Back when our ancestors lived in primitive communities, caring what others thought of you was a necessity; ignoring someone’s opinion could result in catching a rock to the head or being hit with a club.
In a modern, less physically violent society, things are different. Paying too much attention to what others think messes with your self-esteem while offering no real advantages.
Imagine having a sense of worth that doesn’t rely on the opinions of others; being calm and self-assured no matter what anyone says or does. It’s a great trait to have, especially if you’re someone people look to as a leader.
Here’s how to stop caring what others think of you.
It’s Natural To Care What Others Think
As you go through life, you’ll hear all kinds of talk, get told that you’re a god or a total bastard. You will meet people who dislike what you stand for; want you to fail; lash out because of the pain they themselves feel. It’s part of the human experience.
Consciously, we know it doesn’t matter what others do or say. But subconsciously, we can’t help but listen and be affected. We are social beings; paying attention to the words of others is part of our natural programming.
So when someone says or does anything that attacks your sense of self-worth, it’s normal for your self-esteem to take a hit. When a girl rejects you, a friend betrays your trust or a co-worker insults you, the natural reaction is to feel bad about yourself.
You’ll never be able to stop other people from trying to hurt you – but you can make the choice to resist those attempts by remembering one important thing.
Your Opinion Is Always More Accurate Than Theirs
Let’s say you need fashion advice. Would you go to a friend who dresses well and spends a lot of time studying fashion, or a friend who has very little experience with clothes?
In the same vein, imagine you see two doctors about a nasty flu. One has just started working weeks ago while the other has been dealing with patients like you for years. Who do you listen to?
In both cases, you’d defer to the person who has more experience. It’s obvious, right? The more time you spend doing or studying something, the more qualified your opinion on the matter is.
This leads me to my next point…
Nobody has spent more time around you… Than you!
This means no other person is more qualified to form an accurate opinion about you. You are the world’s foremost, most experienced specialist on yourself. No other person’s opinion of you will ever be as accurate as your own.
You wouldn’t rely on an inexperienced doctor for medical advice; you wouldn’t come to a friend who can’t dress for fashion advice. So why let anyone affect your self-image – the way you view yourself – when you know better than them?
Exercise: How To Know Yourself
Since nobody knows you better than you, other people can only affect your self-esteem when you’re confused about who you are and look to them for answers. But when you have a strong opinion of yourself, you will never have a reason to care what others think of you.
To develop that kind of strong, solid self-image, do the following exercise (it only takes a few minutes).
- On a piece of paper, draw a table with two columns. (Use paper and pen, no cheating!)
- In the left-hand column, list all your good qualities, talents and advantages. They don’t have to be extraordinary; you can write “good swimmer” without being Michael Phelps so long as you’re pretty good at swimming.
- In the right-hand column, list all the things you’d like to improve in yourself.
- Keep the two lists somewhere accessible and read them once or twice a week. As you gain new qualities and reach your goals, cross out and add the items on the lists.
If someone tells you something that’s not on the list, your mind will discount it as false. If someone tells you something that’s on the list, it won’t matter because you already know it. As you do this exercise for weeks and months, your self-esteem will become invulnerable to any form of attack.
Does This Mean You Should Ignore Other People?
This post is not a call to ignore other people’s opinions. A doctor may be very well qualified, but he will still go to lectures; fly out to symposiums; consult with other professionals in difficult situations.
Similarly, you can make the choice to take other people’s thoughts and advice into account. But when you do, it will be a personal decision and not something you’re compelled to do. You will be in charge of your self-esteem; nobody else. This way, you can filter out toxic, harmful information coming from people who are trying to harm you (intentionally or non-intentionally).
At the end of the day, the only thing everyone likes is money. Unless you possess the unique ability to transform into a 100$ bill, people will dislike you. Since we no longer depend on paying attention to the opinions of those people for survival, being able to tune out what others think of you is a great skill to have.
Stay humble, do the exercise in this post to create a strong identity for yourself; you will stop caring what others think of you for good.