“Haters gonna hate.” ~Taylor Swift, et al.
One of the most common yet harmful issues people struggle with is caring too much about what others think. From a young age – through our parental guidance, the way we interact with other children, and what we’re taught in school – we are led to believe that it is our job to pay attention to what others think, and to act accordingly.
We experience this feedback frequently:
- Sit up straight like your sister.
- Don’t talk about dolls in school or your friends will make fun of you.
- “Your shirt is ugly.”
We learn quickly that people judge us, and that we have to change how we act if we want to be socially accepted. We also experience social exclusion, which is common at a younger age, and the pain from that exclusion manifests in a desire to be accepted. Throughout all this, we are rarely taught how to be happy with ourselves.
What to Learn As Adults
Caring what others think about us is harmful because it puts our happiness outside of our control. In addition, when your focus is on what others think, it’s not important if 99 out of 100 people like you. When you’re trained to care about what others think, your happiness is only tied to the 1 person that doesn’t.
It’s easy to visualize how this can become a significant factor in the development of anxiety and depression. It’s also easy to see how this prevents us from being who we truly are. There is value to caring a little about what people think if they’re close to you:
- What your spouse thinks
- What your boss/clients/professional connections think.
- What your best friend thinks.
There are some responsibilities that we all have as adults that require caring at least slightly about what people may think of you.
But as adults we need to learn how to differentiate those whose opinions matter (and when), and those whose opinions do not. There will always be someone that disapproves of what you do. What’s important is that you’re doing what is right for you emotionally, and what makes you really happy. If you are able to focus on the positive voices, learn how to be happy with yourself, and know when it is important to care and when it is not, you’ll find that your happiness levels improve dramatically.