How to stop worrying about what others think of you

manbench(and how to benefit more from what others think of you)

Pay-off: peace of mind, freedom to act, useful feedback to improve
Investment: 6 minutes
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Ever worry about what people think of you, what you’re doing, and your ideas?

What, so you occasionally spend your precious time letting this bother you? You let it hold you back from saying or doing worthwhile things that you’d really like to say or do?

Well, we need to talk – this post is for you.

The cost of worrying about what others think

Worrying about the opinions of others is big. Most people want to be accepted. But it’s costly. Have you taken the time to consider the costs of worrying about what others think of you, what you do, and how you do it?

Have you noticed the impact on your decisions and outcomes? Have you noticed the doors that remain closed because of it? Have you noticed how it stifles creativity and innovation?

What about the cost of missing potentially rewarding opportunities in your work or life because you worried about what others thought about you, what you stood for, or how you approached people to engage them?

Or perhaps you have said, done, or created certain things in the past that you have since become self-conscious about it’s beginning to knock your confidence?

If you’re identifying with any of this, let me tell you straight; your thinking is upside down, inside out, and definitely not useful. You might want to reset it. Worrying about what others think of you is utter nonsense (and I’m about to show you why), so let’s think this through…

Spoiler: I’m about to upset you with three truths. But afterwards, you’ll feel a whole lot better.

Newsflash 1:

the heart-breaking truth about how many people really think about you

How many people, relatively, do you think (I don’t know, let’s start with…the total population of living homo sapiens to kick our exploration off) spend time thinking about you, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it?

Not many. Really, very few. Presuming you’re not famous, you’re pretty much down to an absolute maximum of family, friends and people through your work, right? Customers, colleagues, suppliers and so on? So, of those, how many actively spend substantial time thinking about you?

The number has got to be small. Pretty tiny. They’re busy people. They have limited time and stuff to do that matters to them. So, who do you think they’d prefer to spend time thinking about – you, or themselves?

Reality 1: A tiny group of people may think about you, what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. Of those, an even tinier percentage will have a negative opinion.

Newsflash 2:

the heart-breaking truth about how much time they spend thinking about you

So, of that tiny group of people who know you and spend time thinking about you (and by the way, there are a lot more people out there on this planet, this small group really is a drop in the ocean), how much time do you think they spend thinking about you?

The truth hurts; close to zero. Relatively, they really are not spending much of their precious time thinking about you. You are that worth it to them. No, they’re busy thinking about themselves aren’t they? Or thinking about how many people are thinking about them. It’s me me me me me, all the way home.

Crying yet? Don’t. You’re not thinking about them either are you? No, you’re busy reading this which is all about yourself. (Me me me..)

Reality 2: they’re spending a surprisingly small amount of time thinking about you. And of that, an even smaller percentage of that time is spent thinking negatively of you, what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

Newsflash 3:

the heart-breaking truth about how few people ‘get it’ when they think about you and what you do

So, the very few people spending very little time thinking about you – how accurate or relevant is their thinking about you? How well do they understand and ‘get it’?

Look, most people (even the ones you know well and who are close to you) really don’t get what you’re doing like you think or hope they do. They form their opinions quickly (they need to get back to thinking about themselves) with half-baked information, using the limited knowledge they have to make some sort of sense of it.

Most of your friends probably couldn’t describe accurately what you do for a living (or that new venture you’re working on). Your own mother probably just tells people your job title and that “he does really well at it!” (Be honest, would others close to you agree that YOU could accurately describe what they do and what drives them to do it in the way that they do it?) Those close to you aren’t usually that close to the work you do. Rarely are they the intended end-users or customers. But, momentarily, a few of them may have a flicker of a half-baked opinion anyway. But that’s all it will be – a half-baked flicker. A spark that disappears as fast as it appeared.

Reality 3: the quality and accuracy of what most people think about what you do is low. Many of those few thoughts come from people who don’t ‘get it’. And you’re not doing it for those ones, are you?

So small, we’re approaching zero

So, let’s check this off so we can move forwards.

  1. The few people who think about you…
  2. For the few micro-seconds they do…
  3. Have small irrelevant and inaccurate thoughts that don’t even matter. Most of their opinions don’t matter, since you’re not doing what you do for them. And their thoughts aren’t the thoughts of your intended end-users or customers.

The importance and weight of their thoughts on what you do are becoming infinitesimally small – approaching zero. To fear those tiny thoughts would be crazy would it not, and a ridiculous use of your time?

Knowing this gives you a lot more space to do your thing. You can try things out, create stuff, make stuff, say stuff, and any little mis-aligned sparks around you can appear and dissappear as pathetically as they like.

The thoughts worth listening to

It’s important to note that I’m not suggesting you ignore everybody. (Hugh MacLeod does in his excellent book “Ignore Everybody” but you’d have to read that to understand his point.)

No, I’m suggesting that you carefully act on what certain people say under certain conditions which I’ll specify below:

1.Only listen to the people who matter (ie. your end users or customers. Those who pay or show up to receive the value you provide them. The believers. Those holding their wallets in the air. Those who you do what you do for. Stop running what you do past family and friends and then reacting to what they think, say and do.)

2.Only listen to patterns that emerge from what a number of these people that matter say. Don’t listen to the one or two unique opinions around the edges.

3.Prioritise listening to and acting upon the stuff that works for a number of people that matter, rather than fixing the stuff that doesn’t work. Take your strengths, take where you’re winning, and amplify it. Get known for those things, by the people who want those things.

If you do that, over time, the number of people who do matter will increase.

So, hopefully now you know how to eliminate any fear of what others think (it’s mostly miniscule, irrelevant nonsense in the grand scheme of things) and replace it with useful thinking gleaned from those who matter, which will increase your value if you act on it.

Please share if you think others will find it useful.

And if you want me to cover tips on any particular topic or question, let me know here.

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