Worrying about what others think of us is as wasteful as trying to catch the wind.
A topic that often crops up when I’m working with clients is how much they worry about what others think of them.
As an executive coach, clients in the corporate world often worry about what their colleagues, clients or managers think of how they presented in front of an audience, what they thought about the comments or contributions they made during a meeting, or what their colleagues think when they can hear them on the phone having a difficult conversation with a customer. Some worry so much that they will do their best to avoid the situation. Waiting until the office is almost un-manned before making a call, not speaking up in a meeting at all if they can avoid it, getting out of making a presentation and missing the chance to impress.
Teenagers that I work with often assume friends or classmates are talking about them, judging them negatively, even laughing about them behind their backs.
1:1 clients mention many different scenarios that fill them with angst and worry, whether it is about their friends, family members, or colleagues judging them when they do something. They even worry about what total strangers will think of them.
This angst is exhausting, damaging, confidence draining and more often than not, misplaced.
The reality is we are really not that important. People have far more important things of their own to focus on - why do we think we are that interesting? Others are often just too busy to give us a great deal of thought. Perhaps a minute or two, if that, before moving on to more important things in their own lives.
And when they do think about us at all, it is often, in reality, not at all the sorts of thoughts we fear they are thinking. We are far more judgmental and harder on ourselves than other people are about us.
But more importantly, we cannot change what others do or don't think about us. None of us are going to be liked by everyone. Even the nicest people in the world annoy some - and that's absolutely OK.
We need to feel comfortable with not being accepted by everyone, by not being liked by all. When I first started running workshops, or presenting to large audiences and more recently, posting blogs - I too felt scared about some people not liking what I said, how I presented, who I was, what I wrote about, or how. It is frightening and we can feel very vulnerable. But it feels so much better when we feel comfortable being uncomfortable, when we stop trying to please and instead just do our best, be honest and authentic, and know that that is all we can do. Those that respond well to us are exactly the people we would like to be around, and those that don't will respond better to others. That too is OK.
There is room for us all out there, we just need to stop trying too hard and cut ourselves some slack. In fact the harshest critic we are ever going to meet is our self - but this one we can influence and change.