Do you hesitate before posting something on social media because you’re afraid of what people will say if you do? Or perhaps you refrain from wearing your hair a certain way because you’re afraid that your friends, partner, or parents might criticize you.
Oh honey. So many people are in the same boat as you, and that’s so sad on so many different levels.
Far too many people never live their Truths because they’re terrified of what others might think of them… but then that’s not really and truly living, is it?
Take a look at the signs listed below: if you can relate to the majority of them, chances are you’re spending a bit too much time (and energy) worrying about what other people think of you.
1. You Curate Your Social Media Feed
You might be eating a hotdog-filled grilled cheese sandwich for dinner, but you’ll post a photo of an iceberg lettuce salad and cucumber smoothie on Instagram because you want approval from your health-obsessed acquaintances.
You refrain from posting the book you’re currently reading on Goodreads because you think your literati friends will snub you for it.
You carefully consider everything you post – whether it’s a story or a comment on someone else’s site – from every possible angle before you share it publicly, on the off chance that somebody in one of your social circles may take offense about it and attack you for it.
Wow, that’s absolutely not stressful at all, is it? And so many people do exactly this.
Do you ever find yourself pausing before posting a photo or a story about something that you absolutely loved because you don’t think it’s cool enough to share with the people you know?
Ask yourself this: if you’re scared that people in your life are going to be mean to you about your life choices, why are they in your life at all? What purpose do they serve other than to keep you humming at a constant level of anxiety about whether they’ll withdraw their approval and support over something honest you’ve shared?
2. You Don’t Express How You Feel
Let’s say you’re in a group of your peers and they’re all fawning over the latest thing they all love. For the sake of argument, let’s say that their new favoritest thing ever is kale and chia seed pudding with avocado crème. Let’s also say that you absolutely cannot bear to put that stuff in your mouth without gagging up your internal organs… but you either pretend to like it, or apologize profusely that some ingredient therein is either triggering one of your food allergies or interfering with the cleanse you’re on so you can get out of eating it when they’re around.
Or perhaps it’s your turn to choose the next group social activity and more than anything you’d love to go to the Sci-Fi convention happening in town, but you, instead, suggest an artsy film festival that you know most of the others would prefer. You’ll be miserable, and there will likely be more kale slop afterwards, but better to bite the bullet than be ostracized by the people you want to love you, right?
Do you think that’s healthy? (Not the pudding, the behavior.) If you repeatedly find yourself in situations where you have to pretend to be someone you’re not in order to be accepted by those around you, it may be time to re-evaluate your social group.
Who is it that you’re aiming to impress? Why is validation from these people more important than living authentically?
3. You Gauge Every Decision By Whether You’ll Make Others Happy Or Not
Are you familiar with the expression, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time”?
Well, some people desperately try to do exactly that, even though they know deep down that it’s impossible. This is especially true when it comes to something like planning an event: do you know how many brides get close to nervous breakdowns just trying to choose a cake flavor that the majority of people aren’t going to hate?
It’s important to take other people’s interests and leanings into consideration, but it’s incredibly stressful to try to make everyone happy with every decision made. Whether you’re decorating your apartment, choosing the menu for a luncheon, or deciding on a language to study, isn’t it more important to go for the option that makes you happiest and inspires you the most?
4. You Wear What You Think You “Should,” Not What You Love
When you open up your closet, are you delighted by what you see in there? Or resigned to the offerings you’ve allowed yourself to wear because they’re considered stylish by your peers?
Now, it’s understandable that there may be a dress code where you work. After all, if you work in an office, you’ll likely have to adhere to business casual or even business formal wear, so traipsing around in a ball gown and fairy wings might not be a viable option. That being said, there’s always some way to express your authentic truth, even if it’s just with a fun pair of shoes or fabulous accessory.
5. You’ll Do Things You Hate To Avoid Disapproval Or Ridicule
Far too many people are trapped in relationships or marriages they hate, or jobs they despise, or even neighborhoods that smother them, because doing so means that they’re living up to other people’s wants and expectations about their lives. For those who have horrendous self-esteem, making other people proud of them is far more important than doing what makes them happy.
Many of them don’t even know what makes them happy: they’ve been such people-pleasers for their entire lives that they honestly wouldn’t be able to answer if they were asked what their ideal lives would look like.
Does this sound familiar to you at all? Did you major in a subject at school that made your family happy, rather than what you really wanted to pursue? Do you love your career? Or are you working at a job that you despise, but your job title impresses other people every time you mention it?
Do you think that those around you would think less of you if you were to make changes that allow you to live your truth more?
Why do those people’s opinions matter?
Nobody’s Approval Matters But Yours
Care about people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.Lao Tzu
If you find that you’re walking on eggshells and stressing out over your various daily choices because you’re terrified of catching grief from those around you, it might be a good idea to ask yourself why you’re associating with people who are so quick to judge you and cut you down.
Life can be really difficult at times, so it’s best to support ourselves with those who help us to cultivate our inner light, not those who would dim it. Despite the fact that we are surrounded by other people a lot of the time, life is a journey that we make on our own, but we get to choose whom we take with us.
Would you prefer to be accompanied by those who make you shine, and help you make your way along life’s path? Or those who make you question every step you take? Think about this carefully. It may be time for you to make some changes.
Catherine Winter is a writer, art director, and herbalist-in-training based in Quebec's Outaouais. She has been known to subsist on coffee and soup for days at a time, and when she isn't writing or tending her garden, she can be found wrestling with various knitting projects and befriending local wildlife.