Stop Worrying About What Others Think

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Worrying what other people think about us is one of the most vicious and personally limiting behaviors that we have. None of us are immune naturally. That includes me.

I took my typical type of yoga class at a different time with a teacher that I don’t know well and doesn’t know me. She’s highly respected and a great teacher in the Austin yoga community.

It’s a heated yoga class and you’re sweating just a few minutes into the class, by the end, you look like you jumped in a pool.

Towards the end of most classes teachers call for a few sets of various backbend poses. The most “advanced” of those poses is the full wheel. It’s a pose where you start on your back and lift your body up using your hands and feet and bow into a reverse “U” shape. I learned the mechanics and I’ve had the pose in my practice ever since.

You get to know the teachers of the classes you regularly attend and they get to know your practice – your current skills and what you’re working toward. The teacher in this particular class was unaware of my practice.

When she called for backbends, she gave the class 3 or 4 different options ranging in intensity depending what students could do and wanted to do. I take the opportunity to push my shoulder strength and do the full wheel.

I put my hands in position near my head, my feet tucked behind my backside and knees up. I pushed up. No sooner did I rise up, my hands slipped from the sweat and I fell out of the pose.

The teacher clearly noticed my abrupt collapse and gently & supportively suggested to the class that we do the positions in our current capabilities and work with where our body is today.

I knew she was referencing me. It was meant to be guiding and supporting. Yet, it landed on me like this highly respected yoga instructor doesn’t think I can do this move. In that moment I felt the strong desire to explain that in fact a full wheel IS in my practice and that hands just slipped on the mat. I was worried about what she thought of me and my practice.

That worry could have led me down many unhelpful paths… I could have decided to “prove her wrong” and pushed myself to an unsafe point. I could have shrunk and retreated, maybe avoiding her classes and affecting a practice that I really enjoy & get a lot out of.

However, I have skill sets to notice thought patterns like that. Immediately I took a deep breath and laughed at the absurdity of me wanting to defend something like yoga. I noticed my thought pattern and nothing at all the teacher said or did. In fact her gentle nudge to do what’s in our practice got me to re-engage and push myself on the tail end of that class – to do my best.

As humans, we are biologically designed to value the opinions of others about ourselves. Social scientists point to our ancestors who lived in tribes and needed to have a healthy concern for others in the tribe and where they stood in the tribe. Getting kicked out meant certain isolation and death in an unforgiving world. Their brains actually changed to accommodate for this need to be in the tribe and that is still ingrained in us today.

It’s true that we should care about what others think of us – especially in relationships important to us. I care deeply that my wife thinks I’m a good husband for her and that my kids think that I’m a good Dad for them. I care that my coaching clients get the value and change themselves and their business by extension through our work. I actually care that you get something from this article since you’re taking the time to read it.

You need to care that your sales pitches get prospects that need your products & services to say yes. You need to care that your leaders & bosses think that you’re adding tons of value to the business. You should care that you win the game.

The difference is that you use the part of your brain that wants your tribe to accept you for pushing yourself to continually grow as opposed to putting a lid on your growth or happiness through worry.

Notice when your mind slips into worry about others thoughts about you. Ask yourself what you need to learn or notice about you that has you in worry-mode. Accept that they may or may not have made a judgment. Come back to yourself by focusing on what you get to control in this moment (hint – it’s not the other person). Take the actions that are congruent with who you are and what to be.

That’s what I did in seconds in the yoga studio. I realized that silliness in my worry about what the yoga teacher may or may not have been thinking about my yoga skills. (News flash: she thinks nothing about my skills except to help me have a good experience and want to come back…)

Let this be a call to stop worrying what other people think of you. Care what important people think – yet don’t cross the link to worry. This will keep you not only in your power, it will enhance your growth, increase your accomplishments and add to your sense of fulfillment.

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