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Worry About What Other People Think? Here’s How to Stop

other people think

If you worry about what other people think, you’re not alone. It’s a crippling form of social anxiety that costs you time, energy, and money.

You know the symptoms:

The ceaseless replaying of social situations in your head, discussing those situations over and over with friends until they want to flee the building, bolting up from your mattress at 3:45 AM in sheer terror that someone misunderstood something you said.

You really torture yourself, don’t you?

Somebody else’s response is not your responsibility

Let’s say you attended a party over the weekend. You put on your earrings and pictured a fun evening. At the venue, you smiled at people, laughed at their jokes, made a few of your own. You were kind to everyone.

You did a good job.

Now the trick is to leave it alone. It’s beyond your control how the other people at the party perceived you or your efforts. For example, some people become suspicious when you’re kind to them. That’s not about you. That’s about them.

So, if someone doesn’t trust or like you because you’ve made an attempt at civility, don’t give him another thought. Move happily back into your own orbit.

And then, someone else may dislike you based on something as insignificant as the color of your dress. Maybe it reminds her of a dress her abusive grandmother used to wear. You have no control over that.

The key to setting yourself free from worrying about other people’s reactions to you is to just do your best and don’t worry. If you need inspiration, listen to this fine tune by Morrissey:

Let go of the idea that you can control what other people think

You can’t. Nobody can.

A wise woman once told me, “Not everyone is going to like you, Terry.” I found that incredibly liberating.

Until then, I thought it was important that everyone like me, and if they didn’t, it was my fault. The idea that I could just be myself without having to carry the weight of other people’s opinions came as a major relief.

As long as I do my best, who really cares what other people think? The ones who are supposed to “get me” will. The others don’t matter.

Even if you do your best, some people will misunderstand you

Case in point:

Many years ago, I took an excellent copywriting course at the School of Visual Arts. The instructors broke students into groups and assigned us to write an ad that employed humor. When the time came for my teammates and me to present our idea, the rest of the class laughed out loud. The instructors loved it.

We were mentally slapping each other on the backs until a guy stood up. He accused us of racism. He shouted, “I’m sick of you people saying my people multiply like rabbits. I’m sick of the jokes!”

Our ad didn’t reference his ethnic group. It had nothing to do with him whatsoever. Despite this, my teammates and I felt terrible about the situation.

In the end, though, this guy made something that had nothing to do with him all about him. It happened to us. At some point, it may happen to you.

But if you’re doing your best, it’s not your responsibility how people respond to you.

How to let go and not worry about what other people think

Once you leave a social situation, take your energy back. Seal yourself up. Sure, you can revel in the fact that you met interesting people and had a good time. There’s a fine line between reminiscing and obsessing, though, so be careful. If you find yourself ceaselessly replaying conversations, or if you wake up in a cold sweat, it’s time to de-escalate.

Put the soles of your feet on the floor and breathe. If you can’t manage that, shift your focus by imagining a social situation where you are admired and at ease. Whip out your journal and describe this situation as if it truly exists. Use sensory detail: What do you smell, see, taste, hear, feel?

If scripting a better situation is still too much of a climb, start by tapping. Your set-up statement could be something like:

Even though the guy in the blue shirt at the party shot me that look when I said I went to Manhattan College, I love and accept myself.

Then tap on the points:

The guy in the blue shirt…

Shot me a look…

As always, the words you use must be important to you. They must bring up an emotion in you. Don’t stress about this. What’s bothering you? Be specific and tap on it. (For a wealth of information on how to tap and the benefits of EFT, click here.)

Keep tapping until you feel calm. Keep tapping until you feel better. By taking action to alleviate your distress, you are training your brain to react differently in the future. You are taking your life back.

If you prefer to work with a practitioner instead of taking the DIY approach, set up an appointment with me. I’d be delighted to help you.

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Is EFT a Hoax?

is eft a hoax?Is EFT a hoax? Many people who could benefit from Emotional Freedom Techniques wonder, and for good reason. On a planet awash with prescription drugs to treat everything from social anxiety to overeating, putting faith in a method that involves using one’s own fingers to eliminate problems seems a bit fantastic.

Indeed, Wikipedia has devoted a page to decry EFT as pure quackery:

“EFT has no useful effect as a therapy beyond the placebo effect or any known-effective psychological techniques that may be used with the purported “energy” technique, but proponents of EFT have published material claiming otherwise. Their work, however, is flawed and hence unreliable: high-quality research has never confirmed that EFT is effective.”

Despite the skepticism offered by Wikipedia (which, college students report, professors do not accept as a reliable source of information), many people swear by EFT, commonly known as Tapping.

What gives?

Emotional Freedom Techniques and Me: A Love Story

In 2006, I suffered from an intractable case of insomnia. I hadn’t slept decently in over two years, beginning with my mother’s diagnosis of a glioblastoma and ending over a year after her death. I feared I had lost my ability to sleep at night, although I did nod off at odd hours, usually in a seated position, during the day. My family urged me to see a doctor. I looked one thousand years old. My sister told me, “You need a prescription.”

I’d heard horror stories about sleep aids; people on a certain pharmaceutical claimed they got into their cars and went for joyrides they didn’t remember the next morning. Others reported they’d digested the contents of their refrigerators but had no recollection of doing it. I decided that drugs were not for me.

Around this time, I started attending Toastmasters to improve my public speaking skills. I was due to give my first speech and jittery about it. By coincidence, I’d met an EFT practitioner named Alison Held, who offered to help me get over my fear of talking to an audience. We met for the session in a mutually convenient Panera Bread (yes, really). Before we started, she asked how I was doing.

“I’m great, except I haven’t slept in ages,” I told her.

“Forget public speaking,” she announced. “We’re going to work on your sleep problem.”

We tapped together for about 45 minutes, after which I felt remarkably more relaxed. That night, I slept through the night for the first time since my mother’s diagnosis.

EFT Is the Gift That Keeps On Giving

In 2010, I had the great fortune to accompany my aunt on a cruise to Turkey, Greece, and Israel. The problem? My aunt lost her ability to walk during the trip, which required her to use a wheelchair on some of the most inhospitable terrain to wheelchairs on the planet. What’s more, the airline that flew us to to Turkey lost her luggage and mine, leaving us without a pair of clean underwear between us.

My stress level hit the ceiling, especially as I watched beads of perspiration erupt on the polo shirt of the man who volunteered to push my aunt over the molten cobblestones of Istanbul. Once again, EFT came to the rescue as I lay awake fretting about how our group despised me for holding them up as my aunt and I turtled our way onto the tour bus. I tapped myself to an excellent night’s sleep.

Now, EFT didn’t help my aunt regain her ability to walk (although, to be fair, suspecting resistance on her part, I didn’t tap with her). Sleeping soundly made my next day’s many challenges surmountable.

In my experience, EFT is an effective insomnia, stress, and anxiety reliever. It also helped me overcome two of my favorite compulsions: Overeating onion dip and drinking too much wine too fast. (Not only did EFT help me end my obsession for onion dip, it changed the way it tastes. I don’t like it anymore. As for the wine, I still drink it but not as fast and not as much — which was my goal.)

These are just a couple of the successes I’ve had using EFT. Most of the others have to do with limiting beliefs I picked up in childhood that held me back in various areas of my life. You don’t want to hear about the problems that stemmed from Sr. Bernita telling me in fourth grade I’d amount to nothing, so I won’t bore you, but Tapping did, and does, help me get past my fear of public speaking.

After Much Personal Success, I Decide to Share EFT With the World

While listening to a show on EFT Radio, it occurred to me that I, too, could become an EFT Practitioner. I Googled programs and found one due to start within a couple of weeks in Newtown, Connecticut, not far from where I live, through The Tapping Solution Foundation. After finishing EFT Levels I and II, I sought and achieved certification.

Since then, I’ve had the good fortune to help others achieve their goals, break habits, and overcome their own limiting beliefs.

But, back to the science, can I prove that EFT works?

Making The Case That EFT Truly Works

During my EFT training, I noticed that I was one of only two lay people in attendance. The others were psychologists, social workers, a hypnotherapist, and a psychiatrist in his late 70s (a real tapping enthusiast; he certainly didn’t consider EFT a hoax). One or two of the social workers came from charitable Catholic agencies. It encouraged me that people with letters after their names were not only studying EFT but already using it with their clients and patients.

The work The Tapping Solution Foundation does to alleviate PTSD among veterans heartened me, too. An article on the subject of EFT and PTSD that predates my studies appeared in Psychology Today. It concluded that EFT is not a hoax:

“Psychologist David Feinstein PhD conducted an excellent broad metastudy of this research reviewing 3000 studies of tapping techniques. Published in the Review of General Psychology (August 12, 2012), this excellent article focused on the 50 or so studies that met Dr. Feinstein’s criteria for presenting clinical outcomes and having undergone peer review.

Dr. Feinstein concluded that EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) and other similar protocols for tapping with fingers on acupoint points successfully released the emotional pain associated with traumatic memories, and did so faster and more comprehensively than most traditional treatment methods.”

I’ll take Feinstein’s word over Wikipedia’s, but sometimes I wonder if studies are besides the point. Feinstein clearly doesn’t consider EFT a hoax, but wouldn’t we be better off proving its efficacy to ourselves? The Internet is abundant with free information to show you how to easily use EFT yourself in the privacy of your own home. Try it. Make up your own mind.

And if you’re not a DIY kind of person (or you could benefit from the help of a practitioner to expose your blind spots), contact me for a complimentary 20-minute session.

Let’s see if we can get you out of your own way.