Your new mantra: IDGAF. All of us worry about what other people think of us, at least sometimes. It’s human nature to want to fit in, be liked, and feel accepted by our peers. But if your concern over how others see you has turned into a constant need for validation, or if you’re not able to get through the day without having intrusive, possibly even crippling thoughts about your self-worth, it may be time for an intervention. Read on for how to stop caring about what other people think about you.
In an article for Psychology Today, psychiatrist and author Fredric Neuman encourages us to think about whose opinion really matters, and whose doesn’t. Of course you should care what your partner, family, and close friends think of you, at least to some extent. Presumably, they love and care about you and have your best interests at heart. But as the circle expands out, says Neuman, there’s less and less reason to care what anyone thinks of you. So while what your boss thinks matters less than what your mother thinks, it still matters more than what the stranger sitting next to you on the train thinks.
And the person whose opinion matters the very most? Take a look in the mirror. Ultimately, the only person who has to feel okay about you, is you. So if you’re tied up in knots over what people think about you, try cultivating a DGAF attitude (Don’t Give A Fuck). Urban Dictionary defines it this way: ‘To DGAF means you do what YOU want to do, regardless of other people’s asshole opinions.’
If you’re ready to embrace the DGAF way of life, here are seven ways to stop caring what others think…
1. Mind your own business
You can’t control what other people think about you, so why not stay out of it? Actor Anthony Hopkins said it well: “My philosophy is, it’s none of my business what people say of me and think of me. I am what I am and I do what I do. I expect nothing and accept everything. And it makes life so much easier.” Next time you catch yourself worrying over what someone thinks of you, remind yourself to keep your nose out of it and move on.
2. Get busy
We’re most vulnerable to worrying what others think of us when we aren’t quite sure what we think of ourselves. It’s those times when we’re between jobs, unhappily single, living in a new place, or otherwise at loose ends when we tend to feel the most self-conscious and start obsessing over how the world sees us. So cook up some new projects – whether it’s starting a gratitude journal, getting fit at the gym or trying your hand at redecorating your apartment – and get so busy thinking about your own stuff that you don’t have time to worry about anyone else.
3. Talk it through
If you’ve tried throwing yourself into projects and minding your own business, but you’re still hung up on the eye roll you thought you saw someone give her friend when you rolled out your yoga mat in class yesterday, it might be a good idea to get some professional help. The National Institute of Mental Health recommends looking for a therapist who practices cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). This type of therapy helps people become more aware of their thoughts, understand them, and overcome self-defeating ways of thinking.
4. Let it go
When it comes right down to it, people are going to think what they want to think, and there’s not much you can do about it. So practice detaching from what others think of you, whether it’s your partner’s parents, your coworkers, or your toxic ex. Life coach Emma Brooke reminds us that “it’s our perception that matters – and it’s a waste of energy to try to see ourselves through other people’s eyes. Odds are, they’re paying far less attention than we think.”
5. Get a grip
Yoga, meditation, or even practicing mindfulness can be very helpful when you’re trying to learn some new thought patterns. When you’re on your yoga mat, for example, you’re instructed to leave everything else behind, and focus only on your breath as you flow through the sequence of poses. This kind of mindfulness can help you exercise control over your thoughts – so when the negative ones come along, you can more easily banish them.
6. Shift your focus
Doing some sort of volunteer work, or stepping outside yourself in some way to help others, is another surefire cure to stop worrying what other people think of you. Psychology Today blogger Raj Raghunathan, PhD, says, “if you are consistently kind and considerate, then you will worry less about what others think of you … [knowing] in your heart of hearts that your intentions were benign … will give you the mental freedom to not worry as much about what others think of you.”
7. Love yourself
No, not in the Justin Bieber sense. Really love yourself. It’s important to practice good self-care; things like getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and making time to relax and do things that make you happy will all help you to be more content with yourself, and less likely to stress out about what anyone else thinks of you. So go ahead and do something for yourself right now. Read a fave poem. Go for a walk in the sun. Light a candle and take a hot bath. Who cares what anyone thinks? The world can wait.
Comment: Do you get too caught up in worrying what others think of you?
Elizabeth lives in Brooklyn with two daughters, occasional mice and innumerable to-do lists. She runs a nine-minute mile, bakes a mean chocolate chip cookie, and can always be persuaded to sing at a karaoke bar. Follow her on Twitter.