If I look back in my life then I was the one who faced tremendous problem with others opinion. I was anxious about what people think of me, how people evaluate me, do my friends judge me positively.
I searched Internet “Do I need to care about what people think of me?”, I found many links and all of them claimed not to give a shit about other’s thought. I felt good. Initially it sounded like life changer. I felt more energetic and happy but after sometime, it did not work at all. If I did not care at all, I felt like I am becoming more arrogant and I was losing social connections.
In order to understand why we do care so much about people’s opinion, we have to know about our evolutionary processes. We mammals are born immature, incapable of taking care of ourselves. Infants had to depend on their caregivers for food, shelter, security. For this reason, evolutionary process has come up with social brain in humans. It is the social brain, which enables us to socialize with others. It is our social brain which motivates mother to feed her child and makes the child cry when she is separated from her caregiver.
During hunter gather period, our task was only to find food to feed us, our family members and protect us from any kind of danger. That time it was advantageous if we stayed in-group. On the one hand, it helped in finding food easily and on the other hand, it helped to protect us from threat. In order to stay in a group we always needed acceptance of group members. We were more concern about what group members think of us because if they think badly of us or if they disapprove us then we could be out of the group. Moreover, surviving alone that time was next to impossible. In this way, our brain has developed a sensitive amygdala (amygdala is the part of the brain which is responsible for emotional responses). If anyone said something about us then our amygdala immediately perceived it as a danger, we tried our best to please others, and this way we ensured our smooth survival.
That was Okay those days but problem arises in twenty first century. We no more live in cave, we no more do hunter-gather, and we no more need to stay in a group. Our society, lifestyle everything changed with time except one thing, OUR BRAIN. Our brain is still hunter-gather brain. It is because we evolved 5 million years ago and almost 99.999% of human timeline spent in the hunter-gather period. Recently 200 years ago, our world, society, lifestyle everything changed dramatically to modern technological age but our brain could not follow that change so quickly. It still perceives the world as ancient world where we need to please everyone to survive.
Is avoiding people and their opinion a solution?
The answer is NO. We have to keep in mind that our seeking for social approval or caring others opinion is not just a way of our mind rather it is in-built in us. I already said that there is inbuilt hardware in our brain for that purpose, SOCIAL BRAIN. It is like camera in your smart phone, which is always in ON mode and hence keeps capturing picture of everything it sees. Its constant capturing of photos of everything is bothering you. Now, you simply cannot avoid the camera because hardware is in there. One option for you could be remove that camera from the phone, which you cannot do because camera is necessary for taking important pictures. Therefore, best option for you is to train yourself how to use camera only when necessary and rest of the time keep it in OFF mode.
Same with our brain, social brain is a gift from evolution and we need it very much. As long as we have our social brain, we will care for others, we will seek to socialize and we will seek people’s acceptance. We need to do is to train ourselves for how to use social brain and when to use. This way you will be free from constant approval seeking of others, caring each person’s thought you meet.
How do we train our social brain?
Along with our social brain, we have another important brain, logical brain (neocortex). With the help of logical brain, we can train our social brain. We need to prioritize among people. We need to see the bigger picture. Every time our social brain becomes anxious about people’s opinion, immediately interrupt it with your logical brain to see the actual picture. Let us say that in a party someone just said that you are boring. Now, there could be a lot of perspective behind it. One way could be that person was not in a good mood, so he just said it. Or suppose he really meant it, then also you are not going to lose all of your friends for being boring with that person.
Another case, someone just rejected you. Now your social brain will make you feel bad as it is still living in hunter-gather period. You need to make it understand that rejection by someone is not going to diminish your chances of meeting another potential partner. You will find more potential people to date.
This way we can train social brain to get out of the hunter-gather period it is still living, and make it learn to adapt our new society.
There are a few important things we must keep in mind
- You are not alone
If I am writing this article, and you are reading this article then it means this is not a personal problem. It is a problem of the whole world. Everyone is victim and everyone feels guilty of caring too much. Realizing this can give you so much power to deal with the problem. When you are busy with what someone else is thinking about you, that someone is also busy in what you think about them. We all are over thinking. Few people who could break this paradigm of mind, became extraordinary. They made their life happy and prosperous.
- All people in your life is not same
A comment from your best friend and a comment from the person you just met yesterday is not same. Their knowledge about you are of different level and hence their opinion about you should not carry equal weight age. It will not be a good idea to reject all the opinion and saying “I don’t give a shit to people’s opinion” because we live in a social world and it is our social skills which lead the development of human society. So, make a demarcation between people you think important to you and people who are not that important. Listen to the people of inner circle and analyze their opinions logically.
- Get familiar with yourself
Most of time we depend on other’s opinion when we are not sure about ourselves. The best way could be to get familiar with yourself. Know your strength and weaknesses. The best example is when I thought of starting psychological website, many people thought that it was not a good idea. I don’t blame people for discouraging me. It is not their fault because they don’t know what I can do. But knowing my strength fully gave me the power to overturn their suggestions and make my way.
- Opposite is possible
It is often seen that when you care about how people will judge you, then you can easily change any of your bad habit. In order to be in the good book of others, we can easily force ourselves to change our habit. Thinking about other’s opinion can also make us productive. When someone is made to learn something in order to explain others, then he/she learns better than when he/she learns to take exam.
Therefore, it is not always correct that caring about other’s opinion is bad for us. Biased, obsessive and too much caring is harmful for us but if we care to improve ourselves, make things better and helping