Do You Care What Others Think About You?

'I was once afraid of people saying, "Who does she think she is?" Now I have the courage to stand and say, "This is who I am".' (Anonymous).

At some point, almost all of us have wondered what someone else is thinking about us, even if only for a moment. It could be a member of the opposite sex, someone older and wiser, a family member – almost always someone we care about or admire even if we don’t realise it.

Wondering what someone else’s opinion of us is isn’t always a bad thing. It can help us be more caring and sensitive to other people’s needs. If we didn’t care what our best friend thought of us, we may act in a way that is arrogant or hurtful, and we may dismiss advice that we actually need. It is through talking to others about our actions and thoughts and listening to what they have to say that we learn and grow.

But constantly worrying about someone’s thoughts becomes harmful when we start to live in fear, hold ourselves back, or change ourselves to be what we think is acceptable to others. Perhaps it’s because our behaviour and skills have been measured practically from the moment we are born (whether at school or at home) – bad behaviour or poor performance was usually met with punishment and/or criticism; good behaviour with rewards and acceptance. Some received negative feedback no matter what they did; others escaped it even when needed. Either way, we learn to judge ourselves based on other people’s opinions.

It can hurt to know that someone disapproves of us, especially if it is coming from someone we care about and/or who we thought cared about us. But even if this is the case, it is possible to become so secure within ourselves – so confident in what we have to bring to the world – that another’s unwarranted dislike of us doesn’t cause us to question ourselves or our capabilities. Good friends will speak hard truths at times to help us grow; others will speak hurtful truths to drag us down. What we have to do is choose carefully which one we care about and listen to.

One thing is true of all of us – we were born to give and receive love. We were born to want social connection and to be surrounded with people who love and accept us. Because this is isn’t always the case (and for some, the opposite is true), we begin to doubt not only if we are loved, but if we are worth loving. This can create a fear of disapproval, a fear that can stop us from being all that we are and proud of it.

The truth is, not everyone is going to like us, what we do, how we look – some will find fault no matter how well we are doing, and no one can really enjoy life to the full if they are constantly worrying about making mistakes or letting others down. All we can do is our best and hope that those who are truly worthy of our friendship understand and appreciate that, and forgive us when we fail.

A person’s thought is something we can’t hear, know or control unless they choose to speak it. We tend to assume that people are thinking the worst of us, when they may not be thinking of us at all! Even if they are, even if it is negative, the saying is true: if someone doesn’t like you or is seeking to pull you down, it’s probably because they’re jealous, or are hurting themselves. In other words – it’s about what’s going on with them, not you.

We can’t change people. Sometimes we can’t even change what they think of us. All we can change is the way we respond to their attitude, and, as Joyce Meyer says, make sure that we ‘don’t let the way people treat us determine our worth’.