Dear Liza: How Do I Stop Worrying About Other People's Reactions?


Dear Liza: I let undeserving people impact my life greatly, it gets so bad where if someone I know didn't smile back at me that would consume my mind all day.


Well that's frustrating! But thank you so much for writing in, let's get to the bottom of this, shall we?

I'm interested in the words you use: undeserving people. Is it that you feel that you go out of your way for people you aren't that close to, or that everyone's reactions bother you and thus you feel they are undeserving?

If it's the latter, then let's think about ways that you can control the thoughts in your brain. It seems like you think you don't have control over them, as they consume your mind. But I'm wondering if you can in fact take charge. You recognise these thoughts of what they are, after all. The worries that consume you after interactions can feel overwhelming, but taking back control is a skill and it's one you can practise. When I have bad thoughts I have to forcefully tell myself not to let myself dwell on them. It's really difficult at first, but the more you try the easier it becomes. The next time you start to worry, try saying out loud to yourself a forceful "no, I'm not going to think that" (feel free to do it in private so that people don't stare). It will feel weird, but this gives you an opportunity to argue back, and to seize back control. Do it every time you start to allow yourself to slip into those worries, and pretty soon you'll be back in charge of your brain. But, and I can't stress this enough, you have to focus hard on not indulging those worries. It's easy to slip into them because fighting it takes effort, but ultimately you'll just be hurting yourself.

Another tip for arguing back can be finding evidence for why your initial fears are wrong. So they didn't smile back, but maybe they are consumed with their own problems that has nothing to do with you. Most people's behaviour says much more about themselves than it does about you, which means it's absolutely nothing for you to devote your energy to. Find those bits of evidence, and use them to tell your brain to quieten down. If you're finding this bit hard, feel free to enlist a friend. Often I talk to my best friend or Mumma about my worries and together we find ways to demonstrate that their needless, and it helps me put them to bed. 

However if it's the former, and it's just a few specific people that are bothering you, then maybe it's time to look at your life and the people who make it fulfilling. Are you making space for people you don't really want to see or talk to anymore? Is there something you can do about it? There's nothing wrong from intentionally drifting apart from people, if their presence in your life is a drain and they aren't contributing to it meaningfully. 

These are just two ways of looking at the situation, but I hope it helps you find strategies for solving this predicament you find yourself in. You clearly don't want to let them impact your life, and they don't have to. I hope you find what you need to move ahead, regardless of what people are doing. As I said before, it's probably got something to do with what's going on in their own life and would be a complete waste of your energy. Imagine what you could achieve or imagine if you put all the brainpower that's going into thinking about other people into your own creative endeavours? 

I know these things aren't easy, but I'd love to see you try. Take back control, and tell your brain what you want to think about today. It is your brain after all, use it how you want to.

If you found this helpful and want to ask your own question, feel free to anonymously submit here!

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