stop caring about what other people think

stop caring about what other people think
Photo by Pradeep Ranjan / Unsplash
“I’m constantly amazed by how easily we love ourselves above all others, yet we put more stock in the opinions of others than in our own estimation of self. . . . How much credence we give to the opinions our peers have of us and how little to our very own!”
— Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 12.4

Author Terry Cole-Whittaker wrote a book called What You Think of Me Is None of My Business. That’s a great maxim to practice and live by.

Unfortunately, we all go through the tyranny of “what other people will think” in our lives. And the sooner we end this self-inflicted turmoil, the better for us.

It's surprising how quickly we can change our feelings about something based on what others think. Imagine you buy a shirt or dress you really like. You think it looks great and feel happy about it. But then, a friend or coworker makes a negative comment about it. Suddenly, you feel embarrassed and regret buying it. This quick change in feelings shows how much power other people's opinions can have over us.

We can be very content with our own lives. Maybe we're proud of what we've achieved and happy with what we have. But then we hear about someone we don't particularly like who has more or has done better. This can make us feel less satisfied with our own lives, even if we were happy just a moment before. Our contentment fades because we're comparing ourselves to someone else.

It gets even more complicated when it comes to our accomplishments and talents. Often, we don't feel truly proud or confident about them until someone else tells us we should be. If a third party validates our success, we feel good. If they don't, we might start to doubt ourselves. This dependency on others for validation can be very precarious.

The Stoics, ancient philosophers, had a wise insight into this issue. They taught that while we can control our own opinions, we can't control what others think. This is especially true when it comes to what others think about us. Trying to win their approval or change their opinions is risky and often futile.

Earl Nightingale said, “If you knew how little other people were thinking, you wouldn’t be concerned with what they’re thinking.” Bob Proctor too echoed this sentiment in these words: “Most people are concerned with what other people think. They shouldn’t be. They should be concerned with what they think of themselves. We’ve got to take a look at how we’re living. Are we choosing our own path? Are we operating on an image of the kind of life we want and execute it, or are we just trying to get by as best we can day to day?”

When we base our happiness and self-worth on what others think, we put ourselves in a vulnerable position. People's opinions can change easily and are often beyond our control. By relying on them for our sense of worth, we set ourselves up for disappointment and insecurity.

Instead, the Stoics advise focusing on what we can control: our own thoughts and actions. If we learn to value our own opinions and achievements without needing others' approval, we can lead a more stable and fulfilling life. We should strive to be content with ourselves, regardless of what others might think or say. 

This mindset shift can protect us from the ups and downs caused by others' opinions. It can help us maintain our self-esteem and happiness, even when faced with criticism or comparison. By focusing on our own values and judgments, we can build a stronger, more resilient sense of self.

As Bob Proctor put it, “What you think of yourself is very important. What other people think of you is not important. I used to be very concerned with what other people thought of me; I’m not anymore, because I realize what somebody else thinks of me really has no bearing on my life. What I think of me is everything. If I really work at being a nice person and I work at accomplishing something, other people will probably like me, but if I go around concerning myself with what other people think, I’m not going to accomplish very much.”