Why do we care so much about other people’s opinions, even those of total strangers?
Why do we do things, or not do things, because of how we expect others to react?
No matter the “why” the truth is, at some point, we base our actions and decisions on how we think other people will perceive us. As a result, we don’t always do the things we want to do, because we’re afraid of what others will think.
It’s beneficial to have opinions from a few people you can trust to tell you if you’re doing something wrong, or to encourage you to take a risk. Thankfully, I have parents, a brother and a solid group of mates who keep me in check when they think I am about to do something stupid.
But what about other people’s opinions? What about those who naysay in your direction for no reason? Or what about people you go to college with, work with, or otherwise have to tolerate because you see them at social events?
For a good chunk of my life, I valued the opinions of others too much, and this is something that I am working on a daily basis. It is an ongoing battle but I am determined to come out on top.
In school I was the awkward quite kid. Like many others I was made fun of, relentlessly. I was teased because I was a little bit nerdy (there is a nerd in all of us). My analysis to these events was the same: do something different from everyone else and you’ll be berated. Better to fit in. Looking back at this, this was not right!!!!!
Unfortunately, I allowed a lot of opportunities to pass me by, simply because I cared too much about what other people would think or say. I would take jobs or go to events because that was I thought others wanted for me. I would often not be true to myself, or do the things that would make me happy, out of fear of how other people might react. I stopped doing those things that I wanted to do.
Perhaps you can relate: When was the last time you didn’t do what you wanted because you cared more about what other people would think?
Probably more frequently than you like to admit.
Older. And, Wiser?
Fast forward a bit. I’m now 30 (nearly 31) and much more confident, though not immune to hatred. Many share their negative opinions about me, and my body (because I’m a health and fitness professional). I may not be the biggest Personal Trainer in the world or the most experienced, but what I make up for in that is empathy and being able to relate to people. In the Fitness industry in particular you are judged on your appearance and what you do in the gym on a daily basis. What I believe we should be judged on is if our clients get the most of their sessions and get the body transformation that they are looking for. Ultimately, they are paying for this service.
Now more than ever, thanks to the internet and social media, people have no problem being jerks and letting their opinions fly. The pool of negativity has grown larger, and deeper. People hide behind keyboards and their phones and post horrible messages on people’s accounts.
It’s time to stop caring about what other people think …
Here are 7 Practical Ways to Not Care What Other People Think
1. The negative comments someone makes is about them, and not you.
When I started this company (@shanewalshfitness) I was rapidly introduced to the craziness that can happen on the internet. People for the most part have provided me with amazing feedback but there are some dickheads that have posted cruel, and false, comments in my DMs. I was, and still am, criticized for many things regarding the way I look, whether it be on social media or day to day. To some people I’m too big, to others too small, and because I post pictures of me with no top on occasionally they feel the need to naysay.
These posts are not for them, they are for the people that struggle on a daily basis and need someone to look at and say “I can do this”. It was shocking, and overwhelming. Why would people who don’t even know me feel compelled to be so cruel?
But in the last few months I se everything from a different perspective. The people who go out of their way to make hateful comments, usually under an alias, must have a pretty crappy life. Why would someone who is happy or building a worthwhile life take the time to do nothing more than be hateful? That’s when I realized the hateful comments I receive are a reflection on the commenter, and not on me. It’s just school, but with (some-what) grown-ups and the power of anonymity.
It’s terribly sad that some people have nothing better to do with their time then try to tear others down.
2. Be YOU
Yes, this is almost painfully cliche, but it’s crucial. It was a valuable lesson I didn’t learn until my early 20s.
As a personal example, I took a risk creating this website and sharing my personal experiences, such as my battle with depression, my health scare and my fitness journey.
My goal is to be honest, unrestrained, and as transparent as possible on the website because that’s the only way to truly connect with people. Some call this crazy. I call it following a passion that allows me to help people. I know this is corny but it’s the truth.
Once I finally stopped caring so much about what other people thought and followed what I wanted to do, my life got significantly better. Don’t get me wrong there are days I struggle, but there are days when I just get up and go.
3. This is your one life. There are no do-overs
All of our stories will end the same. Death is inevitable. As uncomfortable as it may be to acknowledge the fact that we will all die, it can also be liberating. When you can put things into perspective and realize that we only get one life, it makes it easier to stop caring so much about what other people think and be true to yourself.
4. Think, really think, about the absolute worst case scenario
What intimidates you? What’s holding you back from doing the things you want to do?
For example, I’ve had numerous people tell me they’re intimidated to lift weights at the gym because it’s full of loud, grunting men. And others say, “There are no women back there; they all participate in group classes”.
Ask yourself this question: What is the absolute worst thing that will happen if you do?
Sticking with the weight lifting room example, you may get an odd look or two. You may have to stand beside some smelly men. If your gym is filled with women who like to gossip, someone may say something about you.
And is that worst case scenario really that bad? No . . . no it’s not.
And here’s the REAL question we should be asking:
What is the worst thing that will happen if we don’t do the things that make us happy because we’re concerned with what other people will say/think?
In short: we won’t do the things that make us happy, and we won’t live life to the fullest. How sad is that? I know, because I’ve done it in the past. I’ve held myself back from doing the things I wanted, all because I was too concerned with what others would think and I missed out on many opportunities as a result. Hell, I spent almost 6 years in an office environment in a role I hated just because it was what I thought other people would think of me.
The next time you’re hesitant to do something or take a risk because you’re afraid of what other people will think, stop and ask yourself, “What’s the worst case scenario if I do this?” More than likely it’s not that bad. And I can almost guarantee you’ll be worse off if you do/don’t do things because you’re more concerned with what others will think.
“I’d rather look back on life and say ‘I can’t believe I did that’ than ‘I wish I did that’.”
5. Remove sources of negativity, immediately
Get rid of negativity, toxic people and resources. If your circle of friends have a tendency to tear you down, then separate yourself and look elsewhere.
If you have a public life on the internet or have trouble with cyber bullying and can’t (yet) laugh off the terrible comments people say about you, for the love of everything stop reading the comments or remove yourself from the situation! You can’t stop people from being hateful, but you can choose to ignore them and do something meaningful with your time instead.
One of the best things I have ever done is to make my circle of friends a little smaller and get rid of those who I believe were having a negative impact on me and my mindset.
You should do the same.
Avoid people and resources (and social media, if necessary) that are negative.
6. Trust a few opinions, but forget the rest
There’s freedom in being true to yourself and not caring about what other people think. However, it is important to trust a select few to share their opinions with you, or people you can go to when you need to talk. Have a few close people you can confide in; people who you know have your best interest at heart.
Personally, I can count on one hand the number of people’s opinions in my life that have an affect on me. And what about other people, or total strangers who feel the need to tell me what they think about me, my body, and my life? Fuck them!
7. Some people are going to dislike you, and there’s nothing you can do about it
Don’t waste your time trying to get everyone to like you, because it’s impossible.
Instead of worrying about who doesn’t like you, focus on being a better person for those who do. Spend your time and energy living an awesome life and using your talents, gifts, and abilities to make the world and people around you better.
Let other people like you not because of who you’re trying to be, but because of who you genuinely are. Or, as I like to say … I’d rather be hated for who I truly am than loved for something I’m pretending to be.
Apply these tips and you’ll be on your way to not caring what other people think and living a more awesome life.
Ready, Aim, F**k the Naysayers
Are the tips above easier said than done? Perhaps, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Just like anything else in life you want to master, it will require consistent practice. In the same way losing weight and looking the way you want can take some time, you’ll also have to consistently put the above tips to practice if you want to stop caring about what other people think and just be you and fuck the naysayers.
Finally, please practice this with other people too. If you find yourself judging or gossiping about others, please stop. Just be sound!