If you’re often or constantly afraid of what other people think of you, it may be difficult to live your life the way that you want. For example, you may be anxious about trying a new hobby in case other people think you look foolish. Or you might not ask someone on a date because you have an extreme fear of rejection.
In this article, you’ll learn how to care less about what other people think of you.
It’s difficult to relax, build genuine relationships, and be yourself if you’re overly focused on creating a good impression or pleasing others. These tips and exercises can help you shift your mindset and stop caring so much about what everyone else thinks about you.
Other peoples’ opinions and judgments may not matter so much when you have your values to guide you. Values can serve as an inner compass when you aren’t sure how to act.
For example, let’s say you value loyalty and kindness and do your best to live by these values. One day, you’re chatting with a group of friends. Someone starts making unkind remarks about another person who isn’t in the room. You want to speak up and ask your friend to stop spreading nasty gossip, but you’re afraid that everyone else will think you are too uptight.
In this situation, the easiest thing to do is nothing. But as someone who values loyalty and kindness, you realize that if you want to stay true to your values, you need to step in and try to shut down the gossip. Your commitment to your values may give you the confidence you need to stop caring so much about what everyone else is thinking.
If you aren’t sure of your own values, it may help to ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you have a role model? If so, what do you admire most about them? What are their values?
- What charitable or political causes do you support, and why?
- If you identify as a religious or spiritual person, does your belief system emphasize any specific values?
When your goals are meaningful to you, it may be easier to stop caring about what other people think of your choices, priorities, and lifestyle.
For example, you may decide that your top priority in life is to raise a family as a stay-at-home parent. Someone who wants to make their career a priority and earn lots of money might not understand your decision. They may judge you for being (in their eyes) unambitious. But if your goals are in alignment with your values, it may be easier to ignore their opinions.
It’s true that some people will judge or criticize you. But, as a general rule, others are not thinking about you very much. Remembering this fact can help you feel less self-conscious. Studies have shown that we overestimate how much other people care about our mistakes.
It may help to try thinking about the last time you saw someone make a mistake or slip up in front of other people. This can help you realize that most of us don’t care what everyone else is doing unless their actions affect us in some significant way.
For example, perhaps you saw someone drop a bag of groceries or heard them mispronounce a word. Did you judge the other person harshly? Will you remember their mistake a few days or weeks from now? Probably not! Try to remember that people around you are unlikely to spend much time thinking about you or your mistakes.
If you are worried that someone else is thinking or saying unkind things about you, it may help to realize that everyone views the world (and the other people in it) through their own lens.
Judgments can come from a place of insecurity and can reveal more about the person who is making the judgment than the person on the receiving end.
Research has shown that people tend to be critical of other lifestyles if they feel unhappy or insecure with their own life choices.
For example, according to one study, people tend to hold their own relationship status up as the ideal, especially if they think it isn’t going to change in the foreseeable future. So someone who feels trapped in an unhappy marriage may claim that being married is in some way better than being single, even if it’s clear they are unhappy in their relationship.
Remember that you don’t have to accept every thought you have about yourself. Try to challenge your negative thinking; it may help you feel less self-conscious.
For example, let’s say you’re in a meeting at work. You’re surrounded by people who you think come across as more confident and capable than you. You start thinking, “I bet everyone else thinks I don’t belong here. They probably don’t like me.”
When you have a thought like this, it can help to ask yourself these questions:
- Do I have good evidence that this thought is really true?
- Can I think of a more optimistic (yet still realistic) way to view this situation?
In the example above, you could try telling yourself, “I can’t see inside everyone’s heads, so I can’t possibly know what they think of me. I don’t have any solid evidence that this thought is true. In fact, they’re probably busy thinking about lots of other things. The reality is that I feel insecure right now, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be here, and it doesn’t mean other people think I’m incompetent.”
You may be less afraid of other people’s opinions if you’re ready to deal with their judgment. If you are worried about a specific scenario, it can help to mentally prepare for how you might deal with an awkward situation.
For example, let’s say you’re going to a party and you’re trying to decide what to wear. You recently bought a new shirt that you like, but it’s not your usual style. You’re worried that other people at the party will think that it looks bad.
In this kind of scenario, it may help to ask yourself these questions:
- What’s the worst that could happen?
- If my fear came true, how would I handle it?
- If my fear came true, would it affect me weeks or months later?
In this case, the realistic worst-case scenario might be that someone stares and laughs at your shirt before making an unkind comment.
Although you’d probably feel awkward and embarrassed, there are several ways you could handle the situation. If you didn’t feel able to say anything, you could simply walk away. Or, if you were feeling more assertive, you could say, “That’s a rude and completely unnecessary thing to say.”
“The ability to not care about anybody else’s opinions is the singular gateway to happiness.” – Gary Vaynerchuk
When you deliberately shut down your judgmental thoughts, it can be easier to believe that other people are giving you the benefit of the doubt too.
The next time you start judging someone harshly, try to pause and replace your criticism with a neutral or positive thought. For example, let’s say your colleague is wearing a very unflattering outfit. You catch yourself thinking, “Wow, that really doesn’t work for their body shape!”
You could replace that thought with something kinder and more positive, such as, “It’s good that they feel confident enough to wear clothes they like, even if their tastes are unusual.”
If you care deeply about what other people think of you, constructive criticism can feel like a major threat. But criticism may not feel so frightening if you know how to handle it. Here are a few ways to deal with criticism:
- Acknowledge your mistakes without getting defensive (e.g., “You’re right, I completely forgot to double-check the brochure layout. It was a careless oversight.”)
- Ask your critic for suggestions and advice (e.g., “I agree that I need to come across as more confident when I give presentations. Do you have any advice on how I could improve?”)
- Ask for specific examples if the criticism is vague (e.g., “I’m not sure what you meant when you told me that I should have played to my strengths on the last project. Could you give a specific example of what that would have looked like?”)
- Try to think about what you can do to improve instead of dwelling on your mistakes. It may help to make a list of things you could change. Ask a trusted friend, colleague, or mentor to help if you feel overwhelmed or aren’t sure where to focus your efforts.
- Remember that you’ve survived criticism and negative judgment on previous occasions. You’ve already proven to yourself that you can cope with it, even if it hurt at the time.
For more tips, check out the Centre for Clinical Interventions’ guide to dealing with criticism.
When you learn to like yourself, it may be easier not to care so much about what other people think of you. It can help to focus on your best traits and achievements.
Try making a list of your proudest moments and greatest accomplishments. You could also look for opportunities to use your skills in positive ways. For example, if you are a compassionate person with strong listening skills, you could sign up as a helpline volunteer.
Give yourself praise or a small reward when you finish up an important job or difficult task. Don’t rely on other people for encouragement.
If you can validate and accept yourself, you may not care so much about what other people think of you. Self-acceptance allows you to realize that you’re a worthy person, whether or not someone likes you.
Here are some ways you can develop self-acceptance:
- Grow your self-awareness: Self-aware people know and accept their strengths and weaknesses. You could start by keeping a journal, taking reputable personality tests, or evaluating your beliefs and opinions. See our guide on how to be self-aware for more ideas.
- Practice letting go of your mistakes: Self-acceptance means accepting what you’ve done in the past, including embarrassing moments and mistakes. Our guide to letting go of past mistakes may help you.
- Try to stop comparing yourself to other people: Comparisons are often destructive and probably make you feel worse about yourself. Our article on how to stop feeling inferior to others has some tips to help you stop comparing.
- Work on your body image: If you aren’t happy with your appearance, you may spend a lot of time worrying about what other people think of your looks. It might help to work on your body image. Our guide to body neutrality has some advice on how to make peace with your appearance.
When you feel accepted by people you like and respect, you may not care so much about what everyone else thinks. Invest your time and energy into meeting and befriending people who appreciate you.
You can build more supportive, healthier relationships by:
- Meeting likeminded people who share your values
- Learning the most common signs that a friend doesn’t respect you so you know when it’s time to stop investing in people who don’t have your best interests at heart
- Learning how to set boundaries in your relationships and making it clear that you won’t tolerate poor treatment from others
If you know or suspect that someone doesn’t like you, don’t make the mistake of assuming that you need to change their mind. You cannot appeal to everyone because we all have different tastes in friends and partners. If you try to be universally popular, you’ll only waste time and energy.
When you are confident in your decision-making skills, you may find it easier to make choices without worrying about what everyone else thinks of you. No one makes great decisions all of the time, but it’s possible to learn the art of making better choices through deliberate practice.
There are many decision-making models you can use when you’re in a tricky situation and aren’t sure of your next steps. For example, MindTools’ 7-step process sets out how to weigh up various options and make sensible choices.
If you find it very difficult to stop caring too much about what other people think, it may be a good idea to seek professional help. A therapist can help you improve your self-image, challenge the negative thoughts you have about yourself, and learn to value yourself regardless of what anyone else thinks of you.
Working with a therapist may be especially useful if you have (or believe you may have) an underlying mental health problem, such as social anxiety disorder (SAD), that makes you unusually self-conscious.
We recommend BetterHelp for online therapy, since they offer unlimited messaging and a weekly session, and are cheaper than going to a therapist's office.
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When you no longer care too much about what people think of you, it may be easier to feel confident and relaxed in social situations. You might also feel more secure when making decisions if you aren’t worried about what people will say about your choices.
In some cases, it’s a good idea to care about what people think of you. For example, if your partner is upset by your behavior, you should care what they think if you want to improve your relationship. But in general, it’s best to look to yourself, not others, for acceptance and approval.
Research shows that self-esteem increases with age, peaking around the age of 60. These findings may mean that when we get older, we value and accept ourselves more. As a result, we may care less about what others think.
We have evolved to seek out approval because it gives us a sense of belonging and safety. Early humans were more likely to survive if they were part of a group, so it made sense for them to worry about being excluded or shunned.
Someone who fears the opinions of other people has allodoxaphobia. “Allo” comes from the Greek word for “other.” “Doxa” comes from the Greek word for “belief” or “opinion.”
- Savitsky, K., Epley, N., & Gilovich, T. (2001). Do others judge us as harshly as we think? Overestimating the impact of our failures, shortcomings, and mishaps. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 81(1), 44–56. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124
- Laurin, K., Kille, D. R., & Eibach, R. P. (2013). “The Way I Am Is the Way You Ought to Be.” Psychological Science, 24(8), 1523–1532. https://doi.org/10.1177/0956797612475095
- Orth, U., Erol, R. Y., & Luciano, E. C. (2018). Development of self-esteem from age 4 to 94 years: A meta-analysis of longitudinal studies. Psychological Bulletin, 144(10), 1045–1080. https://doi.org/10.1037/bul0000161
- Leary, M. R., & Cox, C. B. (2008). Belongingness motivation: A mainspring of social action. In J. Y. Shah & W. L. Gardner (Eds.), Handbook of motivation science (pp. 27–40). The Guilford Press.