“Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.”
What other people think and say about you and what you do can hold you back in life. If you care too much about their opinions.
You may not take some action that you want to take because you fear being judged by someone or people in general.
You may not make improvements or changes in your life because you know, based on previous experiences, how some people could react if you did that.
Caring about what other people think about what you do in a healthy way can help you to gain valuable feedback and keep you grounded. But caring too much about what people may say or think if you do something can keep you in the same old rut, unable to move forward and to live the life you truly want to live.
So how can you overcome this common issue and find more inner freedom to do what you want? Well, people will always have thoughts and opinions about things. But you can learn how to care about what they say and think in a more helpful way.
In this article I’ll share 5 tips that have helped me to make that shift.
1. First, people don’t think about you and what you do that much really.
Holding yourself back in life because of what other people may think or say does, in my experience, to a large part come from a belief that people care a great deal about what you are about to say or do. Perhaps you are afraid that people will laugh or analyze what you said or did for the rest of the week or year.
But a much more realistic scenario is that they have their hands full with worrying about their own lives and what people may think of them instead. This might make you feel less important in your own head. But it also sets you free a bit more if you’d like that.
Yes, in your head you may be the most important person in the world. But don’t project that onto other people. Because in their world the most important person is probably themselves or their kids.
2. Take praise and criticism evenly.
My mindset for praise – that I try to stick to as much as I can – is that it’s cool and I appreciate it. It’s great to get praise, but I seldom get overly excited about it and jump and down shouting enthusiastically.
A great upside of this mindset is that when you receive the opposite – negative criticism – you can often observe it calmly without too much wild, negative emotions blocking the way. This allows you to appreciate that piece of criticism too (if there is something to learn from it).
Going about things this way can help you to not care too much about what other people think.
3. Care more about what you think about yourself.
If you care too much about what people think of you then that craving need can make you feel quite needy and you start to define yourself based on what they may think of you.
So replace that somewhat desperate need with something healthier, something you have more power over. Something that will give you more inner stability and lets your life not become a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions controlled by other people’s opinions.
Start caring more about what you think about yourself and start raising your own self-esteem.
Two ways of doing that are:
The daily self-appreciation journal.
It is easy to get lost in basing your self-esteem on just what you accomplish, on what you get done in a day or week. Or on what other people may think about you and tell you about yourself. But basing your self-esteem on just that makes it pretty unstable.
One way to help yourself out with that and with appreciating what is good and awesome about you is to use a self-appreciation journal.
You can do that by taking out a pen and notepad (or use a word processor on your computer or cell phone) every evening for a week. There you write down 5 things you appreciate about yourself. But make sure that you do not only write down accomplishments.
Also write down good stuff related to your core-self esteem. By that I mean things that always there no matter how you perform at work or in school. It could be things/traits like your sense of humor, your kindness, your honesty, wisdom, creativity and so on.
Be kind and understanding towards others (and yourself).
By being kinder towards and more understanding of others if becomes easier to do the same to yourself. One simple way to focus on being more understanding and kind when you feel the need to judge someone is to use helpful questions. One I find to be really effective is:
What parts of this person can I see in myself? How is he or she like me?
This one helps me to shift my perspective from what is different and what I feel the need to judge to what we have in common instead. This tears down the mental barriers between us and I can feel closer to and more understanding of this person.
Try it out whenever you feel the need to judge someone, no matter if it is someone close to you or someone you don’t even know.
By doing so it becomes more natural to extend and use this more understanding and kind frame of mind when you view yourself too. And by behaving in this way towards others you will feel better about yourself and in that way raise your self-esteem too.
Plus, by being kinder towards others you are more likely to get that kindness back from them too.
4. Remember, not all things that they may say or think is really about you.
If someone is pretty much always negative about what other people do or he or she often makes personal attacks and let the destructive words flow then, when such things are aimed at you, remember that it isn’t always about you.
Such words or negative habits can be a way for that person to release pent up anger, frustration or jealousy about something in his or her own life. Or a way to reinforce that his or her viewpoint or belief is the right one. Or he or she may have habit of getting others involved emotionally – baiting them – to build a negative spiral, an argument or fight to get attention. It’s about him or her. Not about something you did or want to do.
It can have a calming effect to remember this. And to remember that the other person is still human and might be having a bad day, month, marriage or job.
5. Listen to the supportive and level-headed people.
I wouldn't recommend to stop caring about what people may say altogether. Listening to what they have to say can provide you with valuable feedback and help you to keep yourself grounded so that your life and relationships do not spin out of control or break down.
But try to choose who you listen to. Listening to your relative that is always angry about everything or a friend that always sees the pessimistic side of things may not help you so much.