How Not to Care What Other People Think

They say you stay up too late and got nothing in your brain? It’s normal to care what important people in your life think of you. But if caring too much makes you stressed or you live your life by others’ expectations, it may be time to push back.  Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen offers nine ways to stop caring what other people think.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
5-minute read
Episode #90

Tip #4: Consider the packaging. If someone has taken the time to deliver constructive feedback to you in a caring way—say, they are careful to critique your product or behavior, not you, or they balance their critiques with genuine compliments—it’s definitely worth listening, even if you ultimately reject their advice.

But if vague, personal attacks like, “You’re an idiot,” are lobbed your way or you get a backhanded compliment like, “Well, at least you’re a hard worker,” you can reject it like last year’s Secret Santa gag gift. Indeed, if someone doesn’t take the time to present their criticism with a little polish, it says more about them than it says about you.

Tip #5: Just because someone judges you, doesn’t mean they’re right. It’s important to remember that their opinion isn’t the cold and final truth. You can disagree with your critics. But if you do get the nagging sense that they’re right, try the next tip...

Tip #6: Rise above, or at least fake it. Even if you have steam coming out your ears, there are two reasons not to counterattack. Instead, by staying civil, even thanking your critic, you’ll accomplish two things. One, it will appear as if you are unscathed by rude comments and anyone witnessing this will be impressed with your steady rockin’. It’s a rare individual who can field haters without hate. Two, you’ll simply feel proud of yourself.  You’ll stand tall instead of stooping to the their level.

Tip #7: Think about how you can handle it. Our brains often get stuck in worst-case scenario mode—”Everyone will hate me if I walk in late,” “I’m going to screw this up and get yelled at.” If your brain always gets sucked towards imaginary catastrophes, think about how you would cope in the unlikely event it actually happened. Seriously—who would you call?  What could you do? How would you make yourself feel better? Thinking that you’re someone who can handle things even at their worst makes the (again, unlikely) worst-case scenario that much less scary.

Tip #8: Remember that people change their minds. Today, a hater, tomorrow a fan. People are fickle. Think about how voting shifts from election cycle to election cycle. Think about how trends come and go. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s change. So stick to your guns and let opinions change around you. Eventually you’ll come out on top.

Tip #9: Challenge your beliefs. Folks who are worried about judgment often carry around perfectionist beliefs—they often think that only a perfect social performance will stave off inevitable harsh criticism. Here’s a way to challenge those beliefs: make some mistakes on purpose and see what happens. Send an email with a deliberate typo, allow for a few seconds of awkward silence during a conversation, or ask the clerk at the hardware store if they carry sunscreen. You’ll learn what usually happens when you make a mistake: nothing.

To wrap up, you are your own worst critic. This makes sense: in your life, you have the most at stake  But every other person on the planet is also the biggest stakeholder in his or her life, which means they aren’t focusing on yours.  So rest easy: criticism happens, but approach it like a yard sale: snap up the rare and helpful gems and walk away from the rest.

Pre-order Ellen's forthcoming book HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety. Get even more savvy tips to be happier and healthier by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes or Stitcher, or get each episode delivered straight to your inbox by signing up for the newsletter. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.

For free, helpful downloads to fight social anxiety and be your authentic self, visit EllenHendriksen.com.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen was the host of the Savvy Psychologist podcast from 2014 to 2019. She is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. Her debut book, HOW TO BE YOURSELF: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety, was published in March 2018.