Have you heard this annoying useless advice before?
“Only an insecure person, who doesn't know who they are and is scared to be themselves is afraid of other people thinking badly of them.”
Then they say…
“If you can just do what you want and stop caring about what others think, you’ll nip this fear at its roots.”
As if it is that easy.
Would you tell pedophiles, murderers and rapists to do what they want and not care about what others think?
Honestly, this is tasteless advice that offers nothing practical.
The truth is that we all need to care somewhat about what others think otherwise our world would become dangerous.
I for one wouldn’t want to live in a world where people selfishly disregard how their actions affect other people.
No one is capable of feeling secure about themselves in a vacuum.
The fact is that, on entering this world, your perception of how your parents viewed you would influence how secure you feel in yourself.
And adding to that, your perception of how your siblings, your friends, your teachers and your classmates all viewed you would create additional impact on how secure you feel in yourself.
It all boils down to this…
The initial mental programming which causes you to feel insecure occurs outside your control.
And if you’re already caught in this vicious net, expecting you to just be able to stop caring about what other people think would feel like a kick in the teeth.
Because this is akin to being trapped in a 100 foot well, with steep soapy slippery walls. And having cold hearted people shout at you saying…
“don’t be lazy, just climb out by yourself.”
That would be utterly unfair.
Accepting advice that you should just force yourself to stop caring about what other’s think is bound to make you feel abnormal. Because you’ll wonder why it seems so easy for everyone else to care less whilst it feels like pulling teeth to you.
Focus solely on caring less about what other people think and you will blind yourself from seeing the true solution to the problem.
And what is the solution…
The only way to break free from the fear that people hate you is to stop relying on certain helpful strategies that damage your self-worth.
And once you can pinpoint and rely less on these “detrimental helpful strategies” …
Your feelings of insecurity will melt away. And then this fear that people dislike you will disappear completely.
Now, you’re thinking…
“How can a strategy be both detrimental and helpful at the same time?”
“How can avoiding these strategies offer any useful practical solution?”
I know it seems wrong; it goes against usual human logic.
Sadly, the fact that the solution goes contrary to normal advice is exactly why you haven’t figured out how to stop feeling like people hate you.
But to help you understand how relevant this concept is, I’ll elaborate using 8 common examples of how this problem entraps you.
Then I’ll provide the antidote to each example, showing you the point by point action steps you can take so you can understand how to overcome the fear that people dislike you.
Let's dive in...
Ever feel like you always lend your shoulders for your entire social circle to cry on regularly?
You absorb everyone's emotions like a sponge and sacrifice everything to help people out…
But whenever you're going through any difficulty, literally no one hangs around to support you.
Why do people treat you this way?
You see, putting yourself out there and helping others can have a therapeutic benefit. Especially when you can see the happiness and joy your effort creates for others.
But sadly, the great feeling you get from always helping people won't go beyond an illusion of being a better person.
Your empathy becomes your killer because, although meaning well...
You train everyone to see you as the one who reaches out and looks after everyone and nothing else.
And because your interactions with them was never on a personal and equal level, people don't see you as a vulnerable human who may need support at times to.
You're left exhausted from many one-sided relationships, surrounded by crowds of friends whilst feeling painfully lonely and insecure.
Treat your friends as equals and as co sufferers.
Your goal is to enable people to sense that they’re experiencing the sincere version of you so you can build true relationships.
Practice being yourself by gradually opening up to being vulnerable.
Use baby steps to practice opening up safely.
Choose someone you think you might be able to connect with, and try to let down your guard with that person. Tell them you want to be honest and share your feelings more often with them.
(How do you know who is safe to open up to? People who feel comfortable with opening up about their own vulnerabilities tend to be the safest people to open up to.)
Reduce your tendency to offer help. And instead show people you actually feel their pain, not just that you really like to help with problems.
Spend more time with people who are happy to give you support and take support from you. And drastically cut time spent with people who only take. Also reduce time spent with people who only give and never take
The more you do this, the more you’ll build a strong network of people who love you for being you. And this serves to boost your confidence drastically
That girl who's meant to be your best friend jokingly said something degrading about you. Her cruel words cut deep into your core, but you pretend you don't care when you actually feel destroyed. Then you try your hardest to carry on as normal.
The pretend thick skin protects you from users and judgmental people who might zone in on anything they perceive as weaknesses in you. It may help you appear tough and dependable, suggesting that you can cope with stuff.
However, the detrimental side effect of this helpful strategy is that…
You train people in your life to keep hurting you.
You bottle up emotions, including sadness, anxiety and bitterness. This eventually makes you feel out of control because you're constantly on the verge of crying.
And because you’re 100% focused on not cracking emotionally in front people, the pretend thick skin causes you to distrust yourself when around them. This then convinces you that all people can see when they look at you is a weak fumbling mess.
Regularly bleed out the emotional poison out of yourself.
The goal here is twofold:
One, sometimes people may not realize that their actions have hurt you. So, this is an opportunity to help them understand.
And two, You avoid building up piles of painful experiences that don’t get addressed. This literally prevents you from turning into a shaken fizzy pop of emotions at random times.
Let people know as soon as possible that they have hurt you. You may need to take a breather to allow yourself to get in the lighter mood so you can give yourself a chance to organize what to say to them in your mind.
You want to be frank as possible without revenging. However, do not leave this too long.
Sometimes, it is not possible to let people know that they caused you pain. This could be because you’ve dealing with a difficult person. Or because you do not have access to the person any more.
In this case, find a friend who you can discuss painful experiences with.
Side note: If you are still building up your network of friends, you can use an online forum with an anonymous name as an outlet. You’d be surprised that this is extremely effective at stopping you from crying unexpectedly.
You are good at spotting risks and solving problems.
At home this helps catch and squash situations that could cause you headaches.
At work, it gives you an upper hand in any job that requires in-depth analysis like accounting, medicine, pharmaceuticals.
However, the problem killer causes you to over think everything.
You think too deep into problems which then cause you to manufacture unrealistic threats. And when this strategy is activated when dealing with other people it naturally ramps up your fear of negative judgement.
For example, when you are in a conversation with someone, the problem killer would make you obsess over everything you say…
“Can she see that you are anxious… Did you just sound silly… Why didn’t he laugh at your jokes… Does she think you are boring?”
You scrutinize every word you say and end up feeling awkward for it. This makes you feel like banging your head on the wall.
Master allowing some problems to exist without trying to solve them.
The goal is to help boost your resilience to problems when around people.
Use baby steps to practice ignoring risks and problems.
For instance, if something alerts you to a potential risk or mistake you made. Perhaps you feel you said something hurtful to someone. just note it down and then find something to focus on like a film or a game.
Chances are that this risk or problem will keep popping into your mind. This is fine, just remind yourself to refocus on whatever you're doing.
Practice playing out the worst-case scenario in your mind. E.g. imagine going to a party and making the biggest mistake of your life. Then imagine everyone pointing at you and laughing.
As you do this, practice learning to stay with the uncomfortable feelings this generates without trying to reassure yourself.
you can create a list of difficult situations you have survived. Then use this list to provide you with scenarios to practice on.
Regularly remember to acknowledge past negative experiences you have survived. This helps to increase your ability to trust yourself to cope. Which invariably helps you feel safe about potential problems around people.
Are you strong minded (perhaps even stubborn)?
Once you've made up your mind on something no one can change your opinion on it.
This mental six pack enables you to see things through even when all odds are against you. You keep going even if everyone is telling you to give up.
It can also make you a very loyal friend because you are not easily swayed by people to distrust or give up on anyone.
Whilst this helpful strategy can make you develop deep rich friendships, it has a slippery snakes lurking within.
Sadly, this trait could make you a target for psychopaths who are well skilled at pretending until you are caught in their net. You don’t see their poisonous behaviors because they hide it so well that you defend them to other people.
Develop your own personal success council.
Your success council is comprised of people who help you avoid falling into blind spots and toxic friendships.
Your goal is to internalize your success council as mental models. This way you make less destructive decisions which helps to boost your self-confidence.
Test out people's advice. And keep a log of the outcomes. Use this as an experiment to help build a list of people whose advice often leads to healthy and good outcomes for you.
Then practice thinking like these individuals in your success council. Practice doing what they would do when faced with different social difficulties.
Once you get good at doing the above, use this system to tackle difficult social situations which keep resulting in negative outcomes for you.
Do you only have one or two things you really enjoy doing?
And you spend a big chunk of time doing these things that you become an expert in these activities.
This can be very reassuring for you because it can make you feel like you are doing something positive with you life.
Sadly, the more you stick with your comfort activity, the more you create extremely well-defined comfort zones that will make you feel like an alien when you’re around people.
So, let say you’ve been a student for the last 7 years and you're coming to the end of your PHD. Education has been your entire life, and you devoted every single moment to make sure you came out on top of your field. Now the Idea of leaving your studies and going out into the world will terrify you.
Because education became your comfort zone.
And sticking with your comfort zone naturally narrowed down your social skills and your general knowledge.
And the result....
You're always lost for words whenever you are in a social situation where people discuss things you are not familiar with. This naturally promotes a lack of confidence which feeds negatively into your self-esteem.
Turn yourself into a block buster adventure series.
Your goal is to fill your mind with as much generic knowledge as possible so that you can feel comfortable
Eavesdrop on different things people talk about wherever possible and create a list of interests.
Schedule time to dabble into some of these things.
Encourage yourself to try things out even if you are convinced you will not enjoy them.
Interest in anything only comes from trying things out. Not the other way around. So, give each item or activity a minimum of five attempts before you rule them out.
Use this as material for developing small talk skills which you can use to get to know people better.
So, you like to keep people happy.
You sacrifice your position to keep things nicer for others. And you may even go as far as doing things you don't like doing, just to fit in.
This helps to reduce the likelihood of rejection.
But at what cost?
At the cost of your sanity.
You become worried sick about living up to people’s expectations.
You become a magnet for controlling and narcissistic people.
And worst of all, you lose your sense of self and purpose in life.
Become a pro at disappointing people without hurting them.
The goal here is twofold
One, you learn to know how far you can push people's "disappointment boundaries" before you upset them.
And two, you get to understand when it is important to push beyond that boundary and actually upset people because they are poisonous.
Create a list of situations where you get triggered with the fear of upsetting people.
Then list the different things you do which you fear might upset them.
Experiment with pushing boundaries by gradually doing these things to figure out what actually upsets people and what people don’t even recognize.
The more you do this the more confident you will feel around people because most of your day to day interactions with them will be way far off the things you have discovered are upsetting to people.
Have you got a creative mind?
You often get lost in the beautiful world of your mind.
And your creative tendencies give you vivid imaginations which boost your enjoyment around games you play, films you watch and books you read,
However, the same imagination and creativity can work against you when you are faced with a person you’d like to impress.
Your imagination draws out a colossal failure in your mind. You imagine all the different things that could go wrong. You see yourself looking like a fool in front of the person so you become a fumbling mess. This invariably stops you from putting yourself out to meet new people and stops you having new experiences.
Master positive mental painting
Your goal is to train your brain to use your creativity to and boost your self-confidence when embarking on social situations that cause you anxiety. The better you get at the, the more likely you are to succeed at engineering the situation to benefit you.
Decide on a positive outcome you are after
For example: I want to feel confident talking to my boss in next week’s meeting.
Spend a huge amount of time imagining what achieving this positive outcome would look like.
So, imagining yourself confidently answering questions your boss is asking. And imagine the conversation flowing smoothly.
Whenever you get bombarded by negative thoughts about the issue you are dealing with, bring in this positive imagery again and spend a few minutes imagining the positive outcome over and over.
For example: If you are going for a walk and suddenly you get bombarded with the thought about your boss yelling at you for making mistakes. As soon as this happens, you bring in the positive imagery again and play in out in your mind.
I must get my priorities right. I must make sure assignments are done by the deadline. It's rude to let people down. I am responsible for my actions. I must learn to save money and not squander it etc
You are a responsible person.
And that's great!
Because it can help you learn to function efficiently. You develop the agility to push through tasks. And you become an expert at organization, structure, and routine.
All these skills make people see you as a strong person who they can depend on.
However, becoming too responsible can turn the same organisational and structural skills against you in the following ways.
1. You'll dread spontaneity. Because unexpected situations will threaten you with the potential of failure.
2. You spend so much time planning for the unexpected that you push yourself to your limit without realizing it.
and the result...
At random moments, you’ll struggle to think straight… You’ll take too much time to do everything, which serves to further sap your confidence. And then you make excuses to avoid any social event where you can’t control outcome of things.
The best solution for this:
To become less responsible.
The Goal is to lower your standards enough to help you become fun person to be around whilst still keeping some of your sense of responsibility intact.
Being responsible is a good thing so you don’t want to throw it all away. You just don’t want it sabotaging you chances of maintaining healthy friendships.
Allow at least 30% more randomness in your life by allowing for more flexibility in your daily plans.
Using a diary, log down how often you organize and structure things.
Once you recognize your pattern, try to reduce The time you spend in structuring and organizing in small increments. For example, if you usually spend five hours a day structuring things, try reducing this to 4 hours first, then to 3 hours et-cetera.
Log down situations that trigger you to organize and structure things. And be more mindful of yourself whenever you are in those situations.
Ask a friend to occasionally suggest fun activities at random times. And make time for these activities
You are looking for the happy medium, so test out how much randomness you can allow before things become chaotic.
How can you remember all of that?
I’ve just bombarded you with a boat load of information highlighting traps you must avoid. This is bound to overwhelm you.
But can I just encourage you by saying this.
The reason you were finding it difficult to stop thinking everyone hates you is because this is a complex problem. And hopefully this article highlights the complexity clearly enough so that you can be kinder to yourself when struggling to care less about what people think.
But the good news is that you now know what's been holding you back.
You are now aware of the helpful but detrimental strategies that have held you captive with this fear that people dislike you.
And you now know the exact steps to take to break free and move yourself forward.
Move yourself forward towards a life of reduced anxiety, towards a life of increased self-confidence and towards a life of increased peace.
You now know how to build a rock-solid self-esteem that will help you feel confident to walk into any place and deal with anybody.
A rock-solid self-esteem that helps you to know deep within your heat that at this very moment you are the best lovable, likeable version of you.
And that’s really what matters.
Twice a month I hop on a conference call to teach, answer questions, and give feedback to members of the Take Back Control Program.
If you'd like to succeed at learning how to cope emotionally without wasting years making mistakes because of trial and error, then come join us.
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