Should you give a damn what people think anymore? After all, if you’re 60 or so you have been there and done that and surely have earned the right to just relax and be yourself. Right?
Sadly, the answer is not so clear cut.
To be what psychologists call “emotionally intelligent” we need to have some awareness and consideration of others, but not care so much that it stops us being effective and original human beings.
Caring too much about what other people think can actually make them like us less. It can also be the cause of all kinds of approval-seeking behaviour, embarrassment, missed opportunities, inner resentments, regret and even bitterness.
In an article on the Uncommon Help website a psychologist gave the example of “John” who cared too much. John’s family had grown up and left home and he and his wife had the dream of retiring to Spain and opening a small hotel.
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When asked what was stopping him he said: “The same thing that always has: fear of what people would think. I don’t even know what people think anymore”.
The psychologist said our imaginations are a powerful tool, which can work for or against us. He advised training your mind to eradicate thoughts like “They are all not going to like me”.
Techniques he suggested included teaching yourself to relax with not knowing what other people think of you, celebrating your individuality, remembering that people will think what they think and seeing the best in others by not assuming they see the worst.
He said sometime you will undoubtedly upset someone but it’s not always your responsibility.
Training your mind in some of the techniques he suggested also doesn’t mean you will stop caring all together, but they will give you the opportunity to decide how you behave, he said.
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An article on Mind Body Green echoed his advice.
“Everyone wants to be liked and accepted, but many of us spend too much time and energy worrying about what other people think. You might not even realise you’re doing it, but these kinds of mental gymnastics are unhealthy and stressful, making us feel unworthy and removing our attention from the present moment.”
The article included four steps to help you stop worrying too much about what other people think, including understanding why you care, learning the mantra: What other people think about me is none of my business, directing your energy to something positive and practising daily self-love and acceptance.
An article on Lifehack.org also warns that excessive worrying can have a negative effect on your life. “It can be so debilitating that it interferes with your ability to feel at ease with yourself and around others. Do not let it prevent you from living your life to the fullest potential.”
So there you have it, while we like to think we have thrown off the shackles of society when we reach a certain age, in reality we haven’t. But that’s not a bad thing in some ways. Like many things in life, it’s a question of achieving a happy balance. Caring about what people think is okay, but we need to do so in a way that doesn’t take over our lives, or cramp our individuality.
What do you think? How do you achieve a happy balance of being considerate of others without letting concern about what other people think rule your own life?