It’s a typical trait of the overthinker – worrying about what other people think of us. It’s exhausting and stressful giving so much time, energy and brainspace to thinking about how other people, from our family, friends and workmates to complete strangers on the street and on social media, are judging us.
In this episode we look at:
Pressing Pause Podcast Episode 2 How to worry less about what others think of you
Welcome to Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers.
I’m Gabrielle Treanor and I’m a writer and teacher specialising in overthinking and overworrying. Here I share with you ideas, inspiration and actions to empower you to spend less time overthinking and worrying and more time enjoying your life.
Welcome to episode two, today I’m looking at that thorny issue of worrying what others think about us and what we can do to not care quite so much about it.
It’s a typical trait of the overthinker – worrying about what people think of us whether it’s our character, what we say and do, how we look, our job, where we live, what our home is like, how our children behave, how much money we have… the list is never-ending. It’s exhausting giving so much energy to thinking about how other people, from our family, friends and workmates to complete strangers are judging us.
All this overthinking uses up our energy, our brain space, it distracts us from what’s going on around us and, quite frankly, it’s really stressful. Plus it doesn’t actually get us anywhere, it isn’t productive or helpful and it makes us feel really rubbish.
Worrying how you’re going to come across when heading up a project at work doesn’t make you work in a radically different way. You’d be diligent and thorough and work hard anyway, because that’s who you are, you try your best. You might think that your best will never be up to scratch but that doesn’t change the fact that you, being the kind of person you are, try your hardest.
All that obsessing over what opinion your boss or colleagues are forming of you does is stress you out and make you more nervous. It sends your amygdala into overdrive and your cortisol levels through the roof. None of which makes you feel good or helps you work well.
Parents can tie themselves in knots wondering what other people think of their parenting skills. Mums who worry constantly about what their in-laws, other mums, the kids’ teachers, strangers in the supermarket and on social media, anyone they coincide with in the world, think of how their children act and speak and how this reflects on them as their mother. This worrying can make mums overthink how they’re raising their children, and second guess themselves on the decisions they make from what they’re feeding their kids to what school they attend to what they do at the weekend.
Worrying what others think of your parenting doesn’t make you better parents, you’re already working your absolute hardest to be the best mum you can possibly be. But what it does do is suck some of the joy out of being a mum, it distracts you from being fully present with your children, in whatever’s happening in that moment, because you’re worrying that someone else judging you.
Overthinking about how others view us encroaches into all areas of the worrier’s life. What will ‘they’ think if I make this life choice? What will they think if they see me with no make-up on? Will they think I’m bad/selfish/stupid/rude/big-headed if I voice my opinion? What if they don’t like my house/my work/my art/my writing/my photo/my life? What if they don’t like me?
And that’s getting to the real heart of it. This is why we worry so much about what others think, because how awful would it be if they don’t like us?
Okay, so first of all, let’s challenge the theory that everyone around us has a view on us. How do you know that all these people who you think are forming opinions of you, are actually doing that? Who says they’re judging you at all? Did they look at you a certain way, or look away from you? Did they write something down? Did they say something to their friend or colleague that you couldn’t hear?
Let’s make the overthinkers’ friend ‘what if’ work for us for a change.
So, what if all these things happened and they had nothing to do with you? What if you took a look and put your own meaning on it? That look on someone’s face may or may not have something to do with you. They could have been trying not to sneeze, maybe they noticed an odd smell, perhaps they’re worrying about something themselves, maybe they have a twitch, or they remembered something they’d forgotten… It’s entirely possible that the look that you decided was all about their opinion of you may very well have had absolutely nothing to do with you.
We believe that other people think about us far more than they actually do. We’re really not as important in other people’s lives and minds as we think we are. Think about that for a minute. Most people are too wrapped up in their own lives to spend much time thinking about what’s going on in yours or anyone else’s lives. I know that may sound a bit harsh but it’s true. We’re all busy people with a lot going on. You don’t spend most of your time assessing everyone around you so there’s no reason to think that other people are spending their time judging you.
Okay, so now let’s go back to that uncomfortable thought: What if they don’t like me?
Ugh, that’s a horrible thought. If you’re a people-pleaser like many of us overthinkers are, you want everyone to like you, why wouldn’t you? I want everyone to like me. The idea that there are people walking around this earth who may not just be indifferent to me but may actively dislike me, who think badly of me, is horrible. It makes me physically uncomfortable. I’m shifting in my seat right now.
However, I have to face up to the fact that it is just not possible for everyone in the world to like me. I can’t think of a single person who is universally adored. There may be people who I think everyone would like, I mean, what’s not to like about Mary Berry, but there will still be some people who aren’t fans.
Not everyone is going to like me. And not everyone is going to like you. Each of us has the free will to form our own opinions and if someone chooses to not like me or you, well, that’s their right. We don’t want this to be the case, we’re not comfortable with the thought that we’re not liked by everyone but this is reality. It’s something that I’m still working on trying to be okay with, and I fully expect it to sound horrifying to you. But, you and I will both be better off in the long run if we can make peace with the fact that what others think of us is not wholly within our control.
All we can do is go through life the best way we know how: honouring our values, doing what we believe is right, treating others as we wish to be treated (there’s no guarantee we will be) and trying our best. This is what we have control over. Getting to the end of the day and knowing that however difficult it was, whatever challenges and upset you faced, however off your day was, you made the best of it, whatever that looked like. It’s all you can do. What your in-laws, your boss, the mums at the school gate, strangers on the internet and in the supermarket think is up to them. You’ve done your best and you don’t get to control what others think of you.
I’m pretty sure that you’re doing your best each day. Some days are great, some days are definitely not. And each day you’re doing the best you can to be the friend, the mum, the colleague, the partner, the neighbour, the daughter, the person that you are. And that is enough. YOU are enough.
So, here are four things to remember next time you find yourself worrying what someone else is thinks of you:
Number 1: They may not actually be thinking of you at all. They could be thinking of a million other things that have nothing to do with you.
Number 2: So what if they are? They’re entitled to their opinion, whatever it is, you can’t control it so leave those thoughts alone and give your energy to something more worthy of your attention.
Number 3: You know you’re doing your best because that’s what you do, it’s who you are, and that is enough. YOU are enough.
And finally, number 4: Take a deep breath in and breathe all the way out. Let go of that worry and move on.
I know this is tricky stuff. It’s difficult for overthinkers like us to be okay with the idea that other people have opinions of us that we have no control over. But it’s worth challenging these thoughts. Because in the moments where you let go of worrying about what someone is thinking of you, you’re free of that fear, of that stress and anxiety. You’re free to focus your energy, time and brainspace on what matters to you, on who matters to you and the joy you can feel with them. And that’s a better use of your mind, isn’t it?
Thank you for joining me for Pressing Pause, the podcast for overthinkers. You can find the show notes and other episodes at gabrielletreanor.com/podcast along with information on how to subscribe to this podcast on iTunes and Stitcher. If you enjoyed Pressing Pause it would mean a huge amount to me if you could leave a review on iTunes because it helps other people find the podcast too.
You can also find lots more to empower you to overthink and worry less and enjoy your life more, including the Nook of Inspiration free resource library and the range of online courses, at gabrielletreanor.com.
And if you’re on Instagram come say hi to me, I’m @gabrielletreanor.
Thanks again for listening, until next time, lovely people.
Throughout this website and my work when I refer to women I include people identifying as women.
If you have, or think you may have, a mental health problem that requires professional diagnosis or treatment, please consult a mental health care professional and your GP.
You can also talk to the people at Mind on 0300 123 3393 or SANE on 0300 304 7000 or Samaritans on 116 123.
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