How do you stop worrying about other peoples opinions?
We are all predisposed to judge and we are all going to get judged. It’s going to happen and you can’t control that.
Whether you like it or not, think it’s right or wrong, the fact is you are going to be judged. We all know first impressions count but what you might not know is that we have in fact got 7 seconds when meeting someone for the first time before they form an impression of us. 7 seconds!
During his dating days, my good friend James would say that you can immediately tell everything you need to know about a person using the simple formula he calls the Hair, Stare and Footwear test.
James is an extremely intelligent and excellent designer, alternative in style, kind in nature and not really one to judge people, certainly not harshly so you’ll have to forgive him. It is however, no surprise that he judges people based on their visual appearance, many do, at least James has a well thought out system for it.
In his defence James says …
“It isn’t a full character judgement just a ‘formalisation’ of the rather shallow concept of physical attraction.”
His way of…
and a method of judging people that rarely lets him down.
As I pressed him on the subject he admitted that ok, actually there was an element of character judgement involved too. Hair an extension of a person’s personality and demonstrating how one adapts what one has been dealt by nature, the eyes giving away any psychopath or empath underlying and shoes portraying how pragmatic / theatrical one is and highlighting a person’s attention to detail. He also added the three step formula is actually 5 HSPDF but refrained from telling me about the P and D. If you think you can figure it out let me know at email@example.com.
When I was 16 I got my first job as a waitress in, I’d like to say a cocktail bar but it wasn’t, it was a posh hotel in Hull. (If you can believe such a thing exists.) Later I’ll tell you about how ‘friendly’ it was there but for now it’s what happened when applying for the job that’s important.
I grew up on a council estate in Hull widely believed to be the biggest council estate in Europe, known for its ‘Misery Maisonettes’ (where my sister was born) and with a reputation for damp houses, vandalism and crime. The sheer mention that I lived on the Bransholme estate gave people from the more wealthy sides of Hull a look I can only liken to someone having done a rather eggy fart.
When applying for my waitressing job they wanted the address details of where I’d lived for the last three years. Even though I had moved to a more socially acceptable side of Hull by that time, the advice I was given was…
“Put a fake address down for where you used to live Emma. You won’t get the job if they see a Bransholme postcode.”
To this day when people ask me where I’m from, I tend to say…
“Hull, my family are all from Cottingham,”
a nice wholly, socially acceptable, little village where my grandparents lived just on the outskirts of Hull. Cue the ‘ah this conversation smells like beautiful roses’ face.
Being judged wasn’t new to me. We had moved when I was 15, the school I had come from, like the rest of the estate, had a bad reputation. For this reason the teachers at my new school didn’t bother to look at my overachieving test scores, I was automatically placed in the bottom sets for every subject. I had to crawl my way back up to the top whilst constantly being pulled back by the chimp-like, neanderthal bottom set kids at my nice, new, posh higher-achieving school. All this whilst being sneered at for my arrival from the ‘slums’.
Judgement is something I got used to pretty quick. If only they’d known that actually my house (albeit a tiny little terrace council house) was surrounded by fields and forests and our days were spent Huckleberry Finn like down by the river bank, chasing about playing hide and seek in tall corn fields, exploring and going off on adventures. Not stealing cars and stabbing people up.
What we can control is our understanding of judgement and our own feelings and actions around it.
I’ve recently been researching where assumptions come from. Why do we jump to conclusions about people we’ve never met or know very little about? is it a bad thing that we do? and can we become more aware of our thoughts and therefore both less affected by judgement ourselves and less predisposed to judge others?
I do a bit of lecturing at Lincoln University. Actually I’m their senior lecturer in digital marketing (but I don’t like to show off). To ensure we’re not treating anyone unfairly or over fairly we’re given training on what it means to have an unconscious bias.
What I learned from the ‘Understanding Unconscious Bias’ course is that assumptions, prejudice and stereotyping are a natural phenomenon. We are all instinctively predisposed to make them and this is ingrained in our biological makeup driven by the survival instincts that trigger our natural ‘fight or flight’ as a way of keeping us safe.
During the course the trainer asked us all to quickly guess what car he drove, what his hobby was and if there was anything about him we didn’t like. I promptly wrote down a family SUV, golf or cricket and that I didn’t like the threatening way he’d asked me if I wanted a pen as I arrived.
Later he questioned me on my choices and asked me to elaborate. It turns out I had assumed he was a little older than me, married (I saw his wedding ring), I had given him two children, a boy and a girl a little older than mine as he was clearly a little older than me and a wife.
He then asked me if I was married. I am. If I have children. I do, two. What gender my children are – boy and girl and if we have a large family car. We do. He suggested my assumptions about him were actually not at all about him but really all about me.
He went on to ask me about my choice of hobby for him. “Golf and Cricket”. He asked me to think about where that had come from. As his previous point became clearer I sheepishly realised and replied “I drive past a golf course on my way to work each day and there is often cricket being played on the recreation field at the back of my house”.
Then came the bit that really struck me. There is no way him threateningly asking me if I needed a pen on arrival is about me. That’s all on him. The conversation went like this…
“What didn’t you like Emma?”
“The way you said ‘do you need a pen’ all aggressive and threatening”
“What made it feel aggressive Emma?”
“The way you stood over me. I’m 5ft 4 you’re clearly 6ft something giant”
“And how long have you not liked very tall men for Emma?”
I froze. It was nothing to do with him, or his height, or the way he spoke to me. It was all to do with an unpleasant experience I’d once had with a very tall man who looked uncannily similar.
My instant dislike of this excellent trainer happened in the very first second I had met him, with the first sight of him and the first utterance of some words from him. My dislike of him was ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with him at all. It was all about me and a tall unpleasant man from years and years ago. He had demonstrated a very powerful point.
I won’t tell you what his real hobby is (you would never have guessed to look at him) or what car he drives, as what I learned that day is that it’s really nothing to do with you or me and the only true answer should be ‘I don’t know’.
What struck me about this brilliant, engaging trainer was that putting his joking aside he really didn’t care about what we had come up with for him. He wasn’t upset or offended. He was happy in the knowledge that all of our assumptions and judgements were, as he had expertly demonstrated, about us. Not really him at all.
I’ve started to stop and question my own thoughts more. Consider where they come from. When I find myself creating opinions on others I know very little about I remind myself that my assumptions are about me and the truth is really none of my business.
The trainer was Laurence Harvey and his course is called ‘Understanding Unconscious Bias’ if you ever get the chance to attend I highly recommend it and please don’t be scared by his height or forthrightness he’s actually very nice.
I try and keep a healthy perspective now on whose opinions matter and whose don’t. That’s not as easy as it sounds and there was a time when everyone’s opinions mattered to me and the collective of that was heavy. Frozen in judgement, needing approval and unable to continue until absolutely everyone agreed with me.
We know where judgement and assumptions come from but what can we do about how much other peoples opinions matter to us? Well, you can learn to be more you. Know yourself and what matters most to you. In doing this you’ll start to learn to fear judgement less.
Why do other peoples opinions matter?
The fear of judgement comes from a desire to be liked, it’s as simple as that. When you’re focused on being liked however your attention turns to pleasing others.
You compromise your authentic self, you end up less you, less honest, less genuine. If those around you are intuitive enough to sense this in-authenticity they can feel manipulated, are less trusting, and the relationship becomes hard work.
Know that judgments change over time whilst I opened this piece with a shocking YOU’VE GOT 7 SECONDS! I’d like to add to that in reality we reassess our judgements continuously and whilst yes, first impressions count, it’s actually your consistent behaviour over time that cements a long term opinion.
Accept that you are going to be judged and be ok with that. We can’t help judging others is in our biological makeup. We need to quickly assess if you are friend or foe or if we need to run or fight. The thing to remember here is that when people make assumptions, judgements, stereotypes it really is actually all about them.
The fear of other peoples opinions FOPO has become a modern day obsession in the digital world. In 2019 a poll of almost 38,000 students in the UK showed alarmingly high levels of psychological distress. The poll showed high levels of anxiety with 42.8% stating they were often or always worried. Almost 9 in 10 (87.7%) said they struggled with feelings of anxiety an increase of 18.7% from 2017.
It’s so important not to measure yourself by what others think of you. Especially strangers.
The study carried out by Insight Network in collaboration with Dig-in which provides a welcome box to 400,000 students at more than 140 universities found that one in 5 (21.5%) of UK students said they had a current mental health diagnosis. Most commonly depression (10.2%) and anxiety disorders (8.4%)
In today’s digital social ‘everyone look at me’ world we can too easily get caught up in worrying what other people think about us. We care far too much about comments, likes, shares and what people say or don’t say. We wait for the comments and pray they are nice. In some cases it leads to the creation of our fake selves. The one playing to the masses.
Meryl Streep said..
“The minute you start caring about what other people think, is the minute you stop being yourself.
True freedom is understanding that we have a choice in who and what we allow to have power over us.”
In reality there is a hierarchy of sorts when it comes to whose opinions really matter. I call it ‘The 7 Levels of Opinion Matterness’ and it starts with you.
Compare yourself not with others, but with yourself. Think about who you are, what your values, standards, beliefs and wants are and judge yourself on whether you are being the person you want to be.
If you’re happy with who you are being the opinion of others really doesn’t count all that much. After you then there’s your family, partner, children, parents depending on who’s in your life. Their opinions matter of course but accept that some family may have their own vested interest in disapproving or thinking you deficient in some way.
After that there’s close friends, work colleagues and your boss. Their opinions of you matter, not as much as family and certainly not as much as your own but they are important. Then there are people like neighbours and acquaintances they matter… a little. And then there are the people you barely know or don’t know at all their opinions should matter very little.
Within all of these levels of opinion mattering, no opinion matters as much as your own. Everyone else’s has the added element of their own personal agenda and instinctive, predisposed biological fight or flight, friend or foe, devil or angel reaction based on their own associations.
Not everyone has to like you or approve of you. For some people this statement will sit more obviously than with others. I was given these words in my early twenties and it wasn’t until my mid 30s that I honestly took them on board.
I’m no psychologist but I can take an educated guess that the need for approval stems from childhood. The self-esteem built from approving parents enables us to shrug off criticism. Those whose parents belittled them or made them feel never quite good enough will have a harder time letting go of the need for external approval. With this in mind be sure to surround yourself with positive encouraging friends. Ones that support you and build you up.
My final thoughts for you on judgment are this – Reflect on your own judgement of others. Be conscious about what you think of others and why. Where do your thoughts of other people come from? Try and judge others less and in doing so you’ll start to feel more confident about letting go of worrying about how others are judging you. Focus on being more you. Try and be the best version of your genuine self (not your Instagram self). Be your own hero and don’t compare yourself to others.
I’m going to leave you with some wise words from my (at the time) seven year old daughter whom whilst writing my first book told me…
“You shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover mummy but people will, so make sure yours is a good one eh!”
She’s right of course. But not everyone’s judegment matters.
This is the first section of Chapter 1 of my new book Be Brave – The budding marketers guide to glorious confidence. The book is for all of the marketing execs I have worked with, mentored and have yet to meet. Whether this is you or not, I hope you’ve enjoyed my thoughts. If you’d like to receive the first full chapter as a downloadable nicely designed pdf please register your details below in the ‘Take a Sneek Peek’ box and when it’s complete I’ll send it through. Emma.
Take a Sneak Peak
You can get the first chapter 'Psychopaths Make Rubbish Marketers' of my brand new book 'Be Brave' straight to your inbox. Just sign up and I'll send you the digital PDF of Chapter 1.