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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