It matters what other people think. It always did. And don’t let anybody try to shame you out of it. Okay, that said, some people get a little carried away with worrying about what other people think. Not uncommon at all. So, what is it about and how can people get a grip on it when they need to?

Why Do We Care?

Well, for one thing, it is about our very survival! That’s why we care. Back in the day, millions of years ago when the modern human brain was forming, social connection and reputation already other people thought of each other mattered—a lot—so much that now this normal human characteristic of ours is probably stuck in the brain and our being for good.

In Civilization and Our Discontents, Freud talked about the need to keep up with society’s rules and regulations. Caring about what other people think about how we live helps us to behave in ways that help us to reap the many benefits of group acceptance, even if, and especially if, it does take all the fun out of our instinctual drives sometimes.

And, my fav on this topic is Sartre, who talks about “the look of the other.” From my new book, “Getting to G.R.E.A.T.” available now on Amazon:

It is a common misperception that “Hell is other people” means that other people are hell and we should avoid their toxicity. What Sartre really meant, in his own words, is this: “Into whatever I say about myself someone else’s judgment always enters. Into whatever I feel within myself someone else’s judgment enters. . . . But that does not at all mean that one cannot have relations with other people. It simply brings out the capital importance of all other people.” 

So, that‘s it folks. Here to stay and a plus if we get why it’s there, so we can accept that’s it’s there and quit wasting any more time and energy trying to convince ourselves and others that it shouldn’t be. 

It is not only okay to care what other people think—it is outright human. Caring about what other people think has not only helped us to survive and to thrive for millions of years, it is right here helping us now. Let’s just own it already so we can manage it for good.

Live With It? Manage it? How?

  • What to do when we find ourselves thinking too much about what other people think about us and our kin? (Yeah, it applies for kin too). First we breathe. How to Power Breathe is on the pulldown on my website in the “Complimentary…” box. We use this 30 second exercise to put the higher brain (not the reptilian brain) in charge.
  • Then, with our executive functioning ready, willing, able to serve us, we ask ourselves: “Is there something to be done here.” So, for example, I hear lots of coaches advising that people should love themselves just the way they are and simply ignore what other people may be saying or thinking. This makes me cringe.
  • Instead, what if we realized that the reason so-and-so’s words stung as much as they did might be because we know it’s true. Or, to take that even further, consider this fabulous quote from Philosopher Charles Horton Cooley:

I am not who you think I am;

I am not who I think I am;

I am who I think you think I am.

So, it all comes down to what we think ourselves about ourselves, no big surprise, and it is very often a good idea to take a good hard look at that before just blowing off without consideration what ‘other people think’.

Practice, practice, practice…and let us know what you find.



Photo Unsplash by Sharon McCutcheon