Updated: Apr 22
Humans are social creatures and it’s in our nature to want to be liked and accepted by others for who we are and what we do, but sometimes this need for approval is the very thing holding us back from achieving happiness.
I’ve said that my secret to happiness is about being able to let things go; something much easier said than done, particularly when we spend so much time worrying about what people think and very often base our decisions on this.
Big, life-changing decisions are rarely made without considering what others will think.
Say you were deciding whether to change your career from a respected profession to what could be considered an unconventional job but fulfils you in more enriching ways.
What would your friends and family think? What if you failed? Would they look at you as an embarrassment?
What would your current boss think? That you’ve lost your mind? Would he think you’re a horrible person for leaving after all the support he’s given you over the years?
Even small, day-to-day decisions like the clothes you pick out that morning are influenced by what you believe others will think even without you realising.
I was chatting to a good friend of mine one day and she was telling me how she always makes sure she wears big granny undies underneath her gym clothes because she was horrified by the sight of a chick wearing a g-string in one of her classes, whose leggings unfortunately went see-through as she bent and stretched about.
This conversation suddenly made me very self-conscious and I made a mental note to wear nice, protective undies in my next gym session for fear of being judged by people like my friend and the people she was afraid of being judged by!
Point of the story is everyone judges. It can’t be helped; I judge, you judge, we all judge.
What you’ve got to discern is how much someone else’s judgement will actually affect you.
—That is, how much YOU let it affect you.
Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.
Studies have shown that happiness is determined by our genes, the positive events we experience, as well as our choices and interpretations of these events.
Our genes—well, we can’t do to much about those, but we can choose how we look at our life experiences and do what we can to experience positive events.
Imagine how content and joyful we would be if we had no fear of expressing who we truely are no matter how quirky, our dreams and desires no matter how far fetched, and just followed our hearts no matter how wild.
How free we would be!
To quote Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:
Care what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.
If you want to be able to not give a shit about what other people think, consider these points:
Reasons to care less about what others think
People don’t care as much as you think they do
How much of your day do you spend thinking about the actions or opinions of other people? Probably not much at all unless it directly affects you in some way. People are inherently self-centred and most of their thoughts revolve around what they, themselves, are doing.
You can’t please everyone
Like I said, everyone judges and everyone will have an opinion about something. You can’t please everyone so why not just please yourself? Don’t waste your energy worrying when you could be using it to chase your own happiness.
If you let your fear of what others think get in the way of you chasing your dreams or doing what you enjoy, you will always be left with the wonder of “what if?”. Even if you try and fail, at least you can tick it off and be satisfied that you gave it a shot and were true to yourself.
And to end with another inspiring quote, “Live life to the Max” (Pepsi).
Ps. I do not endorse consumption of this unhealthy drink.