How to Stop Worrying About Other People’s Opinions Now

Let’s be honest; we’ve all worried about what other people think at some point in our life.

Heck, if you’re like me, it comes up regularly.

Maybe we worry about what our colleagues will think if we go for a promotion and don’t get it.

Maybe we worry about what our friends on Facebook will think if we post about our new business.

Or maybe we worry what our family will think if we decide not to host the annual Christmas party this year. 

As we talked about last week in part one of this series, it’s completely normal for us to have other people’s opinions on our radar.

Nothing has gone wrong if this happens to you. It just means you’re a human with a working brain. 

The challenge is when we start acting on those fears of other people’s opinions and we begin showing up in ways we don’t want to.

Maybe we don’t go for the promotion because we’re too afraid of people thinking we’re not good enough.

Or we don’t talk about our business because we don’t want to face others’ judgment.

Or we reluctantly host the party even though it’s not a good time for us because we don’t want to make people mad. 

We make all of our decisions based on that fear of what other people think without tapping into what is true for us. 

And this week, in episode 70 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast, we are taking a close look at how to handle this fear.

What can we learn from it?

What do we want to do about it?

And how can we move forward in a way that serves us and our long term goals?

So if you’re struggling with other people’s opinions, be sure to check out episode 70 now.

You can listen to the episode below, or stream it on your favorite podcasting app here:

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the entire podcast transcript.

Listen To The Podcast Here!

In This Episode, You Will Discover… 

  • Why you can’t hurt other people’s feelings and what that means for you
  • The power of unspoken opinions
  • What you can learn about yourself when you dig deep and do this work

Links From The Podcast

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Episode 70: How to Stop Worrying About Other People’s Opinions Now (Transcript)

Hey everybody! Welcome back to the podcast. What’s happening? I hope you’re all doing well. 

Training Reminder

I am feeling super excited today because on Tuesday, November 24, which is the day after this episode releases, I am teaching my How to Make Your Ideas a Reality training. So if you’re listening to this in real-time, and it is before 11:00 a.m. EST on November 24, there is still time to join us.

This is a training for anyone who has big ideas and big goals but you’re struggling to see them through and actually make them happen. Or maybe you’re having a hard time even getting started on them because you’re overwhelmed thinking about where to begin. Or maybe you have a trail of half-finished projects trailing your around. If that sounds like you, go get your name on the list.

This will be a step-by-step, interactive training that teaches you exactly what you need to know to follow through and take action even when things feel hard. Even when you don’t know the next step. Even when you feel overwhelmed. So if you think this sounds up your alley, you can head to imbusybeingawesome.com/training, add your name to the list, and I’ll send the Zoom details your way.

Alright, let’s dive into the work today, shall we?

Other People’s Opinions

So this is part two of a two-part series all about Other People’s Opinions. And more specifically, why we care about other people’s opinions. Why we have such a fear of judgment. And what we can do about it.  And if you haven’t listened to part one yet, no sweat. I do recommend going back and checking it out so you can put what we’re talking about today into context. But you can definitely keep listening now and then skip back and episode 69 to fill in the gaps if that’s your style. You do you.

Recap From Last Week

As a quick recap for everyone, last week I gave you an assignment of sorts, which was to start noticing the areas in your life where you find yourself focused on other people’s opinions. And we talked about three general areas where this comes up. We talked about our general concern about a broader, undefined group of “other people.” This often sounds like, “what will they think” even when we don’t know who they are specifically. We also feel concerned about what our closer acquaintances or colleagues think. And then finally our close friends and family and how each of these perspectives plays into our lives. 

After we talked about those three areas, we then explored why we care so much. We talked about our fear of other people’s judgment. We talked about our fear of being “different” and “sticking out.” And we talked about one that I’m certain we’ve all experienced at different times, which is the fear of making people mad or sad or upset, etc.

So hopefully you were able to identify where this fear of other people’s opinions shows up in your life. Because this week we’re going to talk about what to do about it. How do we want to think about these different situations?

So of everything I shared last week, probably the point that gets the biggest pushback is the concept I shared toward the very end about quote-unquote hurting other people’s feelings. 

Again, we have been taught out whole life that we can create other people’s feelings. “Did you hurt your sister’s feelings?” “This person made me SO mad!” “Oh my gosh, you make me so happy.” We hear these phrases all the time, right?

Well here’s the crazy thing. Even though we’ve been led to believe this our whole life, it’s not true. 

You Can’t Hurt People’s Feelings

You cannot make anybody feel anything, you can’t make someone feel happy. And you can’t hurt someone’s feelings. And again, I know that this is completely counterintuitive information. But hear me out for a minute. What you do, can not impact how another person feels. 

If we think about the model, we need to remember that the thing that creates our feelings are our thoughts. We feel angry or sad or happy or frustrated because of what we think. 

Our thoughts create our feelings. Our feelings inspire our actions, and our actions create our results in our lives. This is the way the world works.

So let me give you just a quick example to demonstrate how this unfolds.

Compliment or Criticism? 

Let’s say that somebody said to me: “you have super dry humor.” Now, that statement that they said to me, “you have super dry humor,” is a neutral circumstance. It’s not inherently good. And it’s not inherently bad. It is simply words strung together in a sentence, and we can choose to think about that sentence any way we want. 

So, if somebody said to me: “you have super dry humor.” I could think that’s a compliment. I could think that this is a really good thing. And if that’s the case, then when I hear that statement, I think to myself, “they think I have dry humor. I am SO funny.” 

And when I think to myself, “I am so funny,” that thought makes me feel confident. It makes me feel certain about myself. And when I feel confident about that thought, “I am so funny,” I show up in my life with confidence. Maybe I tell more jokes. Maybe I interact with more people. And maybe I gather more stories to add to my arsenal of dry-humor jokes. 

And the result is that I am indeed funny – at least I think so. What’s more, I am sharing that humor with others. I’m going out and telling more jokes. I’m interacting with more people. And I’m getting more stories to add to my routine. 

So in this situation, when someone said to me, “you have super dry humor,” and I thought “I’m so funny!” It’s positive. I like the results it’s creating in my life.

Flip The Scenario

On the other hand, I could also hear the statement: “you have super dry humor,” and think of it as an insult. Maybe I think to myself, “I can’t believe I came across as dry. I must be so boring.” 

And when I think to myself “I must be so boring,” that thought makes me feel embarrassed or ashamed. And when I feel ashamed, I turn inward. I don’t reach out to more people. I don’t tell more jokes. Amd I don’t get feedback. I don’t gather more stories. Instead, I spin out. I over-analyze everything I say. And I second-guess myself. And I basically hide under a blanket unwilling to share.

Do you know what result that creates? My life becomes increasingly boring. Because I’m not acting like myself. I’m not reaching out and meeting more people. Instead, I’m closing in. I’m second-guessing. And I’m not showing up as me. I’m showing up boring.

So in the first situation, I didn’t feel bad about the comment on my dry humor, and in the second situation, I did. And this is entirely because of how I choose to think about the sentence. The person didn’t make me feel that way. And what they said didn’t make me feel that way. Because in both situations it was the same sentence. The only difference was the thought I had about it.  

So let’s bring this back. How does this tie into the fact that we cannot hurt other people’s feelings? Well, what you decide to do or not do in your life, is simply another person’s circumstance. What you do or don’t do. And what you say or don’t say can not make them feel anything. Instead, it is what the other person chooses to think about that circumstance – about what you said or did – that creates their feeling.

Your Friend’s Wedding

And this is true in any situation. I think one of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had from this had to do with RSVPing at a wedding. Several summers ago, I was helping a friend of mine plan her wedding for August. And she was waiting on all the darn RSVPs so she could put in the orders for food and figure out seating arrangements and everything.

One afternoon we were hanging out making centerpieces and she was calling people who hadn’t RSVPd yet to see whether they could make it. And she called up one of her best friends from college who was clearly so torn up about whether or not he could make it to the wedding.  I can’t remember the exact specifics, but it was a situation where he could technically make it work and attend the wedding, but it really wasn’t a good time with his work and family schedule. And you could tell that he had put off responding because he didn’t want to make her feel bad. He didn’t want her to think that he didn’t care or that her wedding wasn’t important, etc. 

And the way my friend thought about the situation and handled the conversation was just amazing. As he was clearly stuck in this indecision about whether or not he would come, she said, “I’m going to make the decision for you. You are working so hard. You need to spend time with your family. And I know you love me and support me and will absolutely be there in spirit. But I’m going to put you down for a “no.”

Flip the Scenario

Now, this situation could have gone very differently.

She could have been super upset after thinking, “he doesn’t even care about me!” She could have felt really sad about the situation because she thought, “this is a bummer, he is such an important part of my husband and my lives, I wish he could be there.” But instead, what she felt was love and compassion toward her friend and his situation by thinking, “Of course I understand. You are working so hard. It’s important to spend time with your family.” 

And then after she got off the phone I asked her how she was feeling, and she said to me, “you know, I’m totally fine. We’ll get together and celebrate this fall.” And then she added in, “Plus, it’s five less plates I need to buy for the reception.”

So again, the way you show up is not making people feel a certain way. You are not making them feel bad or happy or grateful or anything. Instead, it is their own thoughts about the circumstance that impacts how they think and feel.

This is important

Now as a disclaimer, I also want to state that this is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. 

Just because you can’t hurt other people’s feelings doesn’t mean that it’s okay to run around being tactless and intentionally rude and then telling the other person: “it’s not my fault you feel bad, you’re the one thinking those thoughts.” That is not what I’m saying at all. So please don’t take away that message from this episode. .

But what I am saying is if you find yourself playing small, and holding back. If you find yourself people-pleasing, and agreeing to do things that you truly don’t want to do because you’re worried about what other people will think — because you’re worried you’re hurting other people’s feelings – that’s when I’d recommend taking a look at what’s going on. That’s when I recommend thinking carefully about your situation and considering whether or not you like your reasons for showing up in that way.

And I’m not going to lie, this can be challenging. And it can be especially challenging when you’re just working through this information for the first time. So if you struggle with pleasing people, or if you struggle with worrying about hurting other people’s feelings when you say “no” or telling the truth when someone asks for your feedback, I really encourage you to sign up for a one-on-one coaching call with me. 

We’ll talk about what’s going on for you. We’ll do some coaching. And we’ll decide whether it’s a good fit for us to work together on learning how to honor and follow through on what’s important to you while still showing up in a way that’s filled with love and compassion for both yourself and others. Because I promise you, that’s possible. Just head to imbusybeingawesome.com/coaching and find sign up for a time that works for you. 

Feeling Not Good Enough

Now the second two overarching reasons that we talked about last week in terms of this fear of other people’s opinions are the fear of being judged that we’re not good enough or that people will think we’re weird or totally “out there” or they’ll think we just can’t do what we’re setting out to do.

And what’s interesting here is that these two fears of other people’s opinions are really an inverse of what we just talked about with hurting other people’s feelings. Let me explain what I mean… stick with me for a minute.

Let’s say you’re thinking about asking for a promotion at work, but you think that your boss and your colleagues will judge you if you try. So rather than giving it a shot, you don’t do it. Or if you do, you do it half-heartedly with a bit of apology behind it.

Or maybe you want to open a business, but you think people will think you’re crazy for doing something so reckless. And so you talk yourself out of it and don’t take the chance. 

Or maybe you’re afraid your extended family will get really mad at you if you decide not to host the annual Christmas gathering, so you end up reluctantly hosting it anyway.

Why is this? Why do we decide to push the goal of a promotion aside and not open the business and reluctantly go host the party? 

Who cares what your colleagues think? Who cares if that person on Facebook judges you for starting a business? Seriously – who cares? 

Why You Care What People Other People Think

Well, the answer is YOU DO. You care what these people think. And the reason you care what they think is because of what YOU make those things mean about you. You are thinking thoughts that make you feel bad. 

You are hurting your feelings with the thoughts you’re thinking about yourself.

Let’s say you don’t get the promotion; you would be the one feeling disappointed for thinking you failed. I

If you did open the business and it’s struggling, you’d be the one feeling embarrassed or regretful from thinking you made a mistake. 

And if you don’t host the party, you don’t want to feel guilty because you think you’re not doing what a quote-unquote “good daughter, good sister, good mother, good wife” does.

But again, these thoughts are your thoughts. You are the one who gets to decide what you think about every situation. And when another person thinks something about you – whether they actually think it or you imagine they’re thinking it – you’re the one who gets to decide what it means. 

Because what other people say or do does not create our feelings. We do. What we think creates our feelings. 

An Extreme Example

Let me give you a really extreme example to help put this into perspective. Let’s say I meet you for coffee. And we show up at the coffee shop, and the first thing I say to you, “I hate your green dress.”

And then you look down at what you’re wearing, and you see the jeans and sweater, and you look at me a little bit confused. In fact, you might even be a little bit worried about me; you might think I’m a little bit crazy. You might even inquire about how I’m feeling.

The one thing you wouldn’t do is make my comment about you. You wouldn’t start worrying that I was right. You wouldn’t start second-guessing your choice or your actions or thinking, “oh my gosh, maybe I AM wearing a green dress and it IS ugly. What was I thinking?! 

Of course not. 

Flip The Scenario

You would probably think something like, “Gosh, I hope everything’s okay with Paula. Clearly, she’s not getting enough sleep. Clearly, she’s confused. I wonder what’s going on with her. Because I’m obviously wearing jeans and a sweater, not a green dress.”

Now let’s say it’s the same situation, but you show up to the coffee shop and you are wearing a green dress. And even though you never really wear dresses, you found this great green dress at the store the other day, and when you put it on this morning you felt amazing and you couldn’t wait to wear it coffee. 

But then you hear me say, I hate your green dress. And then you start questioning things. Then you start thinking, “I knew I shouldn’t have worn this dress. I never wear dresses. I knew I couldn’t pull this off. I’m so embarrassed.” And we start going down that spiral.

It’s the same circumstance. I said the same thing both times. But the way you think about it changes everything. Because even if you were wearing a green dress, you could still think the thoughts in our first scenario. You could still think: “gosh, I hope everything’s okay with Paula. Clearly, she’s not getting enough sleep. Clearly, she’s confused. I wonder what’s going on with her. Because I look amazing in this dress.”

You could think that. That is available to you. And while this is — as I mentioned a really extreme example. The same is true for any situation in which somebody says something to you. 

Mother-in-Law’s Opinions

You do get to decide what you make of it. If your mother-in-law says to you, “I never worried about that for my children, and they turned out just fine.” You could choose to feel offended. You could choose to think, “she always criticizes me. She never has something helpful to say. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, I just can’t do right by her.” 

Or you could choose a different thought. You could choose to feel a different way than offended.

You could choose to feel curious and think, “that’s so interesting. I’m glad that approach worked out for her. And I’m also glad that this approach works for me.  

You could feel compassion and understanding and think, “maybe she’s feeling a little self-conscious about her parenting and feels the need to defend her style. That’s okay. I know how that feels.”

In other words, you have so many options of thoughts to choose from. Rather than going to the immediate thought that causes you frustration, or judgment, or shame, or offense, I encourage you to slow down for just a moment. 

When you feel that vibration building up, challenge yourself to take a slow breath and ask yourself: what am I making this comment mean about me? Why am I choosing to think this way? Why am I choosing to feel offended? Can I think about this differently in a way that might serve me better? How do I want to feel right now? What do I want my experience to be in this situation?

If you’re able to create that distance – even for a moment – it makes such a powerful difference. When you can realize that other people’s opinions are just that — opinions. And when you truly internalize that other people’s opinions don’t actually impact who you are, what you think, how you feel, and how you show up in the world, you start taking back control. You start finding your own strength. You start worrying much less about what other people think, and you start living in a way that’s true to who you are.

Assumed Opinions

And what’s more, oftentimes these opinions that we worry other people have about us are never spoken out loud. 

Most of the time, other people don’t even say these things. We don’t even know if these things are what people are actually thinking. Instead, we form the entire scenario in our brains. 

Let me give you one more example of an experience I had with one of my classes a few years ago. And this story has to do with my students’ behavior, and more specifically, whether or not they showed up to class and what I made it mean about me.

Teaching and Other People’s Opinions

So I taught a 9:30 class on Tuesday and Friday mornings, and while 9:30 is not early for me, for juniors and seniors in college, it might as well be 3 in the morning. In fact, they’d probably prefer 3 in the morning because they’re still awake at that time.

Now there were two students who frequently skipped class — especially on Friday mornings. And when they did not come to class, my brain immediately made this circumstance mean something negative about me.

When my students didn’t come to class, I made it mean that they had hated the course and they didn’t think I was a good teacher. I was convinced that they didn’t think the material was important and that the class was a complete waste of their time. And I made it mean they didn’t respect me as a teacher. 

Now obviously, these thoughts felt terrible. These thoughts filled me with a whole bunch of negative emotions. I felt frustrated, I felt shame, I felt discouraged. It was a whole mess of negativity.

Unfounded Beliefs

And of course, the crazy thing is, I had no reason to think any of these thoughts. 

These students never gave any indication to suggest that they didn’t like me or didn’t like the course. They never said anything negative. And in fact, when they were in class, they participated constantly. They asked questions, they contributed to the discussion, they were super engaged. But nevertheless, on those days that they skipped, my brain went straight back into that negative spiral. I was convinced that they had all of these negative opinions about me and my course.

Unspoken Opinions Say More About You

And do you know what the fascinating thing is about these unspoken opinions? 

The fascinating thing here is that often our biggest fears about what other people think are really a reflection of those insecurities that we have of ourselves. 

And this was absolutely true for my teaching situation. 

This was a new course. I had never taught it before. And I was diving into entirely new material, so I wasn’t super confident about it. I was feeling a little bit nervous about it. 

So when my students skipped class — again, a completely neutral circumstance — I projected all of my insecurities in that situation. I brought up all of those negative thoughts and connected them to that circumstance. 

Simply because I had a junior and senior in my class that liked to oversleep on Friday mornings past 9:30, I made it mean that I was wasting their time and I was a bad teacher. My brain didn’t even see the possibility of any other situation. My brain didn’t realize that my students’ love of sleep had absolutely nothing to do with me and my teaching.

It turns out, it’s not all about me.

Learn About Yourself

And uncovering that realization was so powerful. Because when I recognized what I was doing. When I recognized that I was making my students’ behavior mean something negative about me, it helped me realize my own thoughts about myself. It helped me uncover the beliefs that I had that were not serving me. In fact, they were beliefs that were holding me back. 

And once I realized that I was able to start working on these negative thoughts. I was able to start finding other thoughts that might serve me better. And I developed an important awareness about my tendency to project opinions on other people that have no basis in reality. Instead, they were just holding me back.

Start Asking Questions

So if you find yourself feeling concerned about what other people think, and you find yourself making up stories about what they must be thinking, I challenge you to question this. Ask yourself, is this thought true? Am I absolutely sure that this person is thinking this about me? What am I making it mean about me? And what am I really afraid of here?

And once you uncover this situation. Once you realize what you’re making these thoughts mean about you, then it’s time to question them. Are they serving you? Are they moving you forward toward your goals? Or are they holding you back?

Because I promise you, the only person whose opinion matters is yours. That’s it.

So whether somebody said something negative or critical about your holiday baking this year  and you feel crushed because you think you’re not a good baker. Or whether somebody’s not answering your emails and you feel frustrated and ignored because you think they should respond faster. Or whether you’re worried about what the vague “they” think if you try working toward that goal. Take a minute and turn inward. 

What is it that you’re really worried about? What are you making other people’s opinions – whether spoken aloud or imagined inside your head — mean about you? 

Are these fears that you have yourself? Is this something you’re secretly worried about, too? And also, does this belief serve you? How might you think about those opinions in a different way? 

Because I’m telling you, once you start shifting that perspective. Once you start taking back that power and deciding on purpose what you want to think and feel about every situation, that’s when things really start changing. And while it does take practice. And it does take a lot of repetition. I’m telling you, it is so worth it.

Quote of the Week

And I want to leave you with a quote this week by Les Brown, which reads: Other people’s opinions of you do not have to become your reality.

And this is so so true.

So the next time you find yourself lost in other people’s opinions, I encourage you to take a moment and step back. Recognize what you’re making it mean about you. And then choose deliberately how you want to think about the circumstance instead. Because you get to create your reality. That’s in your power. So own that. Keep doing you. The world needs more of it. And you’ll create a much more enjoyable holiday season because of it.

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