Have you heard this line before, “Don’t worry about what other people think, it’s none of your business anyway”?
There’s most certainly a great deal of truth in this statement, but I do think there is an aspect of the statement worth a deeper discussion and consideration.
I don’t believe anyone should “worry” or ruminate on what others think of them. Worry is a poor use of your imagination.
I love the acronym that my friend, Tony Blauer (a world renown self-defense expert) has coined for FEAR – False Expectations Appearing Real. Worry is the overt expression of our brains fixation with false expectations and predicted outcomes.
Unfortunately, our brains are wired to predict, our very neuro-physiology sets it up like this because our brains number one job is to keep us alive.
So predication is a first principle of our brain, it needs to assess every situation and compare it to what it knows, has experienced, or believes, to assess whether something that is about to happen, or could happen might result in our demise.
But let’s face it, not much of what might happen to us is really life threatening!
Unfortunately the imposition of stress, our state of mind, our energy levels, our lack of sleep, and the daily pressures of life change the neurochemical profile of our brain, and so some things that aren’t really life threatening get treated as though they are, and worrying is an output expression of this state of being.
So the more we recognize that we are worrying, the more we become aware of it, the more we can dispense with it, reframe our focus, and recognize how we are giving into false expectation.
This is particularly true of our worry of what others think. Most of the time, we are worrying about something that isn’t even happening.
How often do you actually think about what others are doing, focus on their behaviours, choices, or decisions? Not much right? Maybe a barstool conversation, or a corner of the room discussion, but really, how much time do you devote to the everyday activities of your friends or colleagues?
Even when it does become a discussion point, how long does it really occupy your time? Your ego is fooling you into believing what other people think matters. What you are doing doesn’t matter to others, and the truth is, it really isn’t being noticed. They have bigger fish to fry, and so do you.
So where I diverge somewhat with this idea is that although we should not “worry” about what others think of us, we should “care” about how what we are doing or saying is being interpreted.
We should care when what others think of us isn’t what we intend to express. If our intentions are being misunderstood, then we need to consider how we are expressing ourselves.
We shouldn’t worry, we shouldn’t become fixated on what others think, but if we are being misinterpreted, misunderstood, or mistaken, we need to recognize that what we are putting out in the world isn’t what we intend.
After all, we don’t want our intentions to be misconstrued or misunderstood. We would like people to see us for who we are and who we wish to represent.
An interesting task to do for yourself is the “Unique Abilities Audit”. I stole this from John Berardi’s book “Change Maker”. It’s an excellent self-examination task, and how you use it to compare your findings to those of people who count in your circle of influence is the key to its success.
Try answering all the questions below to the best of your ability. Then send the revised versions in the second thread to 5-7 people you trust in your circle of influence who you believe will give you honest answers.
Let them know you are trying to get better and grow and that you would appreciate their candid response.
1 – What are my unique abilities? What do I feel sets me apart?
2 – What makes me get up in the morning, and get excited?
3 – What do people count on me for?
4 – What do I think is my “blind spot” , something I don’t always recognize that holds me back?
5 – What are the things I am most passionate about?
6 – What have been my greatest accomplishments so far?
7 – Who do I admire? Why? What can I learn from their example?
Questions to be sent to your circle of influence:
1 – What do you see as my unique abilities? What do you feel sets me apart?
2 – What do you think I am passionate about?
3 – What do you count on me for?
4 – What do you see as “my way” of doing things?
5 – What if anything, impresses you about me, or leaves an impression upon you?
6 – What do you think is my “blind spot” , something I don’t always recognize that holds me back?
It’s important to canvas people who matter to you, they’ve been with you through thick and thin, they can be honest with you, and they’ve seen enough of you to give you real perspective. Try to ask a mix of people from friends, family, colleagues, or teammates so you get a solid composition of input.
When you’ve completed this task, and you’ve received your responses, where you want to recognize you should care about what others think is when people don’t see you as you see yourself, or a majority of the feedback provides an insight on a trait or behaviour you express that you have not intended to express.
What is important is that you are understood as you would wish to be understood. If the prevailing view is that you are not as you would wish to be, then it’s time to do some introspection and internal work.
Our objective is not to be what others expect us to be, our objective is to be who we expect ourselves to be. Are we living authentically, and is this being interpreted as we would wish?
This is your question worth asking.