Why Do We Care What People Think?
In many of my sessions with clients I see a common theme that disrupts their happiness and sense of self-worth:
Many people care SO much about what other people think.
This can hugely impact the choices we make. To start, here are some of the reasons we may care too much about what others think:
- We don’t want to disappoint someone
- We want to fit in
- We were wounded in some way in our early years when being different or being authentic was responded to in a negative way
- Messages we received from significant people in our lives let us feel that our self-worth was tied to external factors and status
- We want to be accepted, validated, and loved
- We didn’t feel accepted, validated or loved unless we conformed to what other people thought was right instead of following our own path
Of course it is normal to care about what other people think of us and everyone does to an extent. However, when we care to the point that our own happiness and well-being is suffering, it reaches an unhealthy point.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to just decide, “Ok, I don’t care what anyone thinks of me anymore.”
It’s a long process to stop caring so much about what others are thinking and to start caring more about what personally makes us happy and fulfilled in life.
It has always been hard for me to put into words how strongly I feel about people being able to be themselves without shame, guilt, or judgment – until recently. I read a brilliant blog in the online magazine, Psychology Tomorrow called “Learning to Think for Ourselves” and it inspired this post.
This was one of my favorite nuggets that stood out the most:
“Very little, if anything in life, has an absolute right or wrong. Most of it falls in a big blurry gray area. There are millions of goals to set and just as many ways to get there. And there are gains and consequences for every one of them. If anything can be considered healthy, it’s making a well-considered choice, whatever the price may be, even when the best choice is to change nothing.”
As far as we know, we only get one shot at this life. Happiness comes when we are in a place of being our true authentic selves and making choices that are in line with who we are as an individual. So why don’t we do this more?
WE must remember that who we are is completely different from the next person and what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. There is no ONE path. There is no “normal,” and there is no universal advice that will work for all people. There is no singular definition of success.
The only person who truly knows what’s best for you is YOU.
Sometimes the journey to figuring that out is about a lot of information-gathering. It’s about knowing all your options, self-exploration and cultivating self-awareness. When that’s in place, we are best equipped to make those powerful decisions that dictate the course of our lives.
What we do for a living, who we choose as a partner, and the type of lifestyle we lead are all extensions of ourselves and who we are as unique individuals. Finding the balance of living for yourself in a way that feels authentic and right to you is an art form – but it is achievable.
My hope is that people will be able to give themselves the gift of trusting and honoring their own unique beliefs and talents without letting others dictate choices that may be wrong for them.
Part of the joy I get from being a therapist is that I don’t get to tell people what to do with their lives or what choices to make. I can give them different ways to think about things, let them know different options, and ask them tough questions, but I don’t get to give them advice and tell them what they should do. To be able to empower people to make the choices that are right for them is the best part of my job because that is when I see the most “a-ha” moments in therapy, and ultimately a sense of peace and contentment within.
Lena Derhally is a licensed and Imago certified psychotherapist, a published writer, motivational speaker and podcaster. Her specialties include working with individual adults and couples in their 20’s-40’s on a wide range of relationship issues, workplace issues and trauma and difficult life transitions. She is also an expert on treating anxiety and panic attacks using cognitive behavioral, acceptance and commitment and solution focused therapy. Lena also offers relationship coaching and anxiety coaching plans in addition to her psychotherapy services.
As a working parent with young children in a transient city, Lena is passionate about helping her clients find inner peace, self-confidence and balance in their lives. She believes in empowering her clients and giving them the tools to make healthy choices for themselves in all aspects of their lives.
Previously, Lena has worked in hospital settings in oncology and palliative care and with the homeless and mentally ill. In her spare time, Lena is an anti-war and social justice activist and devotes her time to advocating and raising money for the disenfranchised and survivors of war. She is also a former improv comedienne and hip hop DJ.