What will people think of me?
These six little words are more powerful than you know.
Six tiny words that used to RULE MY LIFE. Sometimes they still try to. Old habits die hard.
I used to ask myself this question, oh, maybe 10 times a day, if not more. It became such an ingrained habit that it unconsciously became a part of my normal decision making process. It was just another routine viewpoint for consideration before I decided to act on almost anything.
What should I wear today? What will people think? Can’t wear that.
Should I post that picture of me? What will people think? Can’t do that.
Should I speak up and say something at the meeting today? What will people think? Can’t say that.
Should I be a history major in college? People say you can’t make any money doing that. Definitely shouldn’t do that.
I didn’t just consider this as another viewpoint to weigh against mine, though. It was THE most important viewpoint in my decision making process. It controlled what I did, what I said, and ultimately almost every move in my life.
Even during my rebellious early 20s, listening to my punk rock music, smoking cigarettes and saying I didn’t care what others thought, I still did. I was just fighting for acceptance from a different group of people.
I guess deep down somewhere inside I thought by considering what people thought of me would make them more accepting of me. More often than not, acceptance was my goal. What I thought was usually irrelevant.
Although I never knew it, this wreaked havoc on my confidence and self-worth. These two immensely important things were tied to my perception of what people were thinking of me. My confidence and self-worth were tied to things such as the number of “likes” my picture received on facebook, if people picked me to be on their team, and if I received praise from my bosses.
And guess what, as I’m sure you know, we can’t and won’t EVER be able to control what others think of us. In fact, often we actually don’t even know what others are thinking of us. When confidence and self-worth become situational, get ready for a rollercoaster ride.
con·fi·dence – noun – the quality or state of being certain; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities
Then one day, I had what they call an “AHA” moment. I had just switched jobs, where I was feeling pretty low and unconfident, not surprisingly. I mean, it was completely new and I wasn’t receiving praise and people weren’t asking me to be on their projects. I didn’t realize it, but I wasn’t getting a critical source of external validation, so my worth was taking a direct hit.
At one point, I actually convinced myself that I had a social anxiety disorder. Every meeting I went to I felt so nervous and uneasy because I lacked confidence.
As with most jobs are when you first start, I had some downtime to think. At first I thought it was a bad decision to switch jobs. I was SO uncomfortable.
But, I thought, and I thought, and I thought. And finally it dawned on me. The problem was me. Not my new job.
The word confidence comes from the latin root “confidere” meaning to have full trust. By asking myself and letting “what will people think?” drive my actions, and then judging myself based on how accepting others were of my actions, I was fully trusting the responsibility for my confidence and worth to other people I couldn’t control.
Sometimes these were people I didn’t even know or people I didn’t like. Most people are not concerned with my well-being whatsoever and I’m valuing their opinion more than my own? Why the hell would I do that?!? Seems pretty crazy.
This is why seeking acceptance can be so dangerous. Not because it’s shallow, not because it’s unfulfilling, because you’re giving your beautiful power to be confident and trust in yourself regardless of the situation away to other people. PEOPLE, YOUR WORTH IS YOUR BIRTHRIGHT. DO NOT ALLOW OTHERS TO ROB YOU OF THIS RIGHT BASED ON WHETHER OR NOT THEY ACCEPT YOU!!!!!
au·then·tic – adjective – real or genuine; worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact
Ironically, or perhaps perfectly on purpose, when we have good intentions and seek to be authentic rather than seeking acceptance, that’s when more people are drawn to us. As the cartoonist Hugh Macleod said, “the best way to get approval is to not need it”.
Google success and authenticity and you’ll see countless articles on how people attribute being authentic to their success in life and business. There are simply too many entrepreneurs, CEOs, leaders and figures to name here that credit authenticity as a key to happiness and all things good.
This isn’t rocket science, folks. Think about it. We are drawn to honesty and we are turned off when people seem fake. We tend to support and cheer on the people we genuinely like and that genuinely like us. When we follow our own desires it can create an immense sense of happiness and fulfillment.
And the AWESOME news is that being authentic is 100% within your control, unlike seeking acceptance.
And building authentic confidence really is based on one thing: believing with certainty that you have worth regardless of the situation, and specifically the OUTCOME of the situation. Because, remember, if you’re judging yourself on the outcome, you can’t necessarily control that. Authentic confidence is celebrating the fact you showed up, for better or worse.
GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION
Ok, so like most things on the blog, you don’t build this overnight, but it’s an easy process.
Start by giving yourself permission to be authentic and then practice it, without judging yourself. It’s really that simple.
This is exactly what I did and continue to do. If you read my article on happiness, then you know that I have a bunch of sticky notes on my bathroom mirror with uplifting quotes and sayings. I occasionally switch these out, but the one that always stays is the one that gives me permission to be authentic and says that NOBODY has the power to take my positive qualities away from me. I am good, smart, courageous, confident, unique and beautiful because I say so and nobody has the power to take that from me. I am f*%*ing awesome (it literally says that).
Being authentically confident does not mean that everyone will like you or agree with you, it just means that the people who do like you, will do so for who you really are and you will know that you are WORTHY no matter what.
I’m also not saying that you shouldn’t ever consider what others think of you or take into account others opinions. But, when this limits your ability to feel confident or leaves you questioning your worth, that’s when it crosses the line. Your opinion and desires should be top priority because when you are doing what’s best for you, that really is what’s best for everyone.
I’m not going to sit here and say that I don’t let those six little words creep into my thinking. Because they do, quite often, in fact. But, now I’ve trained myself to pause and refocus on what’s important.
FOCUS ON WHAT MATTERS TO YOU
Should I start my blog to tell my story? OMG WHAT WILL PEOPLE THINK?
That was a screaming voice in my head. But I told it to shut the eff up (eventually!) and focus on what mattered TO ME.
What matters to me is being myself. Being authentic. Helping people. Telling my story.
So, that’s what I did. And I feel confident and worthy all on my own. I know that the real me is cool because I say so.
And now I ask you, my lovely readers, to like and share this story, not because my self-worth depends on it, but because someone else’s might.
MUCH LOVE AND GRATITUDE♥