We are driven, to some degree, by what others might be thinking of us. “Do others really like me, do they talk trash about me when I’m not around, do they think I’m good at what I do, do they think I’m smart, do they think I’m attractive?” These thoughts tend reach their height during adolescence and early 20’s and decline as one ages. We all know a grandparent or aging uncle who says whatever they please because they simply don’t care. This means these thoughts might lose power over time and there might be a light at the end of the “excessively thinking of how others see me” tunnel. But what can we do in the meantime while these thoughts have our focus in a death grip of a head-lock?
A healthy perspective obtained through regular monitoring of your thoughts can be helpful. This perspective can allow you to walk that fine line between becoming a social outcast who doesn’t care at all and becoming an anxious mess that cannot stop thinking about what others are thinking. When you venture into that inner world when you cannot stop worrying about what others are thinking of you try the following.
1. Ask yourself if you have real evidence to support the negative thoughts others might have of you.
a. Often we dwell on unrealistic negativity
2. Is there value in having these thoughts?
3. Question why you care so much.
a. Maybe we should care a lot what this other person thinks, which can provide some comfort in accepting these thoughts are warranted
4. Remind yourself it is very likely that this other person only spends a small fraction of the time thinking about you. I know it is hard to image, but you might not be that important
a. Stop unnecessarily putting these people up on a pedestal
b. Self-statements that “they don’t matter that much” can help you let go of these thoughts.
Here is a little brain biology behind the reason for these thoughts for those who are interested. The amygdala is the part of the brain which contributes to the reason for the adolescent mind being hyper-focused on what others are thinking. This part of the brain is responsible for regulating emotions and socialization and it becomes fully developed in adolescence, whereas the rest of the brain is trying to catch up. As a result a lot of our adolescent/young adult thoughts are centered on social approval, being popular, and having a lot of friends because the amygdala is operating at full capacity.
“Marching to the beat of your own drum” quotes
● I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet. -Mahatma Gandhi
● I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself. -Rita Mae Brown
● Wanting to be someone else is a waste of who you are. -Kurt Cobain
● The deepes problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces, of historical heritage, of external culture, and of the technique of life. -Georg Simmel
● I’m the one that’s got to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to. -Jimi Hendrix
● Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner. -Lao Tzu