Do you care too much what other people think?

There is a kind of fear that is particularly human. It is not fear of the long-toothed creature that is about to have us for dinner. It is fear of our own imaginings, things that may or may not happen, inconsequential things like what other people may think of us. Most of these fears never materialize, and even if they do, most of the consequences are not important.

Let’s focus particularly on the fear of what other people might think of us. Have you ever thought, “I’d love to do x, but they’ll think I’ve gone crazy”.

First of all, who are “they”? Are “they” anybody that matters to you? Or are they just a nebulous, anonymous “they”, an imaginary Greek chorus, that maybe actually represents your own fears. Are you afraid to allow yourself this chance at happiness?

Second, is this fear reassuringly familiar to you? If you’ve always minded what other people think of you, then being fearful of their opinions has become part of your comfort zone. So now you’ve got two layers of fear going on – fear of trying something new, plus fear of what people will think of you for attempting it. It’s natural to be apprehensive about a new endeavour – that is a healthy, creative tension that reassures you that you are pushing your boundaries and growing as a person. But you don’t need that additional level of fear, the fear of others’ opinions. There is no upside to that one. Let it go.

Third, whose life is it anyway? What enabled me to let go of my fears of other people’s opinions (which used to bother me FAR too much) was that I found I was even more afraid of something else – I was horrified by the idea that I might reach the end of my life and look back and think, “oh dear, that wasn’t really what I wanted”. When I did that life changing exercise and wrote two versions of my own obituary, I realized that living my life according to what I thought other people expected was leading me down a pathway to disappointment. I had to let go of caring about what they thought, in order to allow myself to flourish.


Try asking yourself: what is the worst that can happen? Suppose that “they” do accuse you of being crazy – so what? This says more about them than it does about you. Maybe they are envious of your courage and boldness. Maybe they wish they had the guts to follow their dream. Maybe you’ve made them uncomfortable, because you’ve challenged their preconceptions about what is possible, and destroyed their excuses for living a life of mediocrity.

Think of somebody who has criticized you in the past. Do they seem like a positive and happy person? If not, why does their opinion matter so much to you?

For a compelling assertion of this, check out this 10 minute recording from The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz.

In most cases, we wouldn’t be afraid to fail if there was nobody to witness our failure. In Groundhog Day, Bill Murray doesn’t care if he messes up a thousand different ways in his attempts to woo Andy McDowell because the next day (actually the same day) everybody else will have forgotten what he did and he can try a different strategy. Effectively, there are no witnesses to his failure.

What would you dare to try if nobody would remember your failures? Truth is, most people are too preoccupied with their own lives to really care about what you’re doing.

I’d like to suggest that much worse than putting a few noses out of joint would be to reach the end of your life and look back with regret, wishing for what might have been, if only you hadn’t minded so much about what other people thought. It’s YOUR life – live it!




  • You are a real inspiration to us all. I know how much courage it takes to go against what most people that you know think is “normal”. Keep up the good work and example. We need it bad.Thank You
    Mike S

    • You’re very welcome, Mike! It’s not always easy being the salmon swimming upstream, but it does make me stronger.

  • Great Post! Usually not too bothered by what others think, but occasionally this disorder does raise its ugly head. Thank you for posting this, as I’m sure it helps a great many people!

  • Interesting you should mention The Four Agreements.
    I have a few of his Books and he has a lot to answer for in my life.
    Now I just sit back and smile at a lot of things.

    • Sitting back and smiling sounds like a good place to be. The courage to change the things we can, the serenity to accept the things we can’t, and the wisdom to know the difference, hey!

  • Thanks for that Roz just the other day I was having dinner with s WW2 vet , and his daughter , she referred to me as bold , as being a bold women. I am living life today as never before, thanks to many people that have inspired me along the way. You , are one of them. Live like there’s no tomorrow Roz! Love to you
    Amy Olmstead brown !!
    I got married in dec! I waited till I was 56 to get hitched, and figured it was time .

    • Congratulations, Amy!!! Glad to hear you didn’t rush into it. 🙂 Wishing you many happy years together.

  • Thank you Roz!

    This arrived just as I was pondering on taking an action that many would label ‘daft’, ‘foolish’, ‘lazy’ or ‘crazy’… and worst of all ‘selfish’! I’m going to do it anyway to carve out space and silence to write what needs to be written.

    If it doesn’t work out at least it’s had an airing.

    Probably the last blog post I’ll read for a while… you just snuck in and I’m grateful.

    • Happy to be of service! In my experience, women particularly tend to put the needs of others ahead of our own needs, when sometimes it would serve us better to give ourselves a bit of “self-care” and focus on our own needs – especially when you have something important that needs to get out into the world, as you do. Best of luck with it!

  • Howdy Roz, That is great, thanks. The Four Agreements have been very helpful in the last few years. Have you heard of Richard Feynman? He was a scientist who wrote Surely You Are Joking Mr. Feynman and What Do You Care What Other People Think? I recommend both books. All the best for your new career, Steve

    • I do know of Richard Feynman, bongo-playing physicist and very popular with the ladies, from what I hear! But I confess I haven’t read any of his books. Thanks for the links!

  • I love your post! One only lives once and time zips by! I’m a firm believer in taking action on one’s goals and live life!

  • I will now read the Four Agreements and try to dispell this pernicious and determined of fears.
    I do so wish it was simple, but I do know that I will succeed as long as I have strong women to support me.
    Ellen. xx

  • You have to tell your yourself (and eventually others,) the truth about your goals. And only you can decide, how far on or off, tame or wild, your goals are from the standards of normalcy… Only YOU have THE decision to find the ways to be worthy of your goal. Or your past or future years of personal indecisiveness and confusion could possibly lead to cognitive dissonance or self identity issues… There is more peace of mind in Trying and failing and or winning than regret. 🙂

  • Powerful article, Roz! Yes, I completely agree. If we think about it, how many people out of the thousands we’ve met have rejected us in such a way that deeply affected our lives? And did those people have such a negative impact because we allowed them to do so?

    • Amen, sister! We do ourselves far more cumulative harm by FEARING people’s reaction than the harm caused by the reaction itself.

  • I read your comments about “no regrets” and “what might have been”. Those words hit me, and inspired me to stop putting off what is important. We don’t know how much time we have, so every day counts.

    • Good for you, Georgette! We don’t have forever, that’s for sure, so today is as good a day as any to get started on those important things!

  • Every since you came to my school and spoken to us I have been captivated by your words. They speak volumes. I feel this way all the time because I don’t have enough confidence, but now after listening I’m going to STOP listening to others opinions!

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