Why Do We Care What Others Think?

Updated: Jun 29

Hello beautiful humans!

The answer is simple enough...People want to know that their feelings, actions, relationships, and opinions are valued by others. But what about when their thoughts of us aren't so glamorous? What about when the opinions of others aren't so desirable or when it has a negative impact on us? The real question is, does it really matter what others think of us?

People have the innate urge to want a connection and closeness with others. We naturally want to be liked. We care and value the relationships we have with others. It's human nature. When we know that others care it validates us. It means we matter.

There is also some scientific evidence reported in an article published in the National Library of Medicine (cited below) that relates how the human brain collates our opinions with those of others seems to activate the "value of reward-predicting stimuli." In other words, our brain basically rewards us for being agreeable. I will leave the finer details of the research to the article, which I do recommend for a better understanding. Neuroscientist, I am not.

It stands to reason that the negative opinions of others may have a direct affect on us as well, although we don't like to admit it. The people in our lives have a direct influence on our opinions and choices and how we view ourselves. When others think negatively of us it puts our self value into question and leaves us with a bit of doubt as to whether or not they could be right.

So does it matter what others think? The answer yes, but should it? In my opinion, (and the opinion of about 5, 362 million memes) no, it shouldn't. So, how can we make it not matter so much without it affecting our values?

First is the understanding that the only person that 'needs' to like you, is you! We may want to be liked and thought positively of by others, but the truth is that we don't "NEED" it. We don't need the approval, the acceptance or the validation of others to be able to appreciate ourselves. What we do need is to put a higher priority on what we think of ourselves than what others think of or about us.

Second, in the words of Earle Nightingale (American author and radio speaker) "When you judge others, you do not define them, you define yourself". Often the opinions that others have about us are a direct reflection of their own weaknesses. For instance, have you ever criticized a supervisor or someone who received a promotion? Did you feel as if you could have done a better job or that you deserved the promotion instead? Was it really that they didn't deserve the position or was it that you felt as if you could do a better job or were somehow more deserving? We need to realize and accept that what others think of us (when in a negative context) is often their own judgements of themselves.

Next, who knows you better than you? I've been accused of being stuck up! Couldn't be farther from the truth. I am one of the most down to Earth people you will ever meet. The problem is, I'm a bit on the shy side around people I don't know and a little introverted to boot. I'm an observer. I like to watch people and when I am eventually comfortable with my surroundings and the people I am with, I will begin to socialize. This use to bother me. How could anyone think that I was 'stuck up'? I learned to understand that I know myself and why I act and react the way I do. These people don't. They are seeing my actions, my quietness and lack of social skills and developing an opinion about me. I know that I'm not a 'stuck up' person so any assumption that I am, I quickly dismiss because I know it's not true. I don't even entertain the notions. I don't hold it against them and I don't accept it as a definition of who I am because I know me better than they do.

Finally, what purpose do you possibly have for caring about what others think of you, especially if it is negative? Yes, there are times that we depend on our family and friends to gives us a good dose of honesty and let us know when we are acting the fool. We rely on our coaches, therapists and counselors to help us change our weaknesses into strengths. These are opinions and thoughts that help us to become a better person. What we need to be able to do is to distinguish when what someone thinks of us is serving us and when it is not. It's not hard! It simply requires a bit of reflection and honesty with ourselves. We may be offended from time to time, but sometimes it is needed for us to make the changes we need to make to become a better human. If their comments are unfounded or just plain wrong, then there is no point in dwelling on it. Let go of what is not true. It it doesn't serve you then it doesn't need to remain in your thoughts.

Humans are social creatures. Yes, even us introverts desire connection with others, but we can't let what others think of us rule our lives. What we need to focus on is how we see and feel about ourselves. If all else fails, remember the advice from your childhood with one slight modification...."Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will (change will to should) never hurt me."

Morals of the Story:

  1. People care about what others think because we seek connection and value in our relationships with others.

  2. If our brain rewards our agreeability with stimuli, then most likely reacts to negativity or judgement on a neural level. (This is not a scientifically proven statement that I am aware of.)

  3. We don't really "NEED" others to like us for us to like ourselves.

  4. The negative opinions of others is a direct reflection of their own weaknesses.

  5. No one knows you better than you!

  6. Let go of thoughts that don't serve you. Keep only what helps you to be the person that you want to be.


Research Article - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908235/

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