I hold my hands up and admit I can spend way too much time worrying about what other people think of me.
It’s an easy trap to fall into and one that’s not entirely our fault.
Human beings are hardwired to rely on one another. So we’re programmed to be sensitive to others.
Once upon a time, social exclusion was a threat to your very survival. These days, it just makes us feel bad.
But the research shows that your brain feels that pain in the same way it does physical pain.
So needless to say, we all want to be liked. Yet our pursuit of that can be detrimental to our own well-being.
Here are some of the signs that you’re worrying way too much about what other people think of you…
1) You dwell for days on any disapproval
The other day I was taking my dog for a walk when a fellow walker chastised me about him being off-leash in the park.
Technically, it is “against the rules”, yet the reality is that around 80% of dog owners do it and nobody usually seems to mind.
But this one comment seemed to stick with me. I hated the feeling of being wrong, or that even a perfect stranger thought ill of me.
Maybe you can relate?
Perhaps you can find yourself dwelling for days on even the slightest criticism. Disapproval gives you a deeply uneasy feeling that you can’t seem to shake.
Most of our self-esteem should come from within.
It can suggest that you look for too much of your approval outside of yourself if other people’s thoughts of you matter so much.
2) You take on board everyone’s opinions of you
There are over 8 billion people on this planet.
Now, granted you’re not going to meet them all. But it’s safe to assume you will meet plenty of folk during the course of your lifetime.
It’s ludicrous to think that you could or should take into account all of these people’s ideas, beliefs, and feelings about you.
Yet many of us do unwittingly make allowances for the opinions of people who quite frankly have no right whatsoever to even offer it to us.
By all means, consider the feedback of those closest to you — the ones who have earned your trust, respect, and admiration.
But we should never give people an automatic say in our lives.
3) You change your plans based on unsolicited advice
So it’s bad enough that those uninvited opinions of others take up residency in your thoughts. But it’s even worse when you start to use them to base decisions on.
If someone’s unsolicited advice prompts you to question and second guess yourself, it’s a problem.
It effectively means you trust others more than yourself.
If you are prepared to alter your plans and adjust your goals from the throwaway comments of another person, your self-belief may need some love and attention.
4) You stifle yourself in order to fit in
This could be done in various ways.
You might tone down the way you dress in order to be accepted into the group.
Maybe you decide to keep your opinions and thoughts to yourself in case they’re unpopular.
You may drop certain interests or hobbies because you think others will judge you about them.
You could even be tempted to hide certain fundamental truths about who you are for fear of recrimination.
If worrying about what people think is curtailing your creativity and sense of self, it’s holding you back.
5) You struggle to say no for fear of disappointing
You’re tired, it’s been a long week, and you want nothing more than to crawl into bed to binge-watch your favorite show.
But one of your besties has texted to try to arrange an impromptu big night out.
The very thought of it makes you want to run away and hide. But instead of letting her know this, you find yourself texting back “Sure, ok.”
Because despite how desperately you want to stay home, you desperately want to please her more.
If you find the very thought of turning people down incredibly uncomfortable, you most likely have some people-pleasing tendencies that need addressing.
Because the root of these tends to come from caring too much about what people think.
6) You find it hard to uphold boundaries
It’s not just an inability to say no. Other people-pleasing tendencies also have a habit of eroding away at our boundaries.
That same search for approval means we may put up with shitty behavior that we should be drawing a line under.
If you often feel like you get taken advantage of, ask yourself why?
If your boundaries need some work, you may relate to a few of the following:
- You frequently take on more than you can handle
- You’re always saying sorry, even when there’s no need to or you’re not at fault
- You find yourself venting and complaining all the time because people seem to use and abuse you
- You often dread doing certain things or seeing certain people, but you don’t know how to get out of it
7) You have a habit of putting your needs and wants last
Perhaps the ultimate in people-pleasing behavior is always putting everyone else first. Far from being noble, this is a self-destructive habit.
You may try to justify it by telling yourself that you don’t mind.
It doesn’t make too much difference if you see the film that they want, or if you always end up eating at the restaurant that they choose.
But consistently putting yourself last isn’t selfless, it’s self-betrayal.
You are signaling to yourself that your needs and wants are less important than those of everyone else.
8) You usually feel indecisive about what to do for the best
Having an analytical mind can mean that you spend plenty of time weighing up your options.
But deep-rooted indecisiveness goes beyond that. It becomes paralyzed for fear of making the “wrong” choice.
Sometimes we don’t feel like we know our own mind, because we’re too busy thinking about everyone else.
You may struggle to make your own decisions and prefer to have other people do it for you.
Rather than feel into what is best for you, you seek the thoughts and opinions of everyone else around you.
9) You often feel paranoid that you’ve done something wrong
This is another one that I know I can be guilty of.
If a friend fails to text you back you will spend hours wracking your brain for the reason why.
Your go-to assumption is one that expects the worst. They must have fallen out with you.
You don’t simply put it down to them being busy or forgetting to reply.
You are so concerned by what other people might be thinking of you that you end up reading into things that aren’t actually there.
Even when you try to remind yourself that you’re probably being silly, you can’t help your mind from wandering down that road in the first place.
10) You overthink things
It’s wise to be mindful. That means reading the room and behaving appropriately.
It’s also advisable to think before you speak to avoid unnecessarily putting your foot in your mouth or saying something you’ll later regret.
But much like the example we gave above about always thinking the worst — we can arrive at false or unhelpful conclusions whenever we fall into overthinking.
What’s more, when we spend too much time in consideration, sadly it tends to have the opposite effect of what we had hoped.
We no longer seem natural or sincere.
We’re so focused on doing and saying “the right” thing that we become a false version of ourselves.
if your conversations with others often feel fake, forced, or overrehearsed it’s a sign that you may overthink things.
11) You don’t put yourself out there
Perfectionism usually leads to procrastination and avoidance tactics.
If you’re always worried about what people may think, you’re less likely to take a risk.
That may be when it comes to social interactions, accepting new opportunities, or simply saying how you really feel.
And that is bound to limit you eventually.
You daren’t go for it and apply for that job for fear of the bitter sting of rejection.
You’re too anxious to pluck up the courage to ask that person out because it would be mortifying to hear “no”.
So you try to stay in your protective little bubble as much as you can.
There are so many scenarios where we hold ourselves back to try to avoid what feels like the harsh judgment of others.
When the real truth is that life is too short, and nobody cares as much as you think they do in your head.