Stop caring about what other people think: 7 steps to freeing yourself

Don’t worry, this article is not going to be as cynical as the title might at first suggest! But I would like you to ask yourself:  How much time, effort and pure emotional energy do you expend just to keep up with your own perceptions of other people’s attitudes and opinions toward you?  If you are a normal person, you probably pay at least a little attention to the lens through which the world views you.  If you did not, you would not be fully human, but a social castaway, languishing on your own “island” (a la John Donne).

No, this article is not intended to be cynical but is offered as a possible framework within which you can actually care about the world, but in a responsible way – a way that leaves you a participating member of the human race, but free from the more pernicious components of social interaction that can, in extreme cases, make your life miserable.

In her article The Ultimate Guide on How to Not Care About What Other People Think of You and Live the Life You Want, Nia Shanks ( outlines seven practical ways that you can begin to re-take control of your emotional health from those around you, and still be a card-carrying mensch.  Certainly, there are people in your life (partner, close friends and family, for example) who would not be expected to subject you to undue ridicule, bullying, etc., and in most cases you are OK here.  What we’re talking about are those people who live to criticize and inflict discomfort, or who are simply insensitive.  These people exist in legions all around us, in person, social media, advertising, politics – virtually anywhere – but you no longer have to be the victim who is constantly adjusting their attitudes and actions just to please others.  As Ms. Shanks asks:  “How often do you not say or do what you want to say or do, just because you care more about what other people would think than following your own voice?  Do you sometimes keep unpopular opinions to yourself, or reluctantly follow the latest fads for fear of the criticisms of others?”  This repression is frustratingly common.

What can you do to take back a bit of control from the emotional tyrants around you?  As Ms. Shanks suggests, “It’s time to stop caring about what other people think!”  Take a look at the following suggestions she provides and see which of them might be appropriate for you:

1. The negative comments someone makes are often about them, not you. 

Many people who are persistently negative, or who are have critical comments are themselves unhappy people who lead unpleasant lives.  The Anais Nin observation that “we tend to see the world the way we see ourselves” is all too often true.  The views of negative people are rarely worth considering, so a healthy capacity to simply smile and walk away can be, well, healthy.  As Ms. Shanks observers: “It’s sad that some people have nothing better to do with their time than try to tear others down.”

2. Be true to yourself. 

Follow your own voice.  The voices of others are no more valid or worthwhile than yours, so get over being concerned about what others think or say (although be willing to accept constructive criticism and advice).  Be honest with yourself and develop the courage to stand up for yourself.  With practice, you will be surprised at how reflexive and liberating this can become.

3. This is your one and only life. There are no do-overs. 

Ms. Shanks admonishes us to not reach a certain point in life, only to lament “I wish I had chosen to be happy” instead of following the whims of others.  You have only one life, so make the best of it for yourself. No one else will accept responsibility for your unhappiness; this is for you alone to bear, so take control.  Don’t give others the power to make you unhappy.  So-called “friends” and acquaintances can be changed, but you must make the best of your own life, so go for it your way!

4. What’s the worst thing that can happen? 

We are often kept awake at night imagining the possible negative consequences of not going along with the crowd or ignoring the comments of those around us.  But let’s be brutally honest:  how important are these people to you anyway?  Are their opinions really that important?  Will your popularity really suffer if you follow your own voice?  What’s the worst that can happen if you have to occasionally tell negative people to mind their own business?  Probably nothing as bad as you can imagine.  What a feeling of freedom this could give you!

“I’d rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I had done that.”  Richard Branson

5. Remove sources of negativity, immediately.

Purge your life of negative and toxic people and situations.  Life’s simply too short to tolerate these sorts of things.  If your associates have a knack for starting drama, avoid them. If your circle of friends has a tendency to tear you down, separate yourself and look elsewhere for companionship.  You can’t stop people from being hateful, but you can choose to ignore them and do something meaningful with your time instead.

6.  Trust a few opinions, and then forget the rest. 

There’s freedom in being true to yourself and not caring about what other people think. However, it is important to trust a select few to share their opinions with you, and to have people that you can go to when you need to talk.  In short, have a few close associates in whom you can confide – people you know have your best interests at heart – and disregard the opinions of others.  You don’t have to do this in a public or controversial manner, just keep it to yourself and move on.

7. Some people are simply going to dislike you, and there’s nothing you can do about it. 

Don’t waste your time trying to get everyone to like you, because it’s impossible.  Instead of worrying about who doesn’t like you, focus on being a better person for those who do.  Spend your time and energy living an awesome life and using your talents, gifts, and abilities to make the world and people around you better.  Most importantly, spend your time and energy making yourself happy.  If you are yourself unhappy, this will eventually become known to those around you.  In sum, ensure that other people like you, not because of who you’re trying to be, but because of who you genuinely are.

I hope that you find these seven tips to be useful.  As always, it’s easier to give advice than it is to follow it, at least in the beginning.  However, with practice you will be surprised how some or all of the above can become second nature!  As a word of caution, though, please do not take these tips as an invitation to be rude or unnecessarily dismissive – in most cases there is no real need to broadcast your I don’t care attitude to the negative people around you.  But learning how to appropriately apply these seven tips can help you along the way to not caring what other people think, and living a more awesome, happy and fulfilling life.

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