I worry what people think of me
I can’t do that as people may judge me!
No-one likes me.
What happens if I’m rejected?
Sound familiar? These are common statements that I often hear my clients say. Often clients judge themselves on how popular they are or they will spend a lot of time worrying what people think of them or if they like them. The need to be liked by everyone only creates worry, anxiety and often loneliness. I find with my clients that it is common for them to worry more about people they do not know well. They spend lots of energy trying to please people who are not important to them.
Focus on those who matter
You need to stop caring what people them of you and to start focusing on those who love and support you. Most important of all you need to be true to yourself. Focus on the people who make you happy. Stop worrying about the rest of the people in your life.
Case Study – Playground Mafia – Worry they don’t like me
I thought a good way of illustrate how to deal with the above questions is to use an imaginary client (who I’ll call Beau) whose child has just started school. The child quickly adapted to school life and its new routine. Not Beau. She was introduced to the ‘playground mafia’ – the alpha mummy gang – but alas she did not fit in. She was quiet, an older Mum and often felt lonely. She wanted the friendships but she quickly realised she was on the outside. This caused anxiety, tearfulness and self-loath. She said statements like ‘what have I done wrong?’ or ‘why don’t they like?’
She tried different school Mum activities but always felt rejected and not liked. It came to a point that in the sessions she was talking a lot about people who did not like her, who were perhaps judging her and were not important in her life. She started believing it and felt no self-worth. She was very unhappy, low self-esteem and all of this was removing her attention from people who did care about her. She was spending too much time and energy worrying about what other people thought of her. How can Beau look at this differently?
No control over what people say about us
Beau was attaching herself to an outcome that she had no control over. We have no control over what people say, do and think about us. We only have control over how we respond to it.
Deep down true acceptance comes from within. Instead of worrying if people talk about you behind your back, put your energy into loving yourself by doing things that you like or make you happy. Any nasty comments that come from people or and what people think about you, has nothing to do with you but it says a lot about them. If you don’t like what people say or think about you, then walk away always knowing that you are being true to yourself.
Focus on those who care about you
We have this perception that the more friends we have, the more popular we are. I suspect most people only have a few people in our lives that matter to them. In that case why do we spend the energy on worrying about those that do not like us? A way I would work with Beau to look at this is to use the circle of friendship exercise.
I draw three circles and ask clients to draw themselves in the middle. In that inner circle, I ask them to write (or draw) friends or family that they are close too and feel it is an unconditional relationship. In the middle circle, I ask them to put people who are important in their life and good friends. In the outer circle, I ask them to put people who they have some relationship with but it is one they place no importance on. If Beau was to draw one, it would look something like this.
As you can see there are only 9 people in Beau’s inner circle. She knows they are important and love her whatever. They are near her and support her. In the middle circle is people who are good friends and family but these relationship with her is further away than those in the inner circle. On the outside circle is people she interacts with and she needs some relationship (i.e work colleague) but the relationship is at arm’s length.
I may then ask if there is anyone they feel they need to throw out totally or people they should spend more time or less with. We then examine the circle and clients soon realise all their energy should be on the inner circle and in fact those in the outer circle or not at all, they should forget. This helps them see who is important to them. Why worry if Joe Bloggs like you, when you have no relationship with them or are unimportant to you? If you are feeling low or insecure, focus on those only in your inner circle. Forget those in the outer or not in the circle at all!
This exercise would help Beau realise that what the playground mafia think of her should not worry her. It should not make her question herself.
Why don’t you try to draw your own circle? How does it feel for you?