7 mental tricks to stop worrying about what other people think

Napoleon dynamiteFox SearchlightYou do you.

Caring about what other people think of you is part of being a normal human being.

In fact, scientists in one study found that the reward center in people’s brains was active when they were told that someone approved their taste in music.

It’s only a problem when you’re consumed by worries about your reputation — when every decision about what to wear, who to hang out with, and even what career to pursue are based on the fear of looking stupid.

Unfortunately, this habit is hard to shake. To help you out, we consulted the Quora thread, “How can I stop worrying about what other people think?” and highlighted the most compelling responses.

Read on to embrace the full experience of being yourself.

1. Remember that people aren't that interested in you

Several Quora users mentioned that people generally don't care about you as much as you think they do.

Sibell Loitz, for example, prompts readers to consider how much time they spend thinking about others and their behaviour: 'not that much time.'

Psychologists call the tendency to overestimate how much other people pay attention to you the 'spotlight effect.' In a 2000 study, highlighted on Tech Insider, people were asked to attend a party wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Barry Manilow on it (it was supposed to be embarrassing).

Sure enough, those people significantly overestimated how much the other people at the party noticed their t-shirt.

2. Tell yourself a different story

No one can make you think or feel a certain way -- it's all about the way you interpret their behaviour. So by changing that interpretation, you might be able to make yourself think and feel more positively.

Karen Renee gives an example. Maybe you habitually tell yourself: 'Today I (action) and everyone laughed. They must think I'm stupid. I'm stupid. Everyone knows I'm stupid. I can't face them again!'

Instead, Renee says you might tell yourself: 'Today I (action) and everyone laughed. I think I cheered up a couple people who were having a bad day, even if it was by accident …'

Renee cites Brene Brown's research on getting over shame, and worrying what other people think of you. Brown recently told Tech Insider that her No. 1 'life hack' for lasting relationships is to recognise that your perception of your partner's behaviour is 'the story I'm making up.'

'Basically,' she said, 'you're telling the other person your reading of the situation -- and simultaneously admitting that you know it can't be 100% accurate.'

3. Meet more people

Marie Stein recommends diluting someone's strong negative opinion of you by getting lots of other perspectives.

'The more people you meet, the more you will realise that every one has a different opinion,' she writes. 'The only opinion about you that matters, that sticks with you for your whole life, and that you can control, is your own.'

4. Try to make others comfortable

'How do you know that others with whom you share company are not themselves insecure?' writes Aurora Clawson.

'Others may act secure, but so many time(s) that is an act. How about making a point of helping others feel comfortable? Be a nurturer and you won't have to worry about how others think of you.'

Clawson is right -- research suggests that we're generally pretty bad at guessing how much others are struggling. Think about what you can do to make their lives easier, and you may find that your personal concerns are less salient.

5. Focus on controlling your thoughts, not theirs

Gennaro Cuofano points out that you don't have control over others' thoughts: 'Therefore if you spend even one minute of mental energy focusing on what others think of you, you are wasting time and energies.'

Instead, he suggests trying to manage your own thoughts about the situation.

Meanwhile, psychotherapist Amy Morin writes that mentally strong people rarely focus on things they can't control. Once you shift you focus away from those things, you'll likely be happier and less stressed.

6. Don't try to please everyone

Multiple Quora users told the same story, about two people and a donkey, which points to the foolishness of trying to please everyone.

At first, two people are riding a donkey, and passersby call them cruel. Then, one person rides the donkey while the other walks, and passersby call the rider selfish. They switch positions and now the new rider is called selfish.

Finally, both people walk alongside the donkey and passersby laugh at them for not knowing how to ride a donkey.

The moral of the story, says Syeda Ratal Zehra, is that 'people will always judge you no matter what.'

7. Know that it's ok to care what others think

It's fine to care about your reputation. The key is not letting that concern overwhelm you.

Marissa Russell writes:

'You can never fully stop caring how other people think of you.

'Because human beings are the gatekeepers to so many of the things we strive for in life (job hirings, promotions, award nominations, building a clientele, finding a life partner, etc), what people think of you actually does matter in various cases.

'The key to inner freedom is to care more about what you think of you than what outsiders think of you.'

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