How Much Should We Care About What People Think of Us?

We all feel the need to be accepted, it’s a basic human instinct. Naturally we all want to be liked as gaining approval from others increases our self esteem. We know people judge us, as we judge them, by their opinions and choices, the way they look, the way they speak, where they live, their occupation, plus lots of other things we aren’t even aware of. But how much should we actually care about what people think of us?

How much does the person mean to you?
Personally, the extent that I care depends on how much that person means to me and what they bring to my life. Naturally I want my family and close friends to have a positive opinion of me because they mean a lot to me and so I value their opinion. It can also impact our relationship and how we act towards each other in the future so I care a lot. Ultimately, there is more at stake than someone less significant in my life. For example, if someone doesn’t like my views because I have a different opinion to them, I tend to think they are not worth worrying about if they are insignificant in my life. That’s not to say that I don’t care at all, I know that I shouldn’t, but sometimes I do. One thing I do care about is being misunderstood and therefore mis-judged. When this happens, I feel compelled to set the record straight and to clarify my view point regardless of who they are. After doing this, If I am still judged negatively based on my opinion, I am more inclined to shrug it off and not let it affect me. 

So, I pick my favourite top and my best jeans, I wash my hair and try on several pairs of shoes before deciding which ones I look best in. I’m meeting up with a friend and I want them to think I look nice. I’m remembering the first time I went out after having my daughter, exhausted from months of sleepless nights and a sickness in my stomach from leaving her, but I enjoyed a night out and a break from the usual mum routine. On my way out from leaving the bar, a man with slurred speech (he had obviously drunk loads), wearing a terrible looking shirt, told me I looked really tired. Nothing else, no conversation, just one negative unrequested comment. I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect me at all, but the fact that he looked such a mess himself made his comment less credible. His opinion, although a little hurtful (and rude) didn’t really mean anything for two reasons- he was a nobody in my life and so his words didn’t tarnish an existing relationship because there wasn’t one and secondly, he looked such a mess himself I didn’t feel he was in a position to judge me.
‘Never regret being a good person to the wrong people. Your kindness says everything about you. Their behaviour says everything about them’

Is the person’s opinion credible?
Some people are very quick to judge us if we have an opinion, or make a choice, that differs to theirs. More often than not, without knowing all the information or the whole story. I mentioned in conversation to a friend once that we had bought our daughter an iPad and despite critisising our decision and expressing that she felt she was too young, less than one week later, she gave her son (who was incidentally younger than my daughter), an iPad. I found the way she expressed her opinion both rude and hypocritical so I didn’t care at all about what she thought of me and our choices as she clearly wasn’t sure of her own. In fact, the older I’ve got, the more confident I’ve become with my own opinions and the less I care about what other people think.

Care when it matters
Obviously there are times when it’s important to care what other people think- we wouldn’t get very far in life if we didn’t care what, let’s say, an interviewer thinks of us, as the aim is for them to like us in order to get a job. If we don’t care we can give off the wrong persona and if the impression we give is negative, the outcome is likely to reflect this. At some point we have to care, even if we don’t directly care about what people think of us, we often care about the indirect impact it has on our lives. Sometimes we want someone to like us because they are influential to people we do care about. There’s no denying it’s complicated. But I think at the end of the day, if we are confident with our choices and actions then we should also be confident enough that the people that matter in our lives will see us as a good person. The little, insignificant things that we may have a different opinion on really don’t matter, as long as ultimately the good person that we are shines through to those that matter.

Be true to yourself ‘Be careful who you pretend to be. You might forget who you are’
Does my bum look big in this? If we can’t see it why should we care? It seems it’s because we are trying to create an image that we think other people will like. An image that we are happy for others to see of us. However, this doesn’t always match the reality. I can get dressed up but if the same people have seen me looking a mess on the school run why should it matter? Some people carefully select and display photos of an idyllic family or a flawless picture of themselves photoshopped to perfection, that they are almost irrecognisable to the reality that we know. What’s the point? To seek approval and to be liked? But if it is so far from the truth, those approving are liking something that isn’t entirely real. They are not being accepted for who they truly are. They are just creating an image of what they anticipate people will approve of. Is the person so desperate for approval they are willing to fake an image to obtain it?

Accept that we are all different

‘Don’t be like the rest of them darling’ Coco Chanel
You can’t please all of the people all of the time, only some of the people some of the time. But why do we need to please anyone at all? As people, our thoughts and perceptions differ and so the conclusions we draw will be too. Once we accept this, we can concentrate on being confident with our own views and principles and forget about trying to please anyone else, because despite how hard we try, we can never please all of the people all of the time anyway! We should be confident with our opinions and views and not be swayed towards agreeing with someone just because we are so keen to get their approval. It has been said that familiarity is the social glue that bonds people together, and we deliberately look for the similar and the recognizable in order to feel secure. If we’re doing the same as everyone else, we must be doing it right (psychology today .com). Sometimes I naturally mimic the accent and/or language style and body language of the person I am speaking to, sometimes I don’t even realise I’m doing it. Subconsciously I must be aware that I am more likely to gain approval from someone if I am similar to them. Even when I don’t know the person and their opinions are therefore insignificant in my life, subconsciously by copying them, I am seeking their approval. So basically, even if we claim to not care what other people think of us, we all do to some extent, even if it’s not on a conscious level. I think the key is to make sure we are able to distinguish whose opinions are worth caring about from those that aren’t. Pigeonholing them into neat little boxes just like sorting the mail. On a conscious level we can ask ourselves ‘Whose opinions are valuable in our lives and whose are insignificant?’ Subconsciously we have less control, but we can only hope that having a positive mindset on a conscious level will contribute to a more positive subconscious and greater self esteem.

Doing this should help us to care less what other people think of us and to be so confident with our own choices that we don’t need to seek approval from others.

Tip! Develop positive self talk- have a little fun with your internal dialogue.

‘ I don’t care what you think of me! Unless you think I’m awesome – in which case, you’re right!’

Published by Nattale Norma

Hi, I'm Nattale and I live in a picturesque fishing village called Leigh-on-sea with my beautiful family. When my husband and our three children are sleeping, I release my inner thoughts and enjoy writing.

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