I Care Too Much What Other People Think About Me

undefeatedx asked a question:

how do i stop caring about what people think about me?? 😦

Hey dear friend, I really wrestle with this, too. I’ve discovered in therapy that I’m a people-pleaser, even codependent, and I often have this crazy conspiracy in my head of small-town backroom rumors, where everyone I know secretly dislikes me and laughs about me in some seedy, poorly lit poker room.

A few things about how to deal with what others think about you:

1) It’s impossible to stop caring about what other people think about you.

So many of us get hung up on completely being cured of something, when that thing is actually a natural human process. For example: No one, and I really mean no one, can have totally pure motives when they help someone. No one is really altruistic—it does feel good to help, and we are motivated by recognition or validation. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help someone.

It’s natural that you’d care what other people think about you. That in itself is not unhealthy. So please don’t pile guilt on top of your guilt. We will always have mixed motives, but the point is to be self-aware of what those are and differentiate between what’s healthy and what isn’t.

2) Caring what other people think about is also a gift.

When someone tells me, “I don’t care what you think!”—imagine how unhealthy it would be if we actually achieved such a sweeping oblivion of other peoples’ thoughts. It’s not good to over-identify with someone’s opinion of you, but it is good to be open to what others are saying, whether for growth or to be more well-rounded or for empathy. And it’s certainly better than going so far the other way that you cease to consider other peoples’ opinions completely: this would be entering sociopathic territory.

3) That person is one person, who has the same three lb. brain that you do.

Other people are people, just like you. They have the same kinds of hopes, ambitions, insecurities, and misunderstandings as you do. They have the same busy life. In the midst of our busy lives, we sometimes choose not to like someone, based on very little information—and it’s not right, but that’s often the way the world is. Sometimes people just won’t like you. If you “win them over,” it’ll only work until you do something to lose them again. It happens. You’re better off. And really, they’re not thinking of you all that much anyway.

There are dozens of studies now where people who were embarrassed by falling over or messing up on stage or pausing too long in a speech were simply forgotten in a few days by everyone who saw (also known as the spotlight effect). We each in our minds replay the loop of our mistakes thousands of times, but everyone else is too busy to care. That sounds mean, but just think: almost everyone cares what everyone else thinks about them, but no actually thinks about everyone else all that much. It’s a weird, ironic, ridiculous sort of dynamic that requires one step back to dispel.

4) I’ve learned to care less about what other people think about me and primarily care more about what they think at all.

The thing is, the thoughts that people have about you come from a pre-existing grid of bias and perception, in which you’re just barely a tiny percentage of that person’s world. If someone really didn’t like me, I had to quit taking it so personally and recognize that this person probably saw the entire world in the same way: negative, cynical, grouchy, cranky, and just mean. I had to engage with their negativity before I engaged with their negative view of me. I asked, Why are they negative? rather than, Why do they hate me? 

When I was curious about their view, I often found that maybe they were having a bad day, or they were abused or traumatized in such a way that they generally hated things, and that none of it was about me anyway. And if that person had a legitimate dislike of me because I really needed to work on something, I needed to consider that their view was correct and that I needed to work on it. Either way, I needed to place a buffer between me and that person’s brain, and make room to genuinely care about how this person was thinking rather than what. It’s not my goal to change peoples’ minds, but rather to engage with their minds in a way that we’re both thinking clearly and sincerely.

5) Christian: You’re definitely called to care what other people think, but in the end, what God thinks matters most.

The Christian is called to consider the feelings, stories, wounds, opinions, and sensitivities of others. That’s grace: to offer room for our unique differences. It’s not about what others think of me, but that I think of others for their sake, that we would cultivate an atmosphere of free and generous thought.

Yet other peoples’ thoughts about me are not facts about me. I cannot be imprisoned to those things. My audience is ultimately just one; it matters most what God thinks of who I am. And He has the truth about me: that I am deeply flawed, yet completely loved, that I am profoundly wounded, yet still desired. This is, in the end, the only truth that matters. It’s from the surplus of God’s thoughts about me that I can even begin to handle what other people think about me. When others praise me, I can be grateful and not arrogant, because I know I am flawed and still learning. When others criticize me, I am hurt but not devastated, because I know am I still beloved. This is the balance and ballast that the Gospel offers. Jesus had to die for me, for my sin, but was glad to die for me, so I may live.


Photo from Image Catalog, CC0 1.0

6 thoughts on “I Care Too Much What Other People Think About Me

  1. good thoughts, thanks for detailing them.. the other thought I’ve heard is that other people don’t think about you at all, they’re too busy thinking about themselves ~ from Pastor Rick Warren

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “It’s from the surplus of God’s thoughts about me that I can even begin to handle what other people think about me. ”

    Pastor I love your blog. But can I please share this. I may be terribly wrong, but sometimes I see you reflecting your perspective more than God’s perspective. Be it reason, experience or God’s words, I hope you’ll stay true to the core of your writing. May God bless you with the surplus of his thoughts daily.


    1. Thanks, Esther. Please help me here: I get really confused when someone says I am reflecting “my perspective” more than “God’s perspective.” Isn’t this also “your perspective”? Who determines which interpretation is the right one? Who says that their view of God’s view is the right view? I’m genuinely curious. I hear this sort of thing all the time and it seems like we’re all trying to find our way with our limited viewpoints.


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