A lot of people worry what others may be thinking of them and devote a lot of time analyzing conversations and reflecting on the impressions others have of them. In contrast, the vast majority of people spend most of their time thinking about their own life, and very little time thinking about you. Moreover, most of the people for whom you worry about what they think, are not actually the people who will help you in the time of your greatest need. They may feel empathy for you for a short time after any given setback of a serious nature. However, not as many will offer their help or emotional support in a sustained and meaningful way.
It is the people whom you don't spend your time worrying about what they think, who will actually be there for you when you need them, such as your closest friends and family members. Yet, the mind is often occupied about how decisions one will make will affect their reputation or worried about how 'successful' other people perceive them to be. You can shape your character, but reputation is what other people create and despite your best efforts is out of your control. If someone is self-critical, they will be critical of you. If they have self-compassion, they will see the best parts of you. This is dependent on how the other person views themselves; we see the world as we are, not how the world actually is.
When you identify your most important values and live in accordance with them, you will be less likely to worry about what others think. When you define your own success, and according to that definition believe that you are successful, you will not care if other people perceive you to be successful in whatever terms they define it as. If you know what your intention is when you communicate or engage in an activity, and you come from a genuinely good place, how other people interpret your behaviour to be is irrelevant. They could be projecting their own motivations and intentions onto you with little self-awareness. Or they may filter what you said through their own past experiences, and thus infer meaning or intent that was not actually coming from you. It is the people who care least about what others think that actually get the most respect. This is because they have nothing to prove, nothing to convince you of, and are truly at peace with their life. When you communicate honestly, and with integrity, and share your authentic opinions, beliefs, morals and values about different topics, you attract a tribe of people who are on the same wavelength. You have a greater chance of making deeper friendships.
The life people display on social media is a highlight reel of their best experiences, where they showcase happy memories. Yet people compare their real lives to these highlights, without understanding that it is not a realistic representation of how the person's life is behind the scenes. If I have learned anything from being a psychotherapist, it is that things are very seldom what they appear to be on the surface. Because society has a 'positivity' bias, people do not freely express negative emotions or talk about their challenges openly, even with those close to them. They are afraid of being judged, invalidated and misunderstood. This causes emotions to be repressed. We admire those who have gone through immense suffering and come out victorious, yet we don't share in real time what it is like to go through these hard times because there is no safe space to do so. People feel isolated in their thoughts, emotions and experiences when there are so many going through the same life cycles that characterize and define the human condition. We crave support but fear ostracism and distancing from others. What do we observe when someone shares from the heart? How are they treated in our families, friend groups, schools, workplaces, and communities?
Self-acceptance and self-love can only come when you drop the need to be approved of by others. When your self-esteem is dependent on what others think of you, they can withdraw their support at any time and for any reason, causing you to crash. Instead, focus on your personal, emotional and spiritual development. Everyday, read or listen to the words of those people you find inspiring, so you can understand their thinking style, and gain higher perspectives that will empower you to thrive. They probably faced the same dilemmas as you, the same emotions and anxieties you did, as we are all human. How did they deal with them? Make time to connect with your own intuition, to be receptive to the wisdom that comes from silence. Write your own narrative, and never let anyone frame your story or define your value. No one will ever value you more than you value yourself. So place a high value on yourself and you will see a world that places a high value on you too.
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