Sometimes we might wish that we were in one of Harry Potter’s invisible jackets. It’s safe when we’re with those who make us feel loved. Maybe we’re worried about being judged about what we say or do. This might impact whether you say something. You might be worried that what you say is unintelligent. Or maybe you think that others are upset with you.
It can be overwhelming when we’re caught up by our thoughts and concerned with others think of us. It can make it hard to do the things we want to do if we’re cloaked in anxiety. We might want to feel carefree, or at least less worried.
Are you ready?! Here are some tips to worry a little less about what others think!
It's none of your beeswax.
Sometimes, shifting our narratives can help us work through these thoughts. One way to rewrite this story is to tell yourself, “What others are thinking about me is none of my business.” If the person is really upset with you, he/she can tell you. That person is responsible for telling you.
Otherwise, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were kind to that person and did nothing wrong!
In the case that person has negative thoughts about you, it often has to do with the other person. If that person is jealous, it means that that person is insecure. Most likely, that person has to do some internal work on themselves and gain awareness of these insecurities if it’s leaking into your space. When we’re worried about what others think, we’re also giving that person a lot of our power. What do I mean by this? Also, the person that you’re concerned with, perhaps you wouldn’t want to be friends with that person anyway. The people that we’re around (and worry about what they think) might not share the same qualities or values we hold.
Another way to approach this is to talk to that person. Maybe you’ll find out that person wasn’t thinking what you thought they were thinking! Or if they confirm your thoughts, it’s a reminder that you’ve got some great intuition. By talking to that person, we might learn something about them. We might find a new friend!
SHare about it.
Our feelings can have an effect on us. If we’re tired or sad, we might be more self-conscious. Acknowledge that it’s okay to feel worried about how others see you. Be kind to yourself and remind yourself that whatever you’re feeling might be making you feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to feel uncomfortable. Tell yourself that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Talk about how you feel self-conscious. Sometimes when we share about it, we take the power out of it. Chances are that if you share about it, someone will understand what you’re going through and see you as bold and courageous for telling them about it. Other times, that person you tell might even share that he/she feels the same way. By putting ourselves out there and sharing the truth, we’re brave. We make space for others to experience our humanity. We model that it’s okay to be vulnerable.
Think about the activities that you are entirely engrossed in, to the point that you don’t care about what others think of you. What is it about those activities that makes you feel self-conscious? Maybe you’re in a comfortable space, surrounded by people that love you. Or it could be that you’re so consumed in the activity that you’re not worried.
Do what you love.
Moments are ephemeral. Think about what you really want to cherish. You make your life. You deserve to enjoy it. To be the main role in your show. Don’t let anyone else take away that power. Do you. If there’s a song you love, belt it out. When we’re doing what we love to do, it no longer matters what others think. If it’s meaningful to you, do it.
I get it. Maybe your perfectionism is getting in the way of finishing or starting projects you always wanted to pursue. Or maybe it’s just too scary to think might happen if you scrawl a few words on a page. It can be suffocating in such a way that we’re unable to to keep going, for fear that our work will be criticized, or for fear that we will be perceived as “less than.” Chances are, if another person truly thinks of you as less intelligent as you are, then that person really is unable to believe in his or her own abilities. Whether or not you are worried about how others perceive you, others have similar concerns.
Ask for it.
If you really want to fend off your perfectionism, asking for what you need is the best way to open the floodgates of flexibility. If you need to, think of it as an act of service to others. By showing that you don’t know something also gives others the chance to be vulnerable. The repetitive act of clarifying something or asking questions then conditions us into recognizing that nothing will bite us in the a** or recognizing that we survived after asking for help. Practice asking for suggestions. It doesn’t mean that you are “weak” or not the “expert”. Rather, it’s a sign of humility. It’s the way that we all learn and assert ourselves.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Purposely find an activity that you are mediocre at and find the fun in it. Fully experience what it’s like not to try so hard all the time. Maybe you’ll find relief in it! See if you can be silly while trying not to attain the “ideal” outcome. If you need any exercises: draw with your left hand and have a competition with a friend --who can draw the messiest picture?
Even those who might appear “perfect” on the outside or seem like they have it “all together” have skeletons in their closets. Everyone has some fear or struggles that they have endured. We are all fallible beings.
In this exercise, write about your qualities as a person. This key is to identify who you are beyond your external accomplishments or appearance. It might be easier to pretend as though you are narrating someone else’s life, and therefore gain some perspective.
Make a List
By writing this list, maybe you’re better able to see your purpose and realize what is meaningful to you. The reasoning behind this question is to shed some light on what drives us at a deeper level, rather than focusing on superficial outcomes.
Most people do not have the goal to be alone on an island. If you do, have at it! Most of us want to make money, but at the end of the day, we really might want to make money so that we can be surrounded by and spend time with those who matter to us.
Self-forgiveness is a great antidote to shame. In fact, those who experience shame on a frequent basis have difficulty forgiving themselves (Rangganadhan & Todorov, 2010). If we are able to forgive ourselves, we arrive at a place of peace.
You know that feeling. Maybe you beat yourself relentlessly for making that same mistake to the point that you attach this action to your self-worth. What I mean by this is this: your regret has affected how you value and view yourself as a human being.
Now why is self-forgiveness important?
The process of self-forgiveness is similar to that of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance):
Stage 1 : Self-Forgiveness
You may not be ready to forgive yourself; you may experience denial and be unable to let go of the wrong you made (Hall & Fincham, 2005). In this process, you may feel guilty and attribute this behavior to yourself and think that you are a "bad" person (=shame).
An Exercise For Stage 1:
Start to bring in some self-compassion. Bring in some words of kindness to yourself and validate what you are feeling.
It might look like this: "It's really difficult to feel guilty and shameful. These are painful emotions."
Approach your denial, and work with yourself where you are in this stage.
Here's an example for you to use, but feel free to adjust this to make it seem more natural for you:
"I get it. You don't want to look at what you did wrong. Sometimes it's hard to forgive ourselves."
Stage 2: Self-Forgiveness
This phase is marked by intentionality and the acceptance of your wrongdoing (Hall & Fincham, 2005). You are taking responsibility for your actions; you are gaining self-awareness. You begin to make peace with what you did wrong.
An Exercise For Stage 2:
Brainstorm a list of actions that might allow you to take responsibility for this wrong. Would you need to meet with the person and apologize? Perhaps you could write a letter to this person and acknowledge what you did wrong and what you could do to make it right. This is very similar to Step 9 (Making Amends) in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (Twelve Steps & Twelve Traditions, 1989).
If these are impossible, write a list of actions that you would not normally take. For example, if you despise washing the dishes, you might add that to your list. Or maybe, it's making a donation to a charity. The list continues...
Stage 3: Self-Forgiveness
In this final stage, you will attribute meaning to your wrongdoing. Your motivation to act kindly toward yourself will facilitate this self-forgiveness (Hall & Fincham, 2005).
An Exercise For Stage 3:
Similar to the first exercise, you will engage in self-compassion.
If you have difficulty forgiving yourself, I encourage you to write a letter to yourself. Acknowledge what you did wrong, but emphasize how you are human. You might wonder, "Am I giving myself too much slack?" The answer is, no--chances are that you have engaged in self-flagellation and have been too hard on yourself. Then write about how you are sorry how you have treated yourself (pre-self-forgiveness). Focus on using non-judgment toward yourself and avoid criticizing yourself (you already know that you made a mistake!) when you write this letter.
Let me know what you think! How do you work through shame and arrive at a place of self-forgiveness?
Hall, J.H. & Fincham, F.D. (2005). Self-forgiveness: The stepchild of forgiveness research. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 24(5), 621-637.
Rangganadhan, A.R. & Todorov, N. (2010). Personality and self-forgiveness: The roles of shame, guilt, empathy and conciliatory behavior. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 29(1): 1-22.
Twelve steps and twelve traditions. (1989). New York, NY: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services.
What does it mean to trust your intuition?
You know that feeling "in your gut". You know that feeling--when you meet someone and you get a sense that you can't trust this person. Maybe it's that the person's body language doesn't align with the person's words--you might see right through that person's smile or hello. Or maybe you're sensing that the person is being insincere. Our intuition is a sense of "knowing" without necessarily having tangible evidence.
Why is it important to trust our intuition?
This internal "knowing" may give us signals through our bodies. What I mean by this is that physiological signals are tied to our emotions. Research (Feldman et al., 1999) suggests that when our emotions are associated with different physiological responses. For example, when we are anxious, our heart rate most likely increases and our bodies might become warm. So the next time your heart races, ask yourself if you are anxious or worried. Our intuition can lead us to what seems right for us. When we use our intuition as a guide, we carry onward with less self-doubt.
So how do we begin to trust ourselves?
Slow your roll
I get it. We're busy people. So it's easy to get caught in the hustle and bustle of things. In between that rushing, if we slow down once in awhile, we will be more attuned to what we need.
Sometimes it's easier to ignore what we're feeling when we're rushing.
You know those days--when you've been rushing from place to place and you tell everyone, "I haven't eaten since breakfast." So after that long day, you stop at In-N-Out to get a burger but feel awful afterwards. When we're rushing, we forget to eat, and make those decisions that would make us feel less-than-good at the end of the day.
Even if we can't slow down entirely, we can make a conscious effort to pause for a few minutes in between the craziness to ask ourselves what we need or how we're feeling. Taking these moments allows us to practice listening to our intuition and what we need.
Feldman, P.J., Cohen, S.C., Lepore, S.J., Matthews, K.A., Kamarck. T.W., & Marsland, A.L. (1999). Negative emotions and acute physiological responses to stress. Annals of Behavioral Medicine , 21(3): 216-222.
Who are we? Do you use your career title as a way to define who you are? It happens to many of us. This act only gets us into trouble when we solely define ourselves by our achievements.
It's simple and accessible to identify based on our career roles. It's something that we can use in passing, to answer the question "What do you do?" when we are meeting someone for the first time. But answering that question does not begin to describe all the hats we wear in this world. Perhaps you are a parent or a sibling. Or some other descriptor related to one of your hobbies. Sometimes these automatic responses become engraved into our sense of being. It's easy when we are connected to communities with others that share this similar identity.
Maybe the path to our identity is just that. It's a process. It's a way of encompassing all that we do and who we are as people. Think back to your childhood. How have your beliefs changed over the years? How did your identity shift from each life stage.
What Does Our Self-Esteem Have To Do With It All?
Our self-esteem is based on how we see ourselves and how we may judge ourselves against others. Do you compare yourself with others?
When we compare ourselves with others, we often see a sliver of this person's life on the outside. It's merely a snapshot among many. Unless we know that person intimately, we do not know what other struggles that that person encounters on a daily basis.
When we are sure about ourselves, others' appearances matter less to us. We are less impacted when we feel comfortable with who we are.
Self-image & Loving Ourselves
Positive self-image takes place when our realities align with who we want to be.
Let's go back to that childhood or college self. Who did we want to be? How did we see ourselves? Now, fast-forward--how does your current self align with your dreams from the past and present? Does this mean that you'd want to bring in some unconditional love for yourself?
But is there more? How do we identify ourselves beyond our roles? We can reframe our roles beyond ourselves. Perhaps it means using our skills to serve under-privileged communities twenty minutes away from our homes. How would you want to share your interests with others? What would bring you immense joy?
Why do I love helping people manage their stress? For awhile, I had a tough time finding balance and the ideal recipe of "doing" and "being". Now I want to help others find their sense of balance, while challenging them to pursue more of what they love and decrease their stress.
What do I mean by "doing"? It means going through our daily routine--going to work, finding a job, running errands--everything from doing what we need to do to get through the day to finding what makes us happy.
I've noticed that changing my attitude has helped me discover moments where I can just be, where I can be aware of what's surrounding me, even if I'm distracted and not directly in the "present".
WHAT HELPS YOU MAINTAIN BALANCE?!
I used to believe that I wasn't "good enough", particularly in my career. I felt as though I needed to "prove myself" to others and that I was productive all the time. I used to compare myself with others. I was surrounded by driven individuals who knew exactly what they wanted to pursue. A shift took place when I stopped comparing myself with others and focused on my career and what I needed.
I remember feeling scared to let my guard down and showing people who I was. My path didn't look like others' journeys and that was okay. Now it's not about "being the best" that matters to me, but doing what brings meaning into my life. Acknowledging the bumps in the road has allowed me to accept who I am today.
Sometimes we forget that we know ourselves best. We know that we work better in the morning or in the evening. Instead of fighting against that, we can acknowledge it and if it's possible, we can use our natural inclinations for our own benefit.
For example, if we have more energy at night, maybe it's better to tackle that book or workout at night.
WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT YOURSELF?!
I used to be concerned about making everyone else happy. I felt afraid to express my feelings and to make others feel uncomfortable.
It wasn't until I felt insecure about myself that I started taking care of myself and finding the courage to express what I needed to others.
HOW DO YOU ENCOURAGE YOURSELF?!
Do you ever feel like life gets stressful?
Some tools to try:
Encouragement: Write down a statement that you would like to hear from others to encourage yourself
Meaning: List who or what is most meaningful to you Movement: Try 3 or more stretches (Ideas: neck, shoulders, and legs)
Quote: Use a mantra from one of your role models
Which one do you want to try?
How to make your own stress-relieving kit:
-mint (alerts the senses)
-velvet (or something nice to touch)
-lavender (to smell)
-chimes (to hear)
-gum (to chew)
Which of the 5 senses calms you?
Today’s mini-guided imagery exercise:
Imagine yourself in the forest.
What’s it like as you brush your fingers against the tree bark?
You see yourself feeling the leaves beneath your feet.
While envisioning the trees around you, you hear the birds chirping.
Sometimes we doubt how beautiful we are, inside and out. When we are surrounded by others' expectations, we have the ability to do what makes us happy, even if it doesn't fit into the standard mold. We get to define who we are and do what feels go to us, even if that means placing ourselves first.
DON'T LET OTHERS TELL YOU WHO YOU SHOULD BE
Follow the beat of your own song.
Dance even when others aren't dancing.
Do what makes you happy.
Show 'em when others tell you "no".
Be your own guide.
WHAT MAKES YOU "YOU"?
NO ONE IS AS UNIQUE AS YOU!
Own all your flaws.
There's no reason you need to fit yourself into a box. Be who you want to be.
WHAT MAKES YOU UNIQUE?
This is a snapshot into a time when I was studying for the Law and Ethics exam when I felt less confident about myself intellectually.
It had taken me back to the time in college when I wasn't sure about my determination and academic capacity. Reminding myself of what I do well has been carrying me through my own doubts.
These are my self-compassionate statements:
"I might be having a hard time absorbing the material, but I'm going to study anyway. It's normal to be frustrated."
"It's okay to be anxious. Other people would be anxious in your situation."
WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?!
1) It's an attitude of kindness and non-judgment toward oneself
2) We feel less isolated because we acknowledge how others may feel similarly in this situation.
3) Self-compassion is identifying our thoughts and emotions in a unattached way. We are not consumed by these experiences, but rather, we are able to see them in a balanced way.
Neff, K.D. (2003). The development and validation of a scale to measure self-compassion. Self and Identity, 2, 223-250.
WHEN ARE YOU SELF-COMPASSIONATE WITH YOURSELF?!
I've noticed that with Instagram and social media, we only see what's presented to us.
It's one-dimensional. We don't see the underlying layers. Our moment-to-moment experiences.
Remember that you are more than your appearance, your weight, what you do, what you own, what your diploma says, the list continues... It's who you are as a person that matters. It's about your actions and how you treat others. Because we are here for a reason. We are here to share our gifts with others.
You are enough.
You are doing enough.
You are making strides.
BEAUTY IS ONLY SKIN DEEP!!
For a long time I struggled with comparing myself with others. I'd feed myself these messages, "How could I be stressed? My life can't be as hectic as someone else's."
In the process, I never validated what I was going through.
It was only when I started self-compassion techniques that I began to acknowledge what I was feeling without comparing myself with others. Today, I get to embrace myself with self-love.
HOW DO YOU ACKNOWLEDGE WHAT YOU'RE FEELING?!