How to Overcome Perfectionism, Part 3: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

How to Overcome Perfectionism, Part 3: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

Welcome back, recovering perfectionists!  Are you re-thinking failure? Are you letting go of all or nothing thinking? I hope so! It can be so freeing and empowering! I had a friend several years ago post a photo of a cookie sheet full of perfectly arranged chicken nuggets with the caption, “Who does this?”  Her husband had arranged them so beautifully, and she was wondering if he was the only person in the world to do such a thing, because she never would have bothered. I admitted that I would have done them the exact same way, and that I thought everybody cooked them like that. Her reply to me: “There’s a lot of time in my world.” That comment really bothered me for a long time. At the time, I was feeling a lot of overwhelm and scarcity about time, and I wanted nothing more than more time! But I couldn’t even imagine just dumping them on the pan and calling it good. But as time goes on, I see the wisdom in her words. It’s okay to try to be perfect (or great) at some things. But let’s save that kind of time and effort for the things that truly matter. (And guess what? Chicken nuggets are not one of those things!)

So, kind of a tangent there, but there are so many perks of freeing ourselves from perfectionism and all her lies. And time is one of the biggest! There are so many good things we can do if we don’t get hung up by perfecting things that don’t truly matter. But in order to really let go of trying to be perfect, there is one more key tool we need to use. And it is this: Stop worrying about what other people think.

For most perfectionists, our perception of what other people think is a driving force behind so much of what we do, and how we do it. We want to look good. We want to impress. We want to please. We want others to approve. But here’s the truth: We can’t make other people think anything. They get to choose that.  So let’s stop worrying about it! Simple, right? Actually, no. This can be extremely difficult, and I am still not great at it. But here are a few of the thoughts I have been using to help me on my quest to quit worrying about what others think of me.

What other people think of me is none of my business. There is a reason we don’t just say everything we think. (Well, most of us, anyway.) It’s because our thoughts are really nobody’s business. Managing my thoughts is my business. Managing somebody else’s? None of my business. And impossible, by the way.

What others think of me says more about them than it does about me. Maybe somebody thinks my nose is too big. Does that mean my nose is too big? No. It just means that they don’t like noses that big. Maybe somebody else loves a nice, big nose. So really, what they think of me is always a reflection of them—their preferences, their opinions, their ideas. It is all thoughts, not facts. It is about them. Not me. Period.

Who is thinking it? Name them. Often when we are worrying about what others think, we like to exaggerate just a little. We like to think that “everyone thinks I’m too fat, too skinny, too overbearing, too (fill in the blank).” But who is everyone? Can you name them? Chances are, everyone is your sister and one friend. Be specific and see if that doesn’t help lessen the worry a little.

Did they actually say that about me? Okay, so sometimes people can be tactless and cruel, and they really do say mean things. But we perfectionists can be guilty of assigning thoughts to people, and then working ourselves up about what we have decided they think about us. So get real about it. Do they really think that? How do you know?

I can let them be wrong about me. Sometimes people really do think thoughts about us that we don’t like. Maybe she really thinks my haircut is ugly. But do I like it? Get your own back. And just let them be wrong about you.

I’m not for everybody, and that’s okay. Since starting Project Love Your Body, I have relied heavily on this thought. There is a part of me that wants everybody to just love my blog, and this entire project I have set out on. But I have to remember, not everybody will. In fact, some people may even think it is stupid. They may not like my website, my writing style, a particular post, or they may not see the value in my mission. And that’s okay. I’m not for everybody. Project Love Your Body isn’t for everybody. But it is for some. So I can quit worrying about who it’s not for, and just focus on those that it is for.

So when that nagging voice (Perfectionism has an awful, naggy-sounding  voice, for sure!) starts asking you, “What will other people think?” just choose one of the thoughts above, and think it. See if it helps.

We are all born with an incredible potential. We are born to do big things. To do great things. To make a difference in this world. But Perfectionism wants to keep us small. She wants to keep us from starting, keep us from finishing, keep us from trying again, keep us from finding our potential, and keep us from experiencing satisfaction and joy.

We may have bought her lies. Maybe we have the monthly, self-renewing subscription. But we can cancel at any time. And the tools I have shared with you are just what we need to do it. See ya later, Perfectionism! We have a lot of GOOD to do around here, and we can do it better without you.

Love your body (imperfect as it is—and as imperfectly as you can love it), and it will love you.

In case you missed it:

If you want to know why Perfectionism is such a problem, click HERE.

For Part 1 of how to overcome perfectionism, click HERE.

And for Part 2, click HERE.

2 thoughts on “How to Overcome Perfectionism, Part 3: Stop Worrying About What Other People Think

  1. I struggle with some of this, and I rock at some of it! Haha I don’t tend to care how people think I look or if I’m funny. I do however think that I need to care about how people think of me when it comes to matters of character. I still think it’s important to have a good reputation, and that’s based on what others think of me. Maybe if I gave that up it’d be relieving, but I’m holding on to it pretty tight right now.

    1. While it seems true that we need to have a good reputation, it is really completely out of our control. I have seen instances where very good people with good intentions get misread and mislabeled. We really can’t control what others think of us. We can, however, just always do our best, and know our own character.

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