Fearing what others think of you

Most of us in one way or another, worry about what others think of us and this can be a huge source of anxiety. 

Anxiety is based on a perception of a lack of control. When we feel vulnerable, the natural fight or flight instinct kicks in to stimulate the release of adrenaline leading to the symptoms of anxiety. Hence by focusing on the thoughts of others, which we cannot control, anxiety can start to dominate our lives.  

Yes, we can influence someone to laugh by telling a joke, but we can't make them laugh. We can influence someone to be impressed by being at our best but their thoughts are within their control, not ours.

There is a quote from Lao Tzu (ancient Chinese philosopher):

It may seem a little harsh but I believe the premise is true and many people I work with become exceptionally anxious based around what others think of them.

The approach I take with these clients is to firstly recognise you cannot control another's thoughts, only influence them. However, you can control your intention. If your intention is to have someone laugh, do something that will leave them happier etc, then that intention is fully under your control and if that intention comes from a positive place, you are doing the best you can - and what more can be asked of you?? And when you feel in control, anxiety reduces dramatically.

Using the metaphor of a tennis match often helps me to get my head around this: You can control your shot, how hard it is, where you direct it to etc. But after it leaves your racket you have to wait and see what the other person does. You cannot control their return shot so stay your side of the net and wait to see what comes back. They may be in a  right grump and smash it back at you - but that is a reflection on them and not you. And worrying about their return is not gong to change what comes back over the net - just reduce your capability to deal with it!  Based on their return, you decide your next stroke, and so it goes on.

This often helps people cease to be a 'prisoner to others' thoughts and allows them the freedom to focus on their intentions, and with that feel back in control.

How do you perceive this quote? Do you find yourself very focused on what other people think of you?

I'd love to know so please give me a rating in the comments box below of 1-5, with 1 being "I don't give a monkeys about what other people think" and 5 being, "I worry all the time about what people think of me."

I look forward to hearing what you think.

Published by Caroline Cavanagh Clinical Hypnotherapist and author of Anxiety Alchemy. on |


RE: Fearing what others think of you

1-5 at the moment lol. However the tennis analogy is spot on. It definitely depends on how important I think the person is to my life, or how much I want their approval.
Commented by: David Watson on Monday 29th July 2019 03:14:43 PM

RE: Fearing what others think of you

I feel sure that there may well be others like me : now that my CHEMICALS in my body are balanced I feel like a totally different person.....I am absolutely certain that I had a HORMONAL IMBALANCE which led to depression.and was totally out of my control. My daughter and Grandaughter have similar situations, so from my own experience I can understand their behaviour but they need skilled, specialist advise...
Commented by: Sue lawson on Wednesday 24th July 2019 03:28:21 PM

RE: Fearing what others think of you

3 - Love this. Very pertinent to most of our lives. I’ve put 3 as an average. Of course this rockets to a 4/5 dependent on the situation and doesn’t figure in others because you know the people and they support you as you support them. Really interesting.
Commented by: Ash on Tuesday 16th July 2019 05:49:46 PM

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