How to stop worrying what other people think of you - The Self-Worth Experiment

How to stop worrying what other people think of you

By Dr Berni Sewell | Heal your self-worth

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Nov 29
How to stop worrying what other people think of you

People often ask me how I can be so vulnerable and disclose so many of my struggles, issues and anxieties on my blog and in my emails.

“Aren’t you worried what other people will think of you?”, they ask.

“Won’t people believe you are cuckoo when you talk so openly about your many problems and the battles that go on in your head?”

“Aren’t you scared your employer will read what you write and think less of you?”

“What if your friends and family find out about your problems with anxiety and low self-worth and judge you for it?”

All valid considerations of course.

And a few years ago, I would have shared these concerns. In fact, I would not have admitted my struggles at all. Not to my friends or colleagues, not to anybody. And certainly not publicly on the internet for everybody to see.

Because I would have been terrified of the inevitable judgement.

So, what changed? Why doesn’t it bother me any longer now? Well, let me tell you… 


The insanity of compulsive fear of judgement

You see, I used to worry 24/7 what other people would think of me.

For years, I wore only beige clothes so nobody could think I was rocking the boat. I never shared my opinions, likes or dislikes for fear others could think I was out of line, boring or odd.

I was careful not to mention any of my accomplishments so others wouldn’t consider me arrogant

And when I was driving in the rain, I adjusted my windshield wiper speed to that of other people, even if I struggled to see. Only so nobody would think I was different or did something irregular.

Just think about the insanity!

I was so terrified of what other people would think about me, that I rather risked having a car accident than risk being judged.

And I was aware that it was crazy. I felt damaged because of it.

But I couldn’t help it. I cared for other people’s opinions about me and my actions more than anything. I even lay awake at night wishing I had a crystal ball that could tell me what they actually did think. 

So, I could fix myself to avoid their judgement.

And I kept wondering…why do we worry so much what other people think of us? Why are we so terrified of judgement?

A matter of worth and death – the mental reason why we fear judgement

So, being a scientist, I did what comes naturally. I researched the question.

And there is an important reason why we are so scared of judgement, so desperate to gain other people’s approval. 

Because when humans first evolved many thousands of years ago, they struggled to survive. Predators and enemies were out to get them. And famine and disease were everyday threats.

And the best way to survive was to belong to a tribe. To be part of a group that supported each other, protected each other, and shared tasks and responsibilities for the good of all members.

But to be part of the tribe, you had to be accepted. Others had to approve of you, especially if you were lower down in the pecking order.

Drawing negative attention to yourself, being a weakness or liability, messing up could get you rejected.

And rejection meant almost certain death alone in the wild.

So, our mind began to associate rejection with death. And other people’s judgement and disapproval with a death sentence.

And while we nowadays no longer fight to survive on a daily basis, the mind’s core programming remains. 

But it has become more worried about our survival within society, our status and standing. And our worth.

So, to the mind, being judged by others, being humiliated and losing worth equals a threat to our survival. Which is why it worries about it so much. Why it is such a tragedy in our mind.

So, the question now becomes…if fear of judgment and our need for approval are hard-wired into our mind, how can we ever stop worrying what other people think of us?


5 secrets that will help you stop worrying what other people think

You see, while our mind will always worry what others think of us, we can take certain steps to overwrite the mind’s default settings.

So we can stop agonising about other people’s approval, start expressing ourselves and our opinions without trepidation and doubt. And enjoy our lives without the limitations of fear of judgement and anxiety.

So, let’s have a look at the 5 secrets we must know to stop worrying what other people think of us:


1. People care about you much less than you may think

When we mess up, say something stupid or do something humiliating, we tend to believe that everybody around us will notice. That they will laugh about us, judge and ridicule us. And obsess about the incident for hours or even days. 

Just like we do ourselves.

But the truth is that the human ego is mainly concerned with itself. And most people will think about you much less than you imagine.  

Just think about it. 

We have more than 50,000 thoughts in a day. And even if people did judge you for a moment, spend one, two or even 50 thoughts on you, these thoughts are probably gone within a few minutes. Replaced by worries and ruminations about their own lives, their fears and what other people think about them. 

So, while you may fret about other people’s judgement for days, most of them will have forgotten all about it within minutes. Because too much is going on in their own lives that preoccupies them.

Just look at me. 

Throughout my life, I worried so much about what people think if my wiper speed is faster than theirs. Do you really believe any other driver ever thought: “What an idiot! Her wiper speed is far too fast for this measly bit of rain. Something must be wrong with her.”

I highly doubt it!

Personally, I have never thought anything like this about somebody else. So, why am I so worried others may think it about me?


2. Our fear of judgement is often self-judgement in disguise

I used to suffer from paralysing driving anxiety for over a decade. Even sitting in a car’s driver seat made me feel sick.

And I believed that I was a driving imbecile. The only pathetic loser who couldn’t figure out how to operate a car when everybody else seemed to have no problem at all.

To them it was natural, they didn’t think about it. To me it was an unsurmountable challenge I just couldn’t master. And it made me feel inadequate.

And even though I have been driving for many years now and consider myself a passable driver, I still somehow believe that other people will know that it took me forever to learn how to drive.

So, deep down, I judge myself for my driving failure. And my mind assumes that everybody else will judge me for it too.

And most of the time, if we fear other people’s judgement in a specific area of our life, we need to ask ourselves whether we may be judging ourselves

Because we will often assume other people’s judgement where there is none. Because subconsciously we judge ourselves. So, to overcome our fear of judgement, we need to realise that it originates in self-judgement. 

And work on self-love, self-acceptance and forgiving ourselves.

But what if people really do judge us?

What do we do if others criticise our work, or the way we look, talk or walk? How are we supposed to react if people condemn who we are and how we run our lives?


3. People judge in others what they dislike about themselves

Let’s face it. 

People will judge us. Just like we will always judge other people, no matter how hard we try to be non-judgemental, inclusive and tolerant.

We can’t avoid judgement as we move through life. But we can learn to see it for what it really is. 

Because what other people think of us reflects what they think about themselves. We tend to slate others for what we criticise in ourselves. 

Especially if we are unaware of the self-criticism on a conscious level.

So, the same way our fear of judgement points to the areas in ourselves and our lives where we feel insecure and inadequate, the things other people judge about us will indicate what they dislike about themselves.

Somebody who hates the way they look (especially if they aren’t aware of it or try to deny it) will be prone to condemn the flaws they perceive in themselves in others.

So what other people think of you most likely isn’t about you at all. Instead, whatever you do or are somehow triggers the other person’s self-judgement and they let it out on you.

You see, when we are judged, we tend to feel damaged and not good enough. We ask ourselves: “What’s wrong with me that they judge me?”

But that’s not the right question at all. Because what we should ask is: “What do they think is wrong with them that they need to judge in us?”

If you keep rephrasing your thoughts in that way, it will become easier to deal with other people’s judgement and stop worrying what other people think of you.

Because most of time, it’s not about you. You are just the mirror that reflects their self-judgement back at them. As such it’s important to realise that…


4. What other people think of you is none of your business

So what other people think of you doesn’t need to bother you. It’s their judgement, their negativity. It has nothing to do with you.

Judging you will affect them. It causes toxic energy in their lives.

But what other people think of you has no effect on you at all. Just think about it.

Let’s say somebody really thought I was a driving imbecile because of my excessive wiper speed. If I knew nothing about their judgement, would it impact me in any way?

Of course not. 

What other people think of us doesn’t curse us, bring misfortune, suffering or gout.  It doesn’t change our energy flow, our health or circumstances.

It does nothing.

Yet, we worry so much what others think of us. Get so upset when they judge us.

Because we believe that other people’s disapproval diminishes our worth. 

You see, our society is convinced that we are all born worthless. Which is a massive problem. Because we are also taught that we require worth to become deserving of love, abundance and happiness.

If we cannot accumulate enough worth, we cannot have what we desire. Simple as that. And to gain worth, we are told that we must be perfect, flawless.

So we knuckle down, hustle, exhaust ourselves to increase our worth levels. We hoard possessions, make money, advance our career. We boost our status, enhance our looks, collect qualifications and social media likes.

All so we can be more perfect and gain more worth.

And somebody else’s disapproval means we aren’t perfect. As such, their judgement strips away our hard-earned worth. Which, if you think of it, is a disaster. And explains why other people’s approval is so important to us.

But it’s all based on a lie. Because…


5. What other people think of you can’t affect your worth

Other people’s disapproval is such a catastrophe for us because it renders us imperfect. And if we aren’t perfect, we don’t have enough worth. And if we don’t have enough worth, we are undeserving of happiness, love and the things we desire.

And that’s a huge deal. Because it means that what other people think of us can destroy our chances to reach our goals, annihilate our dreams and ruin our lives.

Or so we think…

But this destructive thought process is based on a tragic misunderstanding. Because it all stems from the belief that we are inherently without worth. That we are empty, worthless vessels that must be filled through self-sacrifice, perfection and fulfilling random criteria (such as wealth, success, beauty and so on).

That’s what we all live by. And believe.

But the truth is that we can never have worth. Nor can we gain or lose it.

Because worth is an intrinsic part of our Being. Unbounded, unchangeable worth is part of who we are. We ARE worth personified.

If you don’t believe me just look at a tiny baby. She had no chance yet to fill her empty worth cup. She has no achievements to her name that could give her worth.

Yet, looking at her, you instinctively know that she is infinitely worthy. She IS worth.

And this worth doesn’t evaporate when we grow up. It will always be there. We are born 100% worth, and we will die 100% worth. And nothing in between, no failure, no humiliation, not other people’s judgement or disapproval can ever change anything about that.

Because it’s impossible. We ARE worth.

We just forget all about it because society makes us believe that we have no worth unless we earn it.


The path towards “who cares what other people think”

Fear of judgement and a concern for what others think of us are baked into our DNA. Our mind has been conditioned by aeons of evolution and thousands of years of human society that what others think of us is important.

And sure, it feels good to be appreciated and praised. And it sucks to be criticised or humiliated. 

And I know it can ruin our life if other people think or say negative things about us. It can cause suffering and upset.

But it’s not really what the others think of us that causes agony. It’s our mind’s relentless rumination, its obsession with seeking approval (and its anxiety if it doesn’t get it). And its panic and frustration when it believes other people’s opinion about us diminish our worth that cause the pain.

So, if you want to stop worrying what other people think of you and eliminate your fear of judgement, you don’t need to convince the others that they are wrong. Instead, you must assure your mind that it doesn’t matter.

Because at the end of the day, what other people think of you changes nothing about you, your life. Or your worth.

You don’t need to feel bad about who you are. You don’t have to apologise for speaking (or living) your truth. You never need to feel inferior, inadequate or “not good enough”.

Because you ARE worth personified. Right now, just as you are. And forever more.

Even if your wiper speed is too fast…

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  • Nicky says:

    Brilliant article, I am going to share it! Thank you!

  • Anna says:

    Hi Berni,

    I wanted to write to you, because I find your articles so eye-opening and inspiring. I dearly hope you keep writing and sharing these messages! Sometimes, when reading about mental health (issues), I miss the silver-lining. So thank you so much for sharing it! I’m still on quite a journey myself when it comes to all of this, but I really enjoy reading your articles.

    • Thank you so much for your encouraging comment, Anna! I am delighted that you found my articles helpful. To be honest, I think the journey never ends…but the mountains we have to overcome become smaller and smaller. Never give up climbing them. It is worth it! And you are worth it!

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