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Print Posted on 07/27/2017 in Category 1

Why we can care “what people think about us” and still feel good

Why we can care “what people think about us” and still feel good

If you venture on Social Media, you will often find pithy quotes like “I don’t care what people think of me” and “not caring what other people think of you is the best choice you will ever make populating your feed. These type of observations are called aphorisms and, in my experience, can be useful to keep you “on task.” They can also be merely a reflection of something someone wishes to believe, but does not truly believe on a core level.  

As is so often the case, if you feel the need to affirm something, there is a decent chance you do not really believe it. This seems to be linked to our modern culture, where many people present an image of how they wish to be perceived, but is not actually representative of them. 

To some extent, we are hardwired to care what people think, as our survival initially depended on our parents and caregivers. Many of us perceived that we had to be “acceptable” to our parents and caregivers. If we did not do what our parents wanted us to do or how they wanted us to do it, there would often be consequences  we might be shouted at, compared unfavourably to others or punished. To a young child, without a strongly-rooted sense of self, the opinions of others affect their sense of self. 

Most self-concept beliefs (e.g. “I am not good enough”, “I am not important”) were likely formed based on our interpretations of numerous events where we felt that people were either judging us harshly, comparing us to other people (e.g. siblings, friends or classmates) or where our survival seemed to be at risk. We cared what people thought of us. It hurt us, plagued us or drove us on...and many of us are acutely aware of this. 

For this reason, most of us probably developed survival strategies at an early age. If we came up with a belief such as “I am not acceptable”, strategies to counter this uncomfortable “truth” might include: a compulsion to achieve things, being beautiful, being right, being a workaholic or being perfect.  If not addressed, these sort of emotional and behavioural patterns might play out through our lifetime. 

They might play out at school, work, in social interactions or in romantic relationships. 

They do play out...like clockwork. 

If you believed you were not acceptable, but noticed you got praised and acknowledged when you achieved something, looked good, acted rebelliously etc., then the survival strategy would form part of your life pattern. You might notice you have an addiction to being praised, or that you feel distressed/upset if you are either not noticed or someone else gets the credit you feel you deserved. 

The essence of caring what people think is, I would contend, common to virtually everyone at various stages of their lives.  As the expression goes, no man is an island, and even luminaries will have, at times, needed to pay heed to what other people thought – customers, contemporaries or even investors. 

Caring what people think is mediated by different beliefs, behaviours and emotions.  It might take on different flavours and intensities, depending upon the context and our individual perceptions. 

As with most things, balance is key, and it would be important not to try to please everyone - a fruitless exercise. Some people may criticise us through spite, bitterness or simply to cause offence. It happens every day.  Many of us have faced criticism, and we can use the PSTEC tools to lessen and even eliminate the emotional impact of this. There is also a difference between caring about what people think, and worrying about the same. 

Criticism, if it hurts, can actually move us forward. If a criticism hurts us, it could be argued that we believe it on some level. 

The Click Tracks take the emotional sting out of these memories and unwanted feelings. We can also utilise groundbreaking tools like PSTEC Positive and Negative to eliminate the very beliefs that compel us to seek approval in the first place. They can also be used to remove the core beliefs that, when presented in the form of criticism, create unwanted emotional reactions. Thus, other people are showing us areas we need to address.

Other people's opinions and critiques of us, our character or our actions are never set in stone and will evolveWords are just words. We give them meaning. We show up differently to people at different times, as they do us. 

When we do care (despite protests to the contrary), it can be useful to acknowledge that we do, rather than pretending we do not, consider why we do and then dissolve it. This allows us to consciously assess “what people think” without any hysteria attached. In turn, this creates a sense of emotional harmony. 

I would suggest that “not caring what people think” is NOT the real objective or ideal, but “caring more appropriately” or "accepting without judgement" might be what we really desire.  

In a sense, it can be very important that we do care what people think, as the opinion of other people might actually be shining a light on an area that requires our attention. Or maybe what we are concerned about is what we only THINK people think about us.  So, while do not have to be obsessed with what people think or be dependent on the approval of others, we can accept that people do have their views. We can still feel good about ourselves and others whilst accepting criticism, or in the absence of praise. 

If we did not care at all, we may go through our days causing all sorts of upsets and acting obliviously to our own lack of consciousness. The balance is to extract value from what people have told us (“what can I learn from this?”), to value the potential lessons.  

We do not exist in a vacuum and it can be helpful, in moderation, to desire to improve ourselves: not solely for ourselves, but so we can be better friends, workers, parents etc. This is part of the bigger picture. And once we accept our role in the "bigger picture", accepting ourselves and others, accepting that people have an opinion, accepting "what is", the more fulfilled we are likely to feel. 

By Paul McCabe - PSTEC Advanced Practitioner

Email: paul@lifestyleforchange.com


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