Some people seem to have very thick skin. Now the verdict is out still about whether those people are quite literally unaffected by disapproval or whether they are just very adept at suppression. But some of us on the other hand, have thin skin. Like a bullet, every disapproving thought or word or action directed at us by others penetrates us straight to our core. We are more than affected by it. We feel destroyed by it. We would love to be unaffected by other people’s thoughts and words and actions, but let’s face it. We’re affected BADLY. If you’re that kind of person, this episode is for you. If you know that kind of person, this episode is for you.
If you really do care what other people think, telling yourself that you shouldn’t care or should stop caring what other people think isn’t going to make you actually stop caring what other people think. And if you know someone who cares what other people think, telling them they shouldn’t care or should stop caring what other people think, isn’t going to make them stop caring what other people think. Don’t we all wish it were this easy? Also, there’s a great many people who will say you have to stop letting what other people think hurt you, as if it’s a choice you are making to let them hurt you. If you care what other people think it is not a conscious choice to not be hurt by something someone says. And thinking that it is a conscious choice, will simply make you feel bad about feeling bad. In scientific experiments, laboratory animals, like rats, are conditioned using sugar pellets, and electric shocks. Sugar encourages a desired behavior. Electric shocks stop the animal from an undesired behavior. Humans are not different from rats. In fact, many of us were conditioned in similar ways. We were rewarded for desirable behavior with treats, and punished for undesirable behavior by for example being yelled at, which produces a physical response in the body that is almost identical to an electric shock. For some of us, there were big consequences when the people in our early lives disapproved of us. Our boundaries were violated. We were either hurt by incoming boundary violation, such as spankings or insults or shaming. Or outgoing boundary violation like time outs and parental withdrawal hurt us. I find that people who have the biggest issue with caring what other people think, were most often damaged by outgoing boundary violations. They were punished in ways that felt like abandonment as children. The message we learned is that we did not deserve love if we were not pleasing our parents and everyone else for that matter. This is a big issue when we remember that love is survival for the physical human, especially when we are relationally dependent on others like we are when we are children. To our little minds, disapproval meant death. When we grow up, it doesn’t change. Disapproval still means death. How do you stop caring whether people disapprove of you or not if disapproval means death. A lot of people will tell you to "stop taking it so personally," which is a dismissive cop-out that minimizes how you feel. But why do we take things personally? Because back when we were children, when we did something wrong, we were taught that we were bad. When we did something that our parents disapproved of, our parents disapproved of us as people, not just the action that upset them. We learned it really WAS about us. Doing something wrong, made us wrong. Doing something bad made us bad. So now, we have serious issues with rejection, disapproval and negative criticism because our self-esteem was and still is essentially dependent on approval. In Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, he states that next to food water and shelter, love and belonging is the strongest need. No offense to Maslow, but I disagree. The single highest priority need for the human is actually love and belonging. This need is actually more of a priority than basic survival needs. How do I know this? Because when the physical human is deprived of love and belonging, they often stop eating and drinking and stop meeting their basic survival needs and sometimes go so far as to take their own life. Any of you who have had a particularly painful breakup know exactly what I mean. Before we go further, we need to ask ourselves, should we stop caring what other people think? I want you to ask that question of yourself, because I’m not going to claim to have the right answer to that question, but I think the answer is No. Try reversing the statement “I shouldn’t care what other people think” to “I should care what other people think”. How is it true? Also try reversing “I shouldn’t let what they say get to me” to “I should let what they say get to me”. How is that true?
If we stop caring what other people think and stop caring what other people think of us, we are meeting a distancing behavior (which is what disapproval is) with another distancing behavior. We separate ourselves from each other by not caring what each other thinks. We also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to see things from another perspective and we also deprive ourselves of the opportunity to see ourselves in a different light. Self-awareness will be much more difficult if we stop caring what other people think. So I think we should care what every person thinks and feels in our reality. We should not be belligerent or defiant to what other people think. That is just defense. But there is a difference between caring what other people think and letting our entire self-concept ride on what other people think. That there is the real problem. It's normal to be happy when praised or defensive when insulted but it isn’t healthy when someone’s insult spins us into self-doubt and self-hate. So what should we do? Here are ten steps to take if you care what other people think to the degree that what people think, puts you in a tailspin…
1. Acknowledge that you take everything personally, can’t take criticism, care what other people think and have terrible self-esteem. We can’t move forward until we admit to where we are. You would not believe how many people spend their lives trying to suppress and deny this truth about themselves because they think these truths are unacceptable. Ask yourself personally “Why do I care what other people think?” Not one person exists that doesn’t care what other people think. Everyone has at least one person whose opinion seriously matters to them. 2. We need validation. People assume that validation is the same things as praise or encouragement. It actually isn’t. Validation is to confirmation that something is logically or factually sound. Basically to validate someone is to say that they are truthful or right in their experience of a thing. Validation is the recognition and acceptance that your feelings and thoughts are true and real to you regardless of logic or whether it makes sense to anyone else. This develops a strong sense of self that is not dependent on other people. When we are children, validation from our parents helps us to feel and express our emotions, develop a secure sense of self, gain confidence, feel more connected to our parents and have better relationships in adulthood. But parents who are concerned with approval and disapproval, right and wrong, punishment and reward, are not concerned with validation. So for those of us who are demolished by what other people think, our parents (in their lack of awareness) really did a lot of damage and now it is up to us to validate ourselves. And validating ourselves is just what the doctor ordered.
To validate yourself, you need to acknowledge the truth of your internal experience, and validate that it’s normal and okay to feel that way or think that thought. Drop the idea of right or wrong. Here’s an example, if you killed someone, you are not validating that it was right to kill someone. You are validating that the feeling of wanting to kill someone is valid and understandable in this circumstance. There are two Ask Teal videos on YouTube that I want you to watch in order to start this process of validation within yourself, the first is Emotional Wakeup Call. The second is, IS Your Mind Friend or Foe? In the first video, I put forth a step-by-step process for addressing emotions. In the second video, I put forth a very similar process for addressing thoughts. Apply these processes to yourself. Remember, you always have a very good reason to think what you think, feel what you feel and be like you are.
As a side note, people who have trouble feeling validated, have resistance to disagreement. Expect that you will hate when people don’t agree on truth, especially when they don’t agree with you. It makes you feel invalidated, misunderstood, separated, alone, and worst of all… like something is wrong with you.
3. If we are injured by what other people think, it is because there is already a sore there. That sore that vibrates at the frequency of injury, is attracting injury into our life. Other people’s opinions are hitting up against a pre-existent bruise. This is an unhealed wound from childhood. When we feel hurt by someone else, it is the perfect opportunity to do inner emotional healing work. We need to use our charged emotion, especially the emotions like shame, mortification and humiliation that relate to the self worth, like a rope leading back to the original wound. Watch my video on YouTube titled “How to Heal the Emotional Body”. Apply the process I put forth in that video to heal and integrate the real source of your poor self esteem; experiences in your past. As we heal there are less and less raw spots for others to hit and hurt. There are less opportunities and reasons for us to react. Heal your wounds and it wont hurt.
4. If you really care what other people think you are living a life where you criticize the hell out of yourself and strive for perfection and rightness so no one else has the chance to disapprove of you. Become ok with being disapproved of. Easier said than done, but if we are no longer running away from the demon, it can’t keep chasing us. We must develop a willingness to feel. This is probably the most important part of this whole video. Quite naturally, we are trying desperately to get away from discomfort and pain. We are living our lives trying to avoid it. A life lived to avoid something, is no life at all. We have to stop trying to not get hurt, and instead, unconditionally sit with the feeling of being hurt. Shift your attention from what someone said or did to how you feel. It’s no longer about avoiding disapproval; it’s about sitting with and in the feeling of being disapproved of as it arises within your body when people disapprove of you. You will soon find that if you become ok with discomfort, because you realize (contrary to your current fear) that it isn’t going to kill you, you will become ok with whatever life throws your way. There is an unparalleled inner peace that arises as a result of knowing that you can trust yourself to be able and willing to experience and feel anything.
5. Anything you can do to increase your self-esteem will make other people’s opinions have less of a detrimental impact on you. Focus on approving of yourself. Write a list that you can keep adding to of things you approve of about yourself. Don’t involve anyone else’ opinions in this one. If you base your self-worth on how often people compliment and validate you, then you're allowing others to decide how you feel about yourself. Obviously it boosts our self-esteem to consider things other people have said they like about us, but this is part of the problem isn’t it? We’re dependent on other people’s approval. Pretend that you are an alien who just traveled to planet earth and you are observing an earthling called (insert your name here). What do you, as an alien approve of or appreciate about this earthling and this earthling’s life. Also assume you can peer into this earthling’s past as well. We were not born in doubt of our self worth, so we did not need approval to develop self worth; it was already there. It was simply covered up by the people in your life. This means your self worth is still there; you just need to uncover it. If you’d like to see more on this topic, watch my You Tube video titled How Do I Discover Self Worth.
6. Find the positive intention behind taking things personally, letting things hurt you, being dependent on what other people think, and giving your power away. What do you get out of it? This is a very individual thing that starts with the willingness to consider that your being is subconsciously getting one of it’s needs met by doing this thing that ultimately harms you. For example, one person might find that depending on what other people think, keeps them included by others. This person may feel that unless they are involving other people and their opinions in the process, that they would be all alone. A good way of finding out what the positive intention is, is to find out what bad thing you think would happen or what bad thing it would mean if you didn’t take things personally, didn’t let things hurt you, weren’t dependent on what other people think and didn’t give your power away.
7. Recognize how critical you are of others. Of course being critical of others is just a reflection of how critical you are of yourself, but recognizing how critical you are of other people and making a conscious effort to replace that criticism with a desire to understand them will go a long way. A great many of us become critical of others because it is the only way we can feel a sense of our own rightness. We are drowning in the pain of self-doubt and self-hatred. Notice how you feel when you’re being critical of others. Are those feelings draining or empowering you? Would you rather be right or happy?
All people, including us, do the things we do in order to meet a need. That means that the 'story' you've been telling yourself about how they or you could - or should - have done things better, or that their actions were a deliberate attempt to hurt, sabotage or damage you is fundamentally flawed. They (and you) had no knowledge of a better way to meet their own needs. Find out what those needs are. Try to understand them and even potential meet those needs for them or for yourself if you can.
On one level, when you sense disapproval from others, you are really just experiencing your own feelings about yourself and projecting them onto other people. After all, most of the time you have no idea what they are thinking, so the thoughts you attribute to them are speculation, so they come from your own mind. When someone disapproves of you or is critical of you about something, ask how you disapprove of that thing in yourself. If you are feeling defensive, that means there is a wound to defend. What wound are you trying to defend?
8. You will hear people say that how people act, is never about you. This is a very good deflection strategy that helps you not take things personally. But deflection is a defense strategy. We are looking to evolve beyond that. So rather than saying that what people do or say to you is never about you, it’s about them, let’s say that it is actually about both of you. We want to understand both how it relates to us and how it relates to them. If we are able to take care of ourselves through the emotional discomfort we feel, we can open up wide enough to see if there is truth to what they are saying about us and we can see if there are any useful aspects to their criticism. We can use it to gain self-awareness. If you’re interested in this concept, watch my video on YouTube titled Projection.
The other thing you can do however is to change the focus of the interaction by putting yourself in this other person’s shoes. Try to understand what the other person is feeling, thinking and trying to convey to you. How is what they are saying or doing really about them? A good technique is to change “Why did he or she do or say that to ME?” to “Why did they do or say that to THEMSELVES?” Consider the person's insecurities. Could they feel threatened by you in some way? Is this the way they treat all people? Perhaps they lack certain social skills and feel the only way they will be heard is by being rude or aggressive in their language, or by bullying to get their way. Is it a fear that is coming up for them, a jealousy, or a suppressed aspect of themselves being projected onto you? Perhaps they feel that by making you look bad, they will seem good and thus win other people’s favor.
Imagine that there's an inner child acting out, because the person hasn't learned how to deal with problems in a mature way. What is this inner child in need of and trying to get in this circumstance? Figure out their needs in the situation as well as their fear and hurt. If you figure those things out, their actions will make sense and you will see that their actions really weren’t as much about you or something that you did wrong as you thought.
When someone hates us, it isn’t about hate. It’s about hurt and pain. It’s about their hurt and pain. We shouldn’t use this as an excuse to cop out of looking objectively at ourselves, but we can use it to understand where they are really coming from better, rather than letting ourselves take full responsibility for it and succumb to a serious downward spiral.
9. If you are someone who is easily hurt by what others say, practice the art of letting the mud settle. When you disturb the mud on the bottom of a lake, the waters become cloudy. We have to wait in stillness and let the mud settle before the water becomes clear again. So don’t take immediate action if you’ve been hurt. You’ve got to cradle yourself through the hurt before you react. You are prone to knee jerk reactions, which will only hurt you even worse in the end. When you are less emotionally charged, respond in order to gain clarification and tell them how their words or actions are making you feel. Seek to find a meeting of minds.
If it becomes clear that a person can’t respect you and insists on creating a situation over and over again that’s meant to make you uncomfortable, feel badly about yourself, personally attack you, devalue and belittle you, and constantly attempt to bait you, this is abuse and you need to rethink the relationship, regardless of whether this person is family or not.
10. Meet your needs. Ask yourself “what do I need right now”, especially when you are feeling wounded by someone’s opinion. When we feel rejected or disapproved of, we immediately begin to reject or deprive ourselves. We exacerbate our feelings because we then feel bad about two things: The original incident and feeling bad about the incident. Those of us who feel bad when others express a less than favorable opinion of us, tend to feel bad about feeling bad about things. We need to figure out what will make us feel relief on a physical mental and emotional level. For example, You might need to take a walk to feel more energized, write to gain clarity or organize your thoughts, eat to feel more grounded. This is self validation in action.
You are not going to heal your wounds, learn how to validate yourself and stop being negatively affected by what other people think with one technique or with a magic pill. This is a healing process which gets better and better every day. Everything begins with the knowledge that it is valid and ok to feel hurt because of what someone has said or done. You can’t control what they do, what they say or what they think. But you can consciously choose how to treat yourself and what to do with yourself when you have been hurt by someone. And if you chose to approach that task differently, being wounded by others can open the perfect window to healing and self-integration. And once we pass through that window, we will not have the same painful reaction to what other people think, say and do.