In a word, no. But this of course is impossible. When people tell me they’re struggling with social anxiety, low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and thoughts of “not being good enough,” often the first thought (and sometimes verbal response to my clients) is, “stop caring about what everyone else thinks of you.”
However, we can’t just turn off our brains. We are wired to care about what everyone else thinks of us. It’s evolutionarily adaptive in fact. We have to know that we’re fitting in with the tribe so that we don’t get kicked out and have to survive on our own. We are social, relational creatures by nature, so of course we’re going to care what everyone else thinks.
The problem here is just how much we care. Summer is upon us and it’s time to get outdoors, try a new activity, and take some chances. Meet some new people, join a new sports league, or try a new hike or bike ride. All of these things might feel scary at first for some people because they worry about embarrassing themselves or not fitting in, looking cool, or “doing it the right way.” And these are the exact thoughts that I am asking you to challenge and not let get in the way.
It’s time to go after the life you want, not held back by fears of judgment from others. You might look stupid, or not be the best at something. That’s fine! Taking risks and trying new things has the psychological benefits of giving you a sense of fun, purpose, accomplishment, as well as the physical and emotional benefits of physical activity or meeting new people.
Regarding other situations and what everyone else thinks, sure, let’s take a look at a few places it might be a good idea to consider what others think:
- Romantic Relationship – In your relationship, it is the sign of a healthy relationship to accept influence from your partner. If they have feedback, listen to them, don’t get defensive and put up your walls.
- Friends – When with friends, see how people respond to what you’re saying – with interest and curiosity, or with frowns and disinterest. Perhaps there are subtle things you could tweak about what you talk about, jokes you tell, or the pace or tone you use in social interactions that could make these social encounters more enjoyable and successful.
- Work – It’s always good to be mindful of how you are representing yourself at work and what kind of feedback you are getting. Typically this will make you a better worker, which will lead to better success, status, and financial gain in the future.
So, the take home message here is don’t organize your life around what everyone else thinks. However, be mindful of the feedback you get from those around you who are important to you. At the same time, don’t give up yourself in a relationship, friendship or job to be something you are not. To quote Shakespeare, “This above all, to thine own self be true.”