best things I ever did for myself. This did not happen until I was almost in my 40s and I think it came about largely because of the maturing process but it was also something I worked at developing. I’m glad I did. You can do it, too!