One of the biggest fears we have as humans is the fear of being judged. Ok, I think it’s actually public speaking. But if you think about it, fear of being judged is a huge part of that! And if you’re sensitive, if you’re a people pleaser, if you’re easily embarrassed, if you’re a perfectionist, self-conscious, anxious, or if (like me) you’re a little bit of everything, this can be even harder to deal with.
This fear can creep into your life and ruin any kind of fun you might potentially have, or sabotage any greatness you might be able to put into the world. I mean, imagine someone you look up to, and then think about how many shits they give. It’s very likely zero. So, from a recovering shit-giver, below are 6 tips to help you quit caring so much about what other people think of you.
Bathroom graffiti from some hipster bar in San Diego.
1. Embrace something about yourself you dislike.
I’ve always hated my nose. At some point when I was younger, I decided I wanted to get it ‘fixed.’ I took pictures highlighting my profile and then went in with a sharpie, creating the smaller, cuter, button nose that I wanted. Then one day, I remember seeing Jennifer Grey (of Dirty Dancing fame) on TV. She talked about how much she regretted her nose job. How it completely changed her face to the point where even her family didn’t recognize her until she spoke. There was something horrifying about this to me. The idea that making a small change to something unique about us could almost erase us...making us unrecognizable.
So, whether it’s a physical characteristic or personality trait, take some time getting comfy cozy with the things about yourself you don’t like. (Unless, of course, that trait is being a dick. In which case, go ahead and change it...please.)
2. Do something that makes you uncomfortable.
When we are afraid of something, we typically avoid it. But usually we’re not actually avoiding that thing because it’s legit dangerous. We’re avoiding it because it triggers uncomfortable feelings. In the field of mental health, there’s something called exposure therapy. The idea behind exposure therapy is that if we expose ourselves to the things we are afraid of (starting with baby steps) we can eventually build up confidence and skills tolerating and ultimately overcoming the fear that arises.
For example, when I was in college, I realized I was incredibly self-conscious. So, I signed up to be a nude model at the university’s art department. Alright. I understand I ignored the baby-stepping part. But, even still -- it was extremely effective!
So, think of something that makes you uncomfortable. And, instead of avoiding it, lean into that shit! Baby-step it if you have to. Treat it like an experiment. In most cases, the worst thing that will happen is you'll embarrass yourself and have a funny story to tell. And, let's face it, sometimes laughing at our own discomfort helps release its hold on us.
3. Spend time with people who think you’re a badass.
I cannot stress the importance of this enough. We all can feel insecure or shitty sometimes. And the people around us can either help buffer us from those shitty feelings, or add to them.
Think of your friends as people you are letting into your house. You want people in there who are going to sing, dance, laugh, or maybe bring delicious treats...not those who are going to point out all the clutter and dust, break windows, or take a shit on your new rug.
So, find people who make you feel like a rockstar. And spend time with them. Invite them over. If they don’t live nearby, skype them, call them up, or send them a note via carrier pigeon. And if someone can’t behave in your house, send them out into the backyard...or down the street if necessary.
4. If someone doesn’t like you, think about whether you like them.
When I was in college, I went to the counseling center for awhile. My counselor’s name was Frank. He was a middle-aged white guy with a mustache and was unexpectedly good with 19-year-old me. After I dealt with whatever crisis brought me to treatment, I had a number of sessions where I mostly rambled about everything that bothered me. There was a girl on my floor who I was convinced was giving me ‘dirty looks.’ I would complain to Frank, “I don’t get it?! What is her problem? Why doesn’t she like me? I’ve never done anything to her!”
Then one day, Frank calmly asked, “Do you like her?” I was confused, “What?!” So, Frank replied, “Do you like her? Do you think she’s nice? Would you want to be her friend?” Without thinking I blurted out, “No! She’s rude!?” And that’s when he hit me with it: “Well, then why do you care if she likes you?” [Mic drop]...I paused and smirked. He got me. So, I playfully shouted, “Because everyone’s supposed to like me! Even if I don’t like them!” And we both laughed.
So, next time you hear someone talking smack about you, or someone on the street gives you a dirty look, think about what Frank said. And also remember that sometimes people just suffer from bitchy resting face. Which was actually the case with the girl on my floor. Months later, we had our very first conversation and it turns out she didn’t dislike me at all! The look she was giving me was just her face.
5. Realize that people probably aren’t judging you, because they likely don’t even notice you.
There is a concept called the spotlight effect. Basically it says that, since we are in our own heads all the time, we are constantly thinking about ourselves and (as a result) we overestimate how much others are thinking about or noticing us. Think about it, have you ever been mortified to realize that your fly was down or you had a hole in your shirt? And then when you got pissed at your friend for not telling you, they were like, “Oh, I didn’t even notice.”
So, the next time you are worried about what someone thinks about you, try to remember that they’re probably not thinking a gosh-darned thing.
6. Remember that most things aren’t personal.
This is easier said than done. (I get it.) If you’re a sensitive soul (or any kind of human, really) it can be hard not to take what other people say or do personally. But it’s important to remember that other people’s behavior is rarely about you. Maybe your boss who was overly critical of you was going through a bitter divorce. Maybe the cashier at the grocery store who looked irritable and rude was grieving the loss of someone they love. Maybe your friend didn’t call you back the other night because they were going through some stuff and didn’t want to be a Debbie Downer.
Don’t get me wrong, when we mess up, we should own it. And maybe the way someone is responding to us does have to do with something we did or said. But it is just as likely (and probably even more so) that it has absolutely nothing to do with us.
So, those are my tips. What do you think? Do you struggle to not give a shit? Or are you a pro? Please comment below. I'd love to hear your thoughts, tips, or embarrassing stories!
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