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Why Do We Care So Much What Other People Think?


Why do we care so much about what other people think?

5000 Years Back……

Imagine for a moment that you are back in time, roaming the savannas of central Europe. You are a part of a close-knit tribe, hunting together by the day and watching over each other by night. Now, one day you get into a fight with a member of your tribe, and the entire tribe decides to banish you from the group. What happens? Without the support of the tribe, as a lone ranger, you will not survive long in a hostile environment. Very likely, you will be lunch for the next wild animal. 

Being rejected by your tribe would have meant certain death.

Our Need For Social Acceptance Is Evolutionary

As humans, we have evolved with this evolutionary memory that Social Rejection = Death.

It is for this reason that we all feel threatened by the possibility of social rejection of any sort.

  • You send a job application to an organization hoping for a positive response. If there is no response, you start having these foreboding thoughts-Why is there no response? Is there something lacking in my profile? What is wrong with me? 
  • There is someone you propose to , and your advances are rejected. You experience heartbreak which is as painful as any physical trauma.
  • You want your friend’s help. But you struggle to reach out and ask for that help. Deep down, you worry, “what if my friend refuses to help me.”

The feelings of social dependency, being highly concerned about what people around you think about you, is an entirely natural human condition. Every one of us experiences this desire for social acceptance and validation, and there is no escaping it.

But, we all need to learn to cope with this natural human tendency.

Be With People Who Care About You

There is nothing worse than trying to feel validated by people who don’t think much about you.

The good news is that we today live in a world of many choices. So instead of trying to win over people who have no interest in you, figure out how to be around people who you value and admire and who, in turn, value and respect you.

You may be thinking- “what about my workplace? I need people to appreciate me and the work I do.”

If you feel stuck in a workplace where the work you do is not being appreciated, don’t waste your energy trying to shift public opinion about you. Instead of doing something extraordinary to make people notice you, it is better to get yourself to a new workplace that will value you for the person you are and not the results you generate.

It is better to change the company you keep than to try and change the mindset of people who don’t care for you.

Is There Something Worthy You Care About In Your Life?

Mark Manson, in his Book The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A F*ck , shares this brilliant idea.

If you care too much about what other people think, then it’s probably because you don’t have something more important to care about in your life. 

You will stop caring about what other people think about you when you have something in your life that feels more important than what other people think.

When you have something worth being embarrassed over or worth being ridiculed for, or when you believe in something so intensely that you are willing to lose friends and acquaintances, that’s when you stop caring about what others think. And the irony is that this is the moment when people start respecting you.

So, pick up something you believe in and go after it without caring what others may think. The less you worry about what others think about you, paradoxically, the more positively people will see you.

As I write this, I am reminded of this very famous musical personality from South India who keeps courting controversy and the ire of thousands of people for his radical and often irreverent views about various social issues. It is evident he doesn’t care much for the validation and approval of people around him. While many people may hate him, there is an equally large number of people who adore him for his music and his views, and he blissfully doesn’t seem to care either way!!

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