Why You Care About What Other People Think And What To Do About It

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“I’m not supposed to care what people think”

Do you try to get yourself to stop caring about what others think about you?

Do you feel like a failure when you inevitably start feeling that anxiety about what they think about you?

Does it feel impossible to stop caring about what other people think about you?

This. is. Normal.

Caring what others think about us is a result of being part of an interdependent experience. We survive and thrive in collectives, not in isolation, so we have a natural concern around other people’s feelings and thoughts about us.

This concern is first about regulation and nurture of connections. It is an effort to gauge our level of acceptance and safety within the group. Often this group is first the family unit we come from.

It then evolves into concern about more personal relationships, such as friendship and romantic relationship.

If the family group nurtures secure, flexible attachment and individuality, concern about what others outside the family group think will carry far less weight and significance.

If the family group is not secure, but is rife with shame, guilt, fear, and inconsistency, concern about what others outside the family group will carry more weight, as rejection becomes more a risk to survival and prospering relationally.

Basically, there is no safe haven to return to when the outside world is hostile. Instead, everything is hostile or potentially hostile.

When this is reality for a person, the work is to begin forging safety from within one’s power and person, and begin distinguishing one’s inherent worth from that of all groups.

I take this approach as it helps the person discover their own real power and worth and start resourcing within themselves more safety and peace. This helps them become more available to nurturing their real needs of belonging through interconnection with those that they choose.

Basically, they’re empowered to build their own family group from the variety of people they meet and bond with.

This creates a safe community where they can be seen, valued, and cared for without the threat of being rejected or harmed for what they feel or for any differences that exist.

When codependency is involved, we’re deeply rooted in managing and regulating the external in order to feel safe, have connection, and feel worthwhile.

The work for us is to begin to build tolerance for rejection and difference through a practice called Differentiation.

What is differentiation?

This is the practice of distinguishing one thing from another.

Basically, you’re distinguishing your Self from other people’s thoughts, feelings, and perceptions of you.

This practice starts with being available to your awareness. Awareness is simply what ever your mind and body sense or pick up from it’s lived experience.

For example, right now you can become aware of the temperature of the room with this question: what is the temperature of the room right now?

Now you’re sensing into the experience of “temperature”. You’re also doing an act of differentiation. Specifically, you’re differentiating between hot and cold.

When it comes to differentiating yourself from another, this involves three factors:

  • Space between
  • Similarities
  • Differences

The space between is recognizing the physical separation that exists between you and another person, place, or thing. This helps your brain conceptualize and organize around it’s inherent shape and containership. It is it’s own thing apart from the other thing.

Similarities is the practice of seeing where you and another person, place, or thing share attributes, preferences, likes, dislikes, and so forth. This is where you can see compatibilities, values, and principles in a relationship. It can show you where and how you and others work together.

Differences is where you see where you are not alike. This can reveal where there they compliment and add to your life, or where you add and compliment their life. Differences can also show you where you and they do not fit or lack compatibility.

Each of these elements can help you distinguish your feelings from other people’s feelings, your thoughts from their thoughts, and who you want to be from who they want you to be.

This empowers you to detect and choose your community and family.

You can start this practice in your daily life with this practice:

Step One: Draw two circles. Above one circle put, “Me”. Above the other, put, “Them”.

Step Two: Ask yourself this question: What similarities are there between me and this person?

Write the answers in the appropriate circle. In this case, you’d put the similarity in both circles.

Step Three: Ask yourself this question: What differences can I detect?

Write your answers in the appropriate circle. You will notice how the answers are different in each cicle.

Notice how it feels to see the differences, similarities, and the space between them by observing the two circles.

Let that take up some space.

This is how you begin to recognize and distinguish yourself from others.

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