If you’re even a half-way decent human being, you undoubtedly care what others think about you. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to project a good self-image to the world, but when you become preoccupied with what others think of you, you distort your own image of yourself. The only person who should be able to define yourself is you. If you find yourself in any of the following situations, you should think about changing up your mindset before you stop living for yourself, and end up living for everyone else.
1. You evaluate yourself through other people’s eyes
At the end of a hard day’s work, you should be able to reflect on your efforts, accomplishments, and shortcomings. However, you should only think about these things in relation to how you performed the previous day. Don’t worry about how others may have judged you throughout the day. For one thing, they most likely didn’t take any of their time to evaluate you. Secondly, doing so will make you paranoid that people are always judging you, and your performance will ultimately suffer.
2. You give others’ behavior too much meaning
If you’re socially anxious, you probably spend a lot of time wondering “What did he mean when he gave that compliment?” or “Was he being sarcastic when he said I did a good job back there?” That’s fairly natural, and it takes work to get over it. However, it must be done if you want to truly feel success. Worrying about what others may or may not have been thinking simply wastes time that could have been spent improving your life in some way.
3. You let feedback stop you
I struggled with this for a while, especially when I started writing for the vast Internet audience. Don’t let criticism stop you from trying. People would only offer feedback if they saw talent in you that they knew could be unleashed with some tweaks. Rather than shutting down when someone offers criticism of your work, listen to what they have to say. Keep their words in mind the next time you start a task, and focus on that specific area in order to improve your overall performance.
4. You’re preoccupied with always saying the right things
Nobody wants to appear socially awkward. Ironically, the people who are most preoccupied with not looking silly in their interactions are the ones who are obsessed with trying not to look silly. Everyone’s said “You too!” to their waiter when he said “Enjoy your meal!” and realized how ridiculous they sounded afterwards. Don’t let that kind of gaffe stick with you. Do you really think the waiter is going to the back room and telling his colleagues “Ha! The guy at table 2 said ‘You too’ when I told him to enjoy his meal! What a loser!” Seriously, nobody has time for that. And you’re not the first person to do it. Just let your interactions with others flow, and you won’t be so intimidated by everyday interactions.
5. You try to please everyone
Those who care too much about what others think will spend way too much time trying to please everyone. The problem with this is when you do something for one person, and then another, and another, you’ll start a chain of events in which you’re looking out for everyone else’s well-being at the expense of your own health. I’m not saying you should be completely selfish throughout your life, but you need to know when you’re burning yourself out because you’ve spent too much time worrying about other people.
6. You don’t put yourself first
This goes along with the last point. If you’re constantly trying to please everyone, you won’t spend enough time on yourself. When others thank you for your help, you often say it was “no big deal,” even if it was exhausting work that set you back on completing your own obligations. When you don’t put yourself first, you’re subconsciously telling yourself that everyone else matters more than you do. That’s simply not true. Put other people’s needs to the side, and enjoy some “me” time for once.
7. You have a hard time saying “no”
If you’re eager to please everyone all the time, you’ll end up taking on much more than you’re capable of doing. Most people want to prove themselves, especially in a new job in which their hard work can lead to a promotion. But if you take on too much, your work will suffer. Which will impress your boss more: Taking on so many responsibilities that you’re up all night every day during the week and have to call in sick on Friday, or taking on a few tasks at a time and completing them exactly as needed? Sometimes, saying “no” can do much more for your career than you’d imagine.
8. You don’t give yourself enough credit
You most likely have one or two interests for which you are incredibly passionate, and you consider yourself an expert in these areas. However, when in a group of people, you tend to downplay these strengths, and act self-conscious about the knowledge you have about these subjects. You might be intimidated by other specialists, and would rather listen than take the chance of sounding stupid. But the worst that can happen is you’ll get feedback from others, which, as we discussed before, can be used to better yourself in the future. Put yourself out there, and you’ll be surprised by how far it takes you.
9. You feel ashamed about your hobbies
Along with the last point, you often degrade yourself when talking about the things you’re really interested in. I write for a video game-related website, and love doing it. I’d never be able to do that if I had a problem with people considering me a “video game nerd.” Why should I care what others think of my hobbies? They’re mine to enjoy. Honestly, it took me a long time to get over the idea that I don’t have to be interested in what’s “cool” or “in.” Now, I use my expertise to report news and discuss current events about an industry that actually interests me, and I enjoy every minute of it.
10. You’re trapped in an unfulfilled life
If you’re always worried about what others think, you end up letting them dictate how you live your life. You’ll give up hobbies that others think are “stupid,” and you’ll end up spending all your time running some errand for other people who, in the long run, don’t matter in your life. When your life becomes a repetitive grind, and there’s no difference between Monday and Friday, you need to step back and take some time to figure out what you want out of life, regardless of what others think you should want.
Featured photo credit: Flickrr via farm1.staticflickr.com