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“I don't care what people think!” You've likely said that time and time again, yet you still care. Why? I’ve included different factors that could help answer the question, along with 13 powerful tips on how to not care what people think, for real.
You’ll come to appreciate the tips after discovering the dangers caring too much can have on your mental health. Rest assured, it will take more than simply distracting yourself, as suggested by some self-help gurus.
Of course, it’s human to be curious about how people view you, but it’s a double-edged sword. On one end, third-party opinions can help you grow in self-awareness and develop other areas of your life. On the other end, your feelings can get hurt or you can lose confidence if what people are thinking and saying about you is harmful in nature.
Today, you’ll leave with tools for improving your self-perception and taking control of your response to criticism and feedback.
Is It Possible to Care Too Much?
Yes, it is. I used to worry excessively about how people saw me. I felt I had to act a certain way to avoid negative judgment and criticism. I’ve evolved out of that mindset once I realized it was a harmful behavior that led to anxiety and social avoidance.
I felt uneasy, as I wasn’t being my true self. Thankfully, I was able to rewire my brain to stop giving a damn.
I want you to get to that place of mental and emotional freedom. When you quit worrying about what others think, you’ll have extra mental and emotional energy in your reserves to focus on living.
Of course, you’re human and need interpersonal relationships, so you can’t completely stop caring about people’s views and opinions. What will happen is you will remain unaffected after learning how to manage your emotional response.
For now, the burning question is WHY. Why are people’s opinions of you a source of stress? Some of it has to do with your self-image and how you think people perceive you. Other potential reasons include:
The problem can also originate from fear or anxiety over losing friends or loved ones if you don’t act a certain way. A study by the Journal of Anxiety Disorders found a link between social anxiety and a fear of negative evaluation.
Unkind or harsh things said about you in your childhood could have impacted how you see yourself now. Negative experiences in adult relationships could’ve also contributed to being hypervigilant about how you’re perceived. Individuals are more likely to be troubled by the opinions of others if they have low self-esteem, to begin with.
Regardless of the genesis of your mindset, you almost won’t escape the potential effects on your physical and mental health until you STOP giving life to what people think and say.
Constructive Criticism vs Destructive Criticism
Remember I mentioned earlier that the issue of worrying about what others think is like a two-edged sword? One side of the coin relates to constructive criticism.
Constructive criticism is a positive gesture of providing information to solve problems (positive feedback). It’s typically given not to offend but to build, develop, or advance the recipient.
Destructive criticism, or negative feedback, focuses on blaming, humiliating, or shaming someone and is psychologically harmful.
Feedback can help you see things from a different point of view, get things done more effectively, or correct harmful behaviors. It’s usually a genuine intention to help and not a put-down.
However, you might perceive it as an attack on your personality. The negative perception could come from having a negative or fixed mindset and reluctance to learn and grow from mistakes.
Here’s an example: Your supervisor or team leader tells you there’s a more efficient method for completing a task and even shows you how. You think your boss is criticizing your performance. It upsets you and leaves you feeling like you can’t get things done right.
You also feel anxious about your boss intervening and offering feedback in the future. Your work leader has a duty to ensure employees work efficiently.
Their mind is on optimizing production, not on trying to make you feel incompetent. Your feelings of inadequacy could be linked to poor self-image.
Why You Shouldn’t Care What Others Think
The dangers of worrying yourself sick about people’s opinions of you are in the details of how it makes you act and feel. For example
How to Not Care What People Think: 13 Practical Tips
There’s a saying to the effect that what others think or say about you is none of your business. In other words, don’t preoccupy your mind with those matters. You’ll prevent negative third-party opinions from spoiling your day.
Here are other ways to counteract that mindset:
#1. Question Your Thoughts
Ask yourself “Is it me or is it them?” Are people really thinking ill of you or are you internalizing the information you receive the wrong way? Some of us live in our heads and pay a lot of attention to our inner critical voice.
Your inner critic insists on feeding negative ideas to you about yourself and creates self-doubt. You can end up projecting those negative self-images onto others and form the opinion that they see you how you see yourself.
I’ve heard people ask, “You think I’m stupid?” when no one said anything to suggest that. The response could be a projection of a negative self-image.
The next time you find yourself panicking about what someone thinks, ask yourself this, “Are these my thoughts or theirs?”
#2. See the Good in Criticism
Some people are highly sensitive to any kind of feedback and usually take it personally. If you think you’re more sensitive than others, that’s okay. Everyone is unique in their personality. However, knowing that you’re more easily offended or hurt is an example of self-awareness.
By developing greater awareness of yourself (thoughts, actions, feelings, and emotional triggers), you’re empowered to decide how to respond to people’s evaluation, judgment, or disapproval.
Self-awareness also has an external aspect that enables you to understand how others might view you.
Whenever someone offers feedback, pause and process the information and look for the good in what’s being communicated. You’ll essentially override any negative self-talk your inner critical voice is suggesting.
#3. Show Compassion to Negative Critics
You may wonder why I’m suggesting you should be sympathetic towards anyone who tries to degrade or humiliate you with criticisms.
Offering compassion is essentially recognizing that the person may be acting from a place of personal hurt and therefore criticizes you to make themselves feel better. I agree, it’s not fair for them to misdirect their negative feelings toward you.
Responding to criticism with sympathy instead of anger and defensiveness conveys that you’re not taking it personally. You may even gain admiration and respect for the way you’re handling what’s being thrown at you.
#4. Build Your Self-Esteem
Self-esteem refers to the opinions you hold about yourself and can be positive or negative. The more self-doubt you have, the more you won't feel good about yourself, and the more it will negatively affect your behavior. Improving self-esteem will help ward off self-doubt and increase self-confidence.
Take the first step by acknowledging your unique traits, talents, and abilities. Accept who you are, see your imperfections as a natural part of life, and treat mistakes as opportunities for growth. At the end of the day, the only person whose opinion of you matters most is yours.
#5. Validate Yourself
Self-validation is a way of reinforcing that you’re important and valuable, regardless of what others may think. If you think you aren’t enough, you’ll have trouble validating your good qualities. With that comes a desire to seek that validation from others.
The problem with that is it can result in emotional distress whenever others fail to say pleasing things about you. Practice self-validating by accepting your strengths and weaknesses. Recite positive self-affirmations every day to remind yourself that you are enough even though you aren’t perfect.
#6. Show Yourself Compassion
We can sometimes be our own worst critics and tuning in to our inner critical dialogues doesn’t help. Check in with yourself.
As if you’re unkind to yourself by caring too much about what’s going on in the minds of others.
Self-compassion is an aspect of self-love and works to prevent harsh self-judgment. Be more compassionate and empathetic towards yourself by reassuring the inner you that it’s okay if people don’t see you the way you see yourself.
Remind yourself it’s okay to have those negative feelings and sensitivity to criticism the same way you would encourage your best friend.
#7. Let Go of Perfectionism
I began embracing self-development because I wasn’t happy about personal behaviors that were holding me back. Perfectionism was on them. I later realized that the perfectionist mindset is a weakness, not a strength.
It can come from a lack of confidence in one’s ability and a need to control outcomes. Letting go of the desire to be perfect means accepting that you are fallible like every other human being.
Ditching perfectionism is a natural stress reliever. As long as you’ve done your best, you can sit back at ease and allow things to take their natural course.
With due diligence, you will get it right most of the time. If it doesn’t turn out the way you expected, then so be it.
#8. Shift to a Growth Mindset
There are two types of people, those who have a fixed mindset and those with a growth mindset. If you’re fixated on what people are thinking and believe it can’t be anything good, you can end up being stuck in that mentality.
With a growth mindset, you’ll shift the focus from people and events to more important matters, like becoming the best version of yourself. Your personal development goals can include learning to accept criticism, improving your self-esteem, and self-regulating your emotions.
These qualities will make it harder for the opinions of others to upset you. Read Why Mindset is Everything: 9 Reasons to Master Your Thoughts.
#9. Increase Self-Awareness
Self-awareness is being capable of reflecting on your behaviors and why you think and feel the way you do. It’s a huge part of understanding who you are and tracking your response in different situations.
A lack of self-awareness can contribute to default reactions that can form unhealthy patterns, like believing people don’t like you, think ill of you, or are out to get you. As you become more self-aware, you’ll easily spot negative thoughts that cause you to feel insecure around others.
According to BetterUp, self-awareness “frees us from our assumptions and biases.” Being in tune with yourself helps you manage your emotions better, improve your self-image, and develop a more positive outlook on people’s perceptions of you.
#11. Manage Fear and Anxiety
Assuming people are thinking negatively about you is a mentally unhealthy way to live. Fear and emotional distress can arise whenever you have to interact socially.
Fearing social connection can cause social avoidance, which can lead to social isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and feelings of hopelessness.
Challenging negative self-talk coming from your inner critical voice and taking the focus off yourself helps minimize fear and anxiety. Fortunately, you have the power to quiet the chatter by using distraction and mindfulness techniques, such as focusing on your breathing.
#12. Stop Thinking About What Others Are Thinking
If you were able to read minds, you might be surprised to discover that people are thinking more about themselves and all of their daily challenges. Could it be that you’re unconsciously hoping they have you in their thoughts, so they could acknowledge and validate you?
If you do believe others have negative thoughts about you, is it possible you’re projecting your negative self-view onto them and are receiving the same negative vibe you’re putting out in the universe? Think Law of Attraction. You’re only doing yourself an injustice by trying to be psychic.
#13. Ask a Therapist for Help
Some behaviors are so deeply embedded that they’re difficult to manage on your own. A therapist can help you trace back to the origin of your mindset and provide tools for you to change negative thinking patterns.
Final Thoughts on How to Not Care What People Think
Don’t you want to live without that burden of worrying about how society sees you? Focusing on what other people think is a recipe for personal dissatisfaction, unhappiness, and lower levels of success. The mindset doesn’t just hold you back, it can be harmful to your mental health.
People will talk and they will sometimes say mean or hurtful things. You have a choice to receive the information and respond in an emotionally mature way. No emotional response can be just as effective. Poor self-image holding you back? Try these 11 Ways to Stop Being Insecure and Build Self-Esteem to do your part in living your best life.