The Problem With Worrying About What Everyone Thinks of You

13.6.17

I’ll be honest, I am an intrinsically happy person. I smile a lot, I basically find all jokes funny, I laugh every single day, and I have the most loving, adorable family and girlfriends. My heart is pretty full.

However I am also painfully sensitive and care deeply about what others think of me. I want everyone to like me. And I mean every. single. one.

I’m the kind of person that will hold on to a side-comment made by someone for months. Overanalysing it, often changing what the person actually said, and attempting to discuss and re-discuss it with my best friend or younger sister. They are both of the tough-love variety which works surprising well to shut down my irrational behaviour.

I’m also the kind of person that will make up hypothetical situations in my head of someone saying something about me behind my back. I literally invent it like I’m the sadistic screenwriter of my own life. At parties if I see someone looking at me for longer than a “normal” length of time I either assume they think my outfit is terrible, they hate me, or someone has just told them an embarrassing story about me.

Basically I’m a psycho.

Luckily I can feel myself changing, and in the last couple of years I’ve started to simply care less. It’s true what people say about getting older; as we move closer to who we truly are we also move further away from who others think we are and we place less significance on that. It is a liberating feeling.

But why is it even a problem if I want everyone to like me? Surely it’s better than wanting to alienate people, constantly disagreeing and picking arguments? Over a century ago, social psychologist Charles Cooley identified the phenomenon of the “looking-glass self,” which is when we believe “I am not what I think I am, and I am not what you think I am – I am what I think that you think I am.”  This kind of external validation has insecurity at its core, and relying on it for even a short time chips away at our sense of self-worth and self-confidence.

The thing I have learned to remember is that what others think of you speaks more to who they are than to who you are. Someone might make a snap judgement about how they think you were raised based on their own upbringing, or they might be guilty of lying on occasion and therefore assume that you are probably a liar too and insult your integrity. When you buy into other peoples opinions of yourself then your sense of self is determined by that and eventually you lose your identity and moral compass.

My advice would be to refocus your attention on what you know to be true. If you know, deep in your soul, that you are an honest person then if someone attacks your credibility you know they are wrong. You know for a fact that they are wrong. Period. It’s like if someone says the Earth is flat. You know that it’s round so who f*cking cares?

And if none of that works just remember what Ethel Barrett once said, “We would worry far less about what others think of us if we realized how seldom they do.”


Header image by Holly Burgess for The Twenties Club