If you’ve ever thought ‘what will people think?’ then you’re not alone.  It’s often a fear that comes to the surface when we go to do something new.  When we start to stretch our comfort zone. When we dream and think big, scary yet exciting thoughts about our future.

So why do we listen to the thought?  There are a number of possible reasons....

  • Because we don’t know there is another way.
  • Because it’s habit: a habitual way of thinking.  A pattern we’ve gotten into that’s become something we do on a subconscious level.
  • Because we’re trying to fit in, to go with the crowd.  It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to NOT to stand out.

Also, as I’ve helped clients see recently, this is a thought and question that can be more sneaky.  It may never actually rise to the surface on its own.

It may not even sound like ‘what will people think?’

It may be more like ‘I’m not sure whether I can do this’ or ‘it’s too hard or scary’ or ‘I don’t know where to start.’  But when we explore beneath the surface we discover that it’s a need to be liked or to be accepted that’s driving the thought, and the fear underlying the thought is ‘what will people think?’

It can be a subtle way of keeping us stuck or maintaining the status quo.  

Regardless of how the thought manifests initially and whether we’re conscious of it or not, there’s one thing you can be certain of - it always produces an unpleasant feeling.  

And it’s this feeling that drives our actions, or inaction, and drives our behaviour.  And of course, it’s our behaviour and our actions that impact on our results.

The consequences of paying attention to this thought…..

‘What will people think?’ is a question that constrains growth.  It squashes us. Stifles our dreams. Curbs learning. Limits our potential. Brings us back to ‘reality’.  Keeps us small.

How?

  • We put things off.  
  • We worry.
  • We procrastinate.  
  • We doubt ourselves.  
  • We start then stop.
  • We get paralysed, second guessing ourselves constantly.  Or,
  • We give up on our dreams.

And even as we pay attention to this thought, and suffer these consequences, the paradox is that we ‘know’ that most people are thinking not of us, but of themselves.  They’re self-absorbed. They’re wondering what people will think of them!!  Ironic isn’t it?

So what’s the solution?  The antidote to worrying about what others think?

Notice when you feel fearful or worried, and check in with what’s going on for you.  Explore what you’ve been thinking. Then, instead of operating on auto-pilot, trying to fit in with everyone and ‘not rock the boat’, listen.  

Check in with your intuition, your inner wisdom, the guru within, your inner GPS….it’s known by so many different names.  Yet whatever you call it, it’s within all of us, always.  We simply need to be open to listening.  To allow it to speak to us, to guide us.

If you’ve not paid much attention to your intuition in the past, it rarely comes as a ‘bolt from the blue’, or ‘with the force of a sledgehammer’.  Rather, it’s like a whisper or an inkling. A soft, gentle voice or sense of what’s right for you. It’s rarely loud or comes fully formed; especially when you first start to listen.  

And this willingness to listen.  This willingness to stop, or at least pause.  To stop paying attention to the doubt and the fear, to that deep seated need to be liked, accepted or approved.  And to wait for that gentle nudge in the right direction, is something we need to cultivate.

You start with simply noticing.  With noticing your feelings. Pausing to check the thoughts linked to your feeling.  See if ‘what will people think?’ is lurking beneath the surface. And when you notice, observe the choice you have in that moment.  The choice to let that thought define how you feel and what you do or don’t do. Or the choice to wait for the next more empowering thought and feeling before you act.

You can choose differently.  You can dare to be different!  

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay