Just stop caring what others think about you is a popular thing that gets thrown around when you are trying to change your life. It gets put out there as if we all know exactly how to do it. It sounds particularly easy – we just don’t care right? However, for someone (I include myself in this) who has had an addiction to being liked and approved by others this concept isn’t so simple.
When I first tried to figure out how to not care about what others thought of me – all I could think about was apathy but I didn’t really want to be suppressing my emotions. With some trial and error, what I came to discover is that it has nothing do with not caring or not feeling. It’s about learning not to attach a story or meaning to what others say and do. Another way to see it as stated in the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is “Don’t take anything personally”.
This is sometimes easier said than done because of the way our minds are designed. They are made to create stories because it how we make sense of the world (since there’s more information around us than we can actually handle) and it’s also how we remember things. So what happens when someone says or does something, our mind has to decipher it (understand and/or create a reason for it) and it does that by creating a story around it. And that newly created story comes from a mixture of our beliefs and previous stories we have created and stored. And the more the story evokes an emotion in us, the more likely we are to remember it and use it when creating our new stories.
So if this is something that our minds automatically do – how can we change it. Here’s a few tips to get started.
- Notice the story that your mind is creating and how it feels. An example might be when we call/email/text someone and they don’t get back to us. Just notice what goes through your mind (does it sound like – “they must be mad at me or I must have done something to upset them and they don’t want to talk to me, they must not really like me that much or I’m not very important to them”) .
- If the story doesn’t feel good, remind yourself that your mind is just making something up – nothing more. We don’t have to believe or accept everything we think.
- Try drilling down the situation to a neutral statement. A few of my favorites when someone says something is – “Man spoke words or Woman spoke words”- “Received a text/email with words or Didn’t receive a text/email”. The more general and generic we can make it the less likely our minds will create a story around it.
- Have another story available to give your mind something else to focus on (one that feels better). So for instance someone said something – my go to is “It’s just a point of view or It’s just an opinion and we are allowed to have our own” and I say it repeatedly to help change my focus.
It takes some practice to learn how not to attach a story or meaning to what others say and do. In fact most of us are always learning how to change our stories (myself included) to ones that make us feel good, head in the direction we want to go, and help us live a life we love. It’s a journey – not a destination and all journeys are about is taking one step at a time.