We're all guilty. Every day from the moment we wake up, we live our lives caring what other people think of us.
We tip toe our way through life by doing things in order to please others, not because it's what we believe in. Eventually our actions, appearances, and lives become molded by how we think other people perceive us. How are these pants going to make me look? What will my colleagues think if I spoke out? If I take this job, what will my friends and family think of me?
It has to stop. Living a life that follows the ideal notions of what other people think is a terrible way to live. It makes you become the spineless spectator who waits for other people to take action first. Worst of all, it makes you become someone who doesn't take a stand for anything.
We go through our days thinking about how other people might be judging us. But the truth is—those people are thinking the exact same thing. No one in today's "smartphone-crazed" society has time in their schedule to think more than a brief second about us. The fact of the matter is, when we do have time get our thoughts straight, we're too busy thinking about ourselves and our own shortcomings—not others. It is a sad but simple truth that the average person filters their world through their ego, meaning that they think of most things relating to "me" or "my." This means that unless you have done something that directly affects another person or their life, they are not going to spend much time thinking about you at all.
Once you understand how people's minds works, it's a big step towards freedom.
It's impossible to live up to everyone's expectations. There will always be people—no matter what we say or how we treat them—that will judge us. Whether you're at the gym, at work or taking the train. You will never be able to stop people from judging you, but you can stop it from affecting you. Think about the worst thing that could possibly happen when someone is judging you or what you're doing. I guarantee that chances are—nothing will happen. Absolutely nothing.
I've learned that it's better to be loved by a few people you care about, than to be liked by everyone. These are family, friends, your spouse—the people who love you for who you are, and the people who will be there for you during your worst times. Focus on these people. They're the only people that matter.
Now let's talk about the cure:
1. Know Your Values
First and foremost. You need to know what's important to you in life, what you truly value, and what you're ultimately aiming for. Once you know who you really are and what matters to you, what other people think of you becomes significantly less important.
2. Surround Yourself with Pros
Surround yourself with people who are self-assured, and live life without comprising their core values. These people will rub off on you quickly.
3. Practice, take action
You can read all the books in the world about being confident or getting over your fears, but if you don't take action, you're just someone who's read how to ride a bicycle without ever having ridden one.
You can start by writing all the things that make you feel uncomfortable. Then one-by-one, you do them. Once you complete the task, you move on to the next. Repeat.
My first task was taking a cold shower. I turned the water as cold as it could get, and I could feel my body shake before I even entered the shower. This was the inner voice in my head talking. It was hard at first. But surprisingly, it got easier the second time. Then even easier the third time. Before I knew it, my body stopped shaking and I was no longer uncomfortable; I'd conquered my fear.
4. Find out what you like by spending time with yourself
Traveling with other people can be fun, but you won't get the opportunity to truly get out of your comfort zone. You'll be exposed to different social cultures, break social norms that you didn't even know existed, and ultimately, be forced to burst out of your small bubble.
Plan nothing, except for a one-way flight ticket to your destination—figure everything else out when you're there. Trust me, you'll be just fine. It won't be easy initially, but don't get discouraged. Being comfortable with the uncomfortable will grow with time. I continue to struggle with it everyday, as do many others. But you need to get started today.
5. Put things into perspective
Apart from the fact that life really is too short to worry about things like this, the other aspect is that people’s feelings change. For example, say one moment people insult you for wearing yellow shoes, giving you the impression you shouldn’t wear them. What if this person's opinion changes, and they start wearing yellow shoes themselves? People change their minds, so what they think now might not matter in the future.
Think positive. Take pleasure in the small things in life. Begin to see beauty in everyday things, like a child playing with a dog. Take comfort in everyday things, like a warm cup of tea. Find happiness in everyday things, like a story about overcoming hardship, told by your friend.
6. Focus On Your Dreams
If you are constantly worried about what other people think, you will never get to where you need to go in life. You are going to have to do things that don’t always meet people’s standards. You will come into situations where you have to put your pride, and your reputation on the line to get what you want. If you are constantly worried about what people are thinking, you will never have the will to do what’s right for you. Follow your dreams.
7. Accept yourself for who you are
Understandably, accepting yourself is not the easiest thing to do. Luckily, there are things you can do that will help.
First of all, think of all the things that you don’t like about yourself and write them down. Now, look at them more closely and see if there is a possibility to change them.
For example, if you are thin and don’t like that, then look at ways in which you can gain weight and bulk up. If you aren't willing to put in the work to change something that is fixable, you don't have the right to complain about it.
However, If you wish you were taller, that's not exactly something you can change. Think about how your situation could be worse.
As time goes by and you realize how unimportant some of the things you worry about actually are, life gets easier and your constant concern starts to plummet as your confidence rises.
Finally, please practice this with other people too. If you find yourself judging or gossiping about others, please stop. Let’s focus instead on becoming the best versions of ourselves and encourage others to do the same, even if it’s a different way than us.