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Breaking Away from the Trap of “What would people say?”

Updated: Jun 17, 2022

POV: You’re lying on your bed on a Sunday evening recalling that one embarrassing moment when the teacher scolded you for your untied laces and told you to tie them in front of the whole class but you didn’t know how to.

The sudden shame you felt worried about what your classmates must be thinking of you.

The truth is no one even remembers this incident anymore .

The fact that you stuttered giving that one speech at morning assembly is not etched in other people's memories. Your date doesn’t think that you’re boring just because you don’t listen to the band that they do. Your boss doesn’t think that you aren’t hard working just because you were late to submit the report 5 minutes past the deadline, last month. Yet, this is what the mind concludes.

It is only understandable that we all want to be liked and appreciated for the work that we put in instead of being judged for it but when we start depending on people’s constant validation ignoring our own, we start getting trapped in this vicious cycle of abiding by other people’s expectations.

Chances are your shoelaces are tied now but you haven’t stopped worrying about what other people think of you.

Why does it matter what others think of us?

The fear of judgment or the fear of other people’s opinions also known as FOPO has been inherited from our ancestors.

It was a necessary medium to be a part of a tribe to survive in prehistoric times and hence it was important to behave in a socially acceptable manner to not get kicked out of the tribe.

In the modern era, there might be no tribes but we still need other people in our day-to-day life for work or outside for solidarity to live life happily, so FOPO is exceptionally unavoidable.

It is important to care what others think as it can help us transform into better human beings or learn from our past mistakes.

If there were to exist a society without any norms, the world would come to an end with everyone doing whatever comes to their mind.

Luckily, we have rules and regulations so it is only natural for people to fear if they are being on their best behavior but is it worth it to waste our precious time and spine putting strain on our mental health to get people’s approval?

Is it helpful to care about how people perceive us or detrimental to our well-being?

Caring too much about how people perceive us can put us in our shells or live a life of pretense.

However, caring can also help us build meaningful relationships and to be empathetic enough to understand where somebody else’s point of view is coming from.

The question is how to stop caring and overthinking unnecessarily?

The first step is to analyze if you’re spending way too much energy thinking “What would people say?”to the point where it is getting detrimental to your well-being.

Signs that you care way too much

We all want to be accepted for who we are but caring about every little detail can be harmful to your mental health.

Here are some signs that you care more than needed:

  • You hardly ever say “no”.

  • You stay quiet in intellectual discussions even if you have some valuable inputs to give.

  • You have a hard time deciding between what you want and what would be acceptable to others.

  • You are bad at confronting people.

  • You require constant validation from other people.

  • One criticism can overshadow the majority of appreciation.

  • You say “sorry” very often even if it’s not your mistake.

  • You forgive people just to avoid the conversation that brings you a lot of stress.

  • You make excuses instead of stating the genuine reasons for your unavailability.

  • You have a hard time setting boundaries.

  • You change yourself to fit in with other people’s expectations.

You might not relate to every sign but if you relate to the maximum number of signs, keep reading!

Tips on how to break away from the trap of constant FOPO

Accept Judgment

Acknowledge the fact that no matter what you do you cannot escape from the judgment of other people.

It is impossible to make everyone in the world happy. Even if you do the best thing possible, some people may not approve of it.

Research says that we believe people see us in a more negative light than they tend to. We are usually our own worst critics than anyone else.

We keep on fixating on the things that might have changed someone’s outlook of us, believing that it might never change. The truth is that people often tend to forget and move on.

While fear of judgment might help in shaping us, it can also disconnect us from the reality and flow of connection with people if it’s out of control.

Become Mindful

As you become more aware of yourself and your surroundings, you are more unlikely to doubt yourself and get affected by other people’s opinions but what if you find out that some negative judgments about you are simply correct.

Even better, self-aware people are likely to work more creatively and productively.

Read our last article about Self Awareness already folks!

Develop attentional control

Some moments of your life can be simply embarrassing but instead of wearing that shame of guilt, you can practice attention control.

It is a practice to drive away your attention from the things you don’t wish to focus on and instead push your focus on what matters or is more important.

You can develop attention control through mindfulness which you can attain through meditation or some other powerful mindfulness techniques.

You can also perform actions that improve your mood and help you embrace your compassionate side, like writing a gratitude journal or any random act of kindness to build attention control.

Maintain a journal

Penning down your thoughts and feelings is the oldest and the most powerful way to gain mindfulness. Once you start writing how you feel, you might not only gain self-awareness but also be able to figure out why it bothers you so much what other people think of you.

Accept your mistakes and move on

It was embarrassing when you burped in the music class but it happened, you cannot go back in time and change it. The good thing about embarrassment is that it doesn’t last. It is temporary. But if you turn into shame it lasts longer in your mind.

It is interesting to know that people who cannot stop making fun of you for small slip ups make those same slip ups too.

You’re never going to be perfect. You make mistakes and then get better. That is the cycle of life.

Dwelling on things that you don’t have any control over is not going to bring anything productive. The world you’re hiding your imperfections from is imperfect too.

Find the tribe that values you

It can be painful to be surrounded by people who constantly criticize you. Even though some people might not have bad intentions, it can still be bad for your ego and self-esteem.

It is important to find people who accept you for who you are and not feel judged around them. The people who support you, your decisions, and give you solicited genuine opinions but not in a way that crushes you.

This is the tribe that is important for your growth and mental well-being.

Consider Therapy

Therapy can help you let go of the unnecessary stress that you put yourself into. It can help you gain better self-esteem and self-confidence.

It can teach you how to approach negative opinions through helpful ways of thinking.

At some point in time, we have all spent our time worrying about other people’s feedback. Sometimes it can be useful but other times, it just takes unnecessary fuel from our body to keep our mind revolving around these thoughts.

The truth is some people are going to keep you on the pedestal, others are going to keep you down to earth. Some people will not have anything to do with you no matter what you do for them. You should stop pleasing them as it will just bring a broken heart home at the end of the day.

If you think you're being harder on yourself than you should be, reach out to a mental health professional.

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