May 2, 2024

What to Remember when we’re Struggling Under the Weight of Other People’s Judgments.


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I turned 40 last year.

And while I know a lot of people fear hitting that milestone, or maybe just fear the physical act of aging, I actually found it weirdly liberating.

I’ve always loved birthdays—especially my own—but instead of just celebrating the fact that I had made it through another year, turning 40 felt like permission.

Permission to step fully into my adult self. Permission to let go of ideas and beliefs that no longer felt right for me. Permission to put down anything that had been taking up space in my head or weighing on my heart.

And one thing I couldn’t wait to set down was other people, or more specifically other people’s thoughts about me, my life, and my decisions.

Now, this wasn’t something that magically occurred when the clock struck midnight on my birthday.

This letting go had been happening, albeit slowly, for the past few years.

It started as a whisper. Relationships that fell apart. Friendships that didn’t last. Choices that didn’t work out.

And then a yell. Immense grief. A family that no longer existed. A life that didn’t look the way I once pictured it would. Years that just kept passing, one faster than the next.

With each loss, I found myself trying to balance how I felt about the situation with what others (some directly involved, others on the periphery) thought about me. What judgments or criticisms were running through their heads.

Did they see me as a failure? As unlovable? As needy? As insensitive? As someone who just couldn’t get it together?

But after one too many losses, I realized that I didn’t actually have to balance anything.

What other people thought about me, especially people who had walked away from me or not shown up for me or bailed when I needed them most, was none of my business. And honestly, I didn’t care enough to ask or to know.

It was a strange feeling to finally understand that who I am, who I choose to be, has absolutely zero to do with how others perceive me. And while that doesn’t mean I can’t learn from my relationships with others, especially the relationships that didn’t last, I am under no obligation to let their version of me become the story I tell myself.

If you struggle under the weight of what others think of you, check out this game-changing advice from therapist and coach Vasavi Kumar:

“The best advice I ever received from my father about what other people think is this:

He used to say to me ‘Why worry about what other people think? After all, it’s just a thought in their head.’

And that always freed me up because I realized that I had absolutely no control over what other people think. Sure, I can manipulate who I am and change who I am, and morph myself and contort myself into a box I think is going to be approved of by others. 

But that is no way to live. 

So say this out loud with me: ‘I release the need to perform for other people’s approval.’

Say it out loud with me: ‘It is exhausting carrying the weight of other people’s opinions on my shoulders. It is exhausting to manipulate who I am so that other people can like me.'”


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