From ages five to ten, I couldn’t sleep at night without my stuffed animal. I was embarrassed by this because most of my friends had outgrown this stage already. I was afraid that someone would call me a baby for still needing my stuffed animal, so I hid it whenever someone came to my house, and I forced myself to fall asleep without it. By doing this, I listened to “societal rules” that one should stop sleeping with a stuffed animal because they’re “too old.” I accepted these rules instilled in society and obeyed someone else’s opinions and not my own.
According to Harvard Business Review, “…women apply [for jobs] only if they meet 100% of [the qualifications].” Most people, in general, are scared of what people think of them. In this specific example, women worry that companies wouldn’t want to hire them unless they meet all the qualifications because they are afraid of rejection and how others view them. This is the primary issue: people often allow themselves to be swayed by what others think of them. For example, when a student raises their hand in class to answer a question and gets it wrong, most of the other students do not care or weren’t paying attention. However, that student may feel like everyone is judging them and perceives themself as dumb. Unfortunately, most times we are creating these thoughts in our heads based on what we assume and not based on factual evidence. Most importantly, people are afraid of what others may say and overthink the perception of themselves.
Someone may ask an alcoholic, “If you want to be sober, why can’t you just decide to stop drinking?” For most people, the solution is not so simple. Oftentimes, alcoholics need counseling and detox to quit drinking, and the process to making visible progress takes much time and effort. Similar to the alcoholic, it takes time to overcome the habit of making decisions based on what others may think. The first step of the process is to understand that, more often than not, others don’t care, nor do they pay attention to what you do. For example, when in a classroom or group setting, just answer the question, whether it’s right or wrong, without being conscientious of what others’ perceptions may be. Although it may be hard not to care what others think, constantly reminding ourselves that people don’t really care and typically won’t judge will help resolve this issue. This will help to get one step closer to becoming a person who makes decisions without being influenced by others.
For many people, the issue of doing things based on how they are perceived by those around them may seem difficult to resolve. However, if we recognize this issue and take the initiative to change how we think, we can slowly correct our mindset. If we remind ourselves that people are not closely paying attention to all the details, it will become easier to make independent decisions. Although this is no easy task, taking the first steps in changing your mindset will help build strength, courage, and confidence.