Sure, it’s easy for a laid-back person to say “Just stop caring” and move on with their life. But what if you’re a worrywart? What if every attempt you make to stop caring what others think of you ends in a pile of frustration? If you’re anything like me, you might be a ball of anxiety, recounting conversations, and the day’s events before bedtime. Multiply this by a couple thousand if you have social anxiety as I do.
It’s completely fine to concern yourself with what people who genuinely love you have to say about your choices. If they’re trying to provide some sound advice or a reality check, it’s good to take it into account. But if your day ends up ruined by a gas station attendant’s off the cuff remark or your coworker’s harsh words about your cat calendar, you might need some practical tips to empower yourself and protect against life’s random bullsh*t. Side note, if Tay Tay can love cats enough to post them all over her Instagram feed, you have every right to enjoy your cat calendar.
Why do we reel from other people’s comments?
Humans have a universal need to feel accepted. When there’s any conflict or comment on your life, your ego becomes insecure as a result of feeling like an outsider. Evolutionarily, if we’re on the outs of our tribe, we’re less likely to survive out there. So, there’s the primitive answer. Your primal self is fighting to stay in the inner circle for protection. Luckily, we’re in the modern world, and Post Mates will deliver ANYTHING to your door. And unless you try to scam them, you’re pretty covered in the survival department.
So then there’s the social aspect. Again, our primal instincts guide this. The less criticized (and ostracized) we are, the higher the chance of power and success in our village. This means you’ll have your pick of the litter of mates. Yum!
No matter how we slice this, it all stems from our desire to belong. We want to be accepted by our peers. But what if we have zero interest in being friends with the random dude walking down the street who makes a crude remark about you? Unfortunately, our brain-body connection is a bit slow on the uptake, and our primal instincts are still firing off fireworks to FIX IT! This is where we have to step in and manually over-ride until we get reprogrammed. Hint that’ll take some time. Evolution is a b*tch.
Free Yourself of The Bullsh*t
CBT Yourself with Some Questioning
First, when something sets you off, identify it by breaking down what it is. What’s the event that triggered your emotion? Next, write down what belief or thought you get from the event. For example, your coworker criticized your cat calendar. That’s the objective event. Your thought could be something like, “My coworker thinks I’m a crazy cat lady, which means everyone else does too.” And then, identify why this is a thinking trap. Clearly, you’re over-dramatizing and blowing the event out of proportion here. Your coworker’s comment is just one stupid comment from one person. It doesn’t change your place in the world.
It’s Not That Important
Next time your life is reeling out of control because of an event or comment you didn’t like, consider the fact that others probably aren’t thinking about you. Here’s the deal, people are self-involved. They have their own problems and insecurities. They don’t have the time to think about what you did or did not do, because they’re trying to think of themselves first!
The more you recognize your values and needs, the easier it will be to deal with others. When your value system dictates a specific behavior, you’ll be more comfortable saying no to people and not overthinking situations that align with your values or your needs. For example, your friends might want to go bar hopping, but you know that you feel better staying home instead. If they act disappointed and try to guilt you, you’re less likely to overthink that guilt and sit in it. Your needs and values strengthen your convictions, and as a result, you won’t doubt your decisions.
Flex Your Independence
Practice being yourself with intention. When you intentionally stop and go against the grain of an expected status quo, you’ll slowly get used to taking risks and accepting the consequences of other people’s reactions. This will also allow you to practice not giving a sh*t on your terms, meaning you don’t have to overthink spontaneous events that catch you by surprise.