I still remember when I received my first “hate” mail.
After I wrote a guest post on how to take charge of your unhealthy eating habits at PickTheBrain, the first comment on the article — by someone called LAR — was very negative (the comment has somehow disappeared though):
“I usually like this website but this article is rubbish. Are you promoting for a weight loss company? Dieting, which, don’t kid yourself, that’s what you’re promoting here, is not in any way helpful to actual health. In fact, studies show the biggest indicator of weight GAIN is a diet within the last six months.
Food is just food. There is no good food or bad food except for what you believe and seriously, tying foods, any sort of foods, as acceptable or unacceptable is unhelpful. Further, suggesting that thinking ‘do you want to lose body fat?’ isn’t helpful. Why don’t you just come straight out and say ‘nothing tastes as good as thin feels.’
It’s insensitive, badly researched rubbish.”
I almost couldn’t believe that I could upset someone so much by writing an article on healthy eating!
At the time, my older brother Jonathan was already an experienced writer. He was used to getting plenty of hateful comments from readers. I half-jokingly said that I now understood how he feels.
His response: “Haha. Man up, Daniel. Deal with it.”
In my family, that’s the unique way we sometimes handle our frustrations and disappointments. No pity, no sympathy, no compassion.
How to not care about what other people think? That’s what this article is about.
Do you like getting social media “likes” too much?
That one angry comment made me doubt myself.
Were all the subsequent comments going to be just as negative? Was my article really that bad?
As much as I want to not care about what other people think about my writing, I realise that I still do.
It’s true — haters are gonna hate. But there must be a way I can write so that I don’t turn anyone into a hater?
I enjoy writing for writing’s sake, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t take notice of the comments a post receives, the number of social media “likes” it gets, and the amount of buzz it generates.
Before you start judging me, I’m sure you care about how many “likes” you get when you update your social media status.
But this need for approval can be unhealthy — dangerous for your mental health, even.
If you’re obsessed about what your friends, parents, and teachers think, it can lead to poor self-esteem, destructive relationships, and bad life decisions.
I feel qualified to say this because I’ve been there and done that.
This obsession with others’ perception of us is at the root of our deepest insecurities — which is why it’s crucial to learn how to not care what people think.
Why do we care about what other people think?
If you’re anything like me, you’re probably wondering: “Why do I care so much about what others think of me?”
You know you shouldn’t care so much about that video you posted that didn’t get any comments. But that doesn’t make it easier to stop worrying about what your friends think about it.
Well, it turns out this pesky habit of caring about what others think is an evolutionary adaptation.
Stay with me for a minute.
Thousands of years ago, acceptance into a group or tribe was the only way humans could survive.
After all, would you want to face all kinds of dangerous wild animals alone?
Most of us don’t live in tribes today, but we’re still social beings. The need for acceptance is hard-wired into our brains.
So it’s an entirely normal response to worry about what your friends, family, and teachers think.
The secret, then, isn’t to learn not to care at all. That would be impossible.
Instead, we can filter out distractions and gossip, so we only focus on the feedback that matters — and do so in a healthy way.
Are you caring too much about what others think of you?
Is it time for you to learn how to not care what people think and only focus on feedback that helps you grow?
Here are a few common signs you might spend too much time worrying about others’ opinions — and not enough energy on what matters most in the long run:
- You have trouble setting boundaries.
- You don’t know how to say no.
- You need constant approval from others (including people you don’t truly care about).
- You’re always apologising for things you say or do.
- You feel like you must be perfect at all times.
- You become upset or depressed because of criticism or feedback.
Are you wasting energy obsessing over opinions that don’t matter?
Then let’s explore a few ways to stop caring what people think.
How to not care what people think
It’s challenging to overcome our need for approval.
It’s even more challenging to do this in a way that doesn’t come across as in-your-face and “I’m better than you because I’m a rebel who lives life on my own terms”.
But if you want to pursue your dreams — to live without fear or anxiety as the main driving forces — then it’s crucial to learn how to not care what people think.
So, let’s reclaim the wasted time and energy we all spend stressing about opinions that aren’t important. Let’s start being all we know we can be instead.
Get started today with these five proven tips to learn how to not care about what people think:
1. Don’t focus on performance
It seems like everything in life revolves around performance.
Academic results, class rank, standardised test scores — they’re all about the numbers.
As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done. If you want to survive and thrive in the real world, you need to achieve results.
Effort isn’t rewarded; results are.
But life isn’t mainly about finishing the race first. It’s about finishing the race well.
If you allow your identity to become wrapped up in whether or not you ace the exam or accomplish something exceptionally noble, you’re probably running an anxious and self-conscious race — not the way to finish well.
2. Don’t focus on position
Position is usually the end goal of performance.
You become a valedictorian, CEO, or famous athlete because you’ve (presumably) performed well.
The pursuit of position is the pursuit of success.
The pursuit of success is the pursuit of significance, of a life that truly counts.
But if your focus is solely on attaining a certain position, it’s unlikely that you’ll find the significance you were looking for even if you reach that position.
3. Focus on purpose
Even if you don’t achieve your goals or realise your dreams, you can find satisfaction in knowing that you were purpose- and principles-driven in your efforts.
When you focus on your purpose for doing things, you’ll understand that the true value of chasing your dreams is in who you become, rather than in what you accomplish.
Here’s a tip: know your values.
Your core values help you live a meaningful life that’s true to you and your goals. We all struggle with making the right decisions sometimes — and it’s only more challenging to know what to do when we’re overwhelmed by outside influences and opinions.
When you’re struggling with how to not care what people think, come back to your core values; they’ll always point you in the right direction.
4. Focus on the process
Process-based thinking (which also helps you study smarter), instead of results-based thinking, is the key to being completely present, to living fully in the moment.
It’s interesting that whenever you hear top athletes describe what went through their minds when they attempted the game-winning shot, they almost never say something like:
“I thought about how my team was counting on me to deliver in crunch time. I thought about how I would be the hero if I made the shot. I thought about how disappointed my teammates would be if I missed the shot.”
Instead, they usually say something like:
“I thought about taking the shot the same way I’ve done it 10,000 times before in practice.”
Ironically, process-based thinking often yields better results than results-based thinking.
5. Give yourself permission not to be perfect
This means that you accept yourself completely, but that you also accept complete responsibility for improving the aspects of your life you’re not satisfied with.
It means that you accept your imperfections, but not the undesirable circumstances you have the power to change.
Perfection is being the best at everything; excellence is being the best you can be.
When you give yourself permission to be excellently imperfect, you can stop worrying about whether or not you’re living up to the expectations of others, or even your own — and discover how to not care what people think.
Here’s what I encourage you to keep in mind:
You are your own worst critic.
Have you ever found yourself lying in bed, struggling to fall asleep, when suddenly an embarrassing memory from years ago flashes through your mind?
The thing is, no one else remembers (or thinks about) your past mistakes. We’re all too busy worrying about our own mishaps to worry about those of others.
So the next time you find yourself stressing about the past, be kind to yourself. You’re likely your own worst judge.
Build a better you today
The memory of that one angry comment from a random person somewhere in the world prompted quite a bit of reflection about my own personal need for approval.
Our insecurities really do prevent us from becoming all that we can be.
How to not care what people think of you, then?
The all-important first step if you want to build something better is to build a better you.
So let’s stop caring about what other people think. The world is counting on us.