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Why Do We Care What Others Think? Our Addiction To The Opinions Of Others Explained

Posted: 06/17/10 09:00 AM ET

What stops an unhappy woman from leaving her husband or lover? What prevents someone who is miserable in his job from making a switch? To what extent are those decisions inhibited by worry about what other people might think? Ultimately it comes down to us looking for approval, and in some cases making sure we don't receive disapproval from others. The need for approval has been conditioned in us from the day we were born. Approval from others gives us a sense of higher self-esteem. We're convinced that their recognition matters to our self worth and how deeply we value ourselves.

When I faced the difficult decision to leave my family business I thought, "If I leave, who will I be?" A great deal of my adult self-image had been fostered and developed there. I worried what my wife would think if the money suddenly disappeared and I could no longer provide for our family in the same way. I worried what my friends would think if I had to sell our vacation home. And yet, with all of those questions, it wasn't until I asked one very important one that I realized what I needed to do: "Why would I continue to stay in a situation that was making me increasingly miserable?" I soon realized the only solution was to do what was right for me, no matter the outcome. When I was able to let go of caring about what other people thought and make my decisions free and clear of other people's opinions, I could easily and powerfully move forward on my own terms.

There are two types of decision makers in the world. The first are internal decision makers. These are the people who self-analyze every step, every option, every possible outcome and never talk it through with others. This doesn't mean they don't care about others opinions. In fact, my experience is that it is quite the opposite. They've been burned so many times, they choose to make their decisions on their own as a way of avoiding being rejected.

The second is an external decision maker. These people constantly seek the opinions of others, asking for their approval in ways such as, "Do you like this idea?," "Am I right?," "Does this dress look nice on me?," "Are we in the right place?," "Am I doing the right thing" and "Are we okay?" They're thought of as team players because they want to get everyone involved in their process. They simply can't move forward without the validation from others.

Have you ever come up with an idea that you thought was brilliant?

You said to yourself, "No one else has ever thought of this" and you're going to make millions of dollars on it, right?

You tell your wife, best friend, boss and they say, "That's a terrible idea! No one will ever buy that."

Wham! You've been stopped cold before you ever had the chance to get your idea off the ground. What happened to the dream? It died on the table. Someone else's opinion meant more to you than your dream. You placed a higher value on their opinion than your brilliant idea. Imagine if the founders of Apple, Facebook and Google gave up the first time someone told them "no" or said, "no one will ever spend that much time connecting with friends on a computer!"

The addiction to the opinion of others affects areas of your life you may not even be aware of. For example, your decision to live in a particular neighborhood, drive a certain car, send your kid to private school, wearing designer labels, the watch around your wrist, the vacations you go on, the clubs you belong to, all of these things are tied to what someone else thinks.
The addiction to what other people think has another significant impact; it represses us, which in turn keeps us in a sort of purgatory, afraid of the consequences of pursuing the life we really want. "If I do this, they will say ____________ ... " You won't be happy because you believe that people are judging you. It becomes easier to stay miserable so everyone else in the status quo will be fine.

Since we are the stories we tell ourselves, they impact the way we behave. When we release from an old story, we let go of our self-imposed conversations and traps that keep us stuck. In the process, we become more sure of ourselves, become more expressive and are more likely to make decisions that move our life forward because we're no longer living from that story that has been holding us back.

Still not convinced you suffer from this addiction? Try wearing a tutu to your office tomorrow or trading in your sports car for a bus pass. Stop going to the gym, getting Botox injections, coloring your hair or getting manicures. Go home and tell your spouse you aren't happy. Walk into your boss's office and tell him/her you quit!

The only way to have complete freedom from this addiction is not to care about the outcome. It takes practice and courage to not place any level of importance on someone else's opinion. Remember, an opinion is not fact. It may not even be the truth. It is merely someone else's view about an issue that is based solely on personal judgment and therefore should not have any impact on your choices!

6 Sure Signs You Suffer from the Addiction to the Opinions of Others

1. You are Concerned about What Others Are Saying or think About You.

2. You Have Good Ideas and Intentions but Find Yourself Afraid to Act on Them.

3. You Over Leveraged Yourself Financially in the Last Decade with Cars, Clothes, Homes,
Jewelry and More.

4. You Are Constantly Seeking Other People's Approval or Avoiding Their Disapproval

5. You're Afraid to Speak in Public

6. You're Afraid to Speak Your Mind

 
 
 

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