Growing up, my mom frequently asked me, “What will people think of you?” At the time, I did not genuinely appreciate the impact these words had on me until my coach, Jonathan Jerden, assigned me an exercise. He asked me to revisit past events and memories – beginning with my childhood and working my way to the present – to explore and evaluate how seminal events and key people impacted my beliefs, assumptions, thinking, and thus my behaviors. As I did this, the question, “Why do I care so much about what people think of me?” bubbled to the surface. By reflecting on this question while examining my experience, I could trace its origins back to my mom’s recurring question.
understanding the pros and cons
Pondering what people might think of me has served me well. I believe it to be a root cause of my strength in individualization, where I instinctively observe each person’s style, motivation, and how they build relationships to understand better how they might think. It is an impetus for my obsession with personality, behavior, and performance assessments. And although my no-nonsense style may not always come across as very sympathetic, I possess a healthy amount of empathy. Check out this this short-animated video by Brene Brown distinguishes between the two: Brené Brown on Empathy vs Sympathy – YouTube).
As with all things, there are cons. And what might be the cons of my caring (too much) about what other people might think of me? For starters, it manifested as fear – such as sometimes yielding my ground instead of standing it when challenged or an unwillingness to take an unpopular decision in tricky situations. It also led to a drive for perfectionism lest someone think less of me because of an error or omission. I know I am not alone in feeling, thinking, and behaving in this way, as my coaching clients, friends, and family often share that they too experience this. And there is good news!
Reframing your inner voice
With my newfound insight and understanding of how this way of thinking resulted and the behaviors that contributed to and those that detracted from my success, I could now reframe my inner voice. I could develop strategies to identify and overcome those times when I was being held back. It also helped me implement strategies to enhance the value gained from this experience.
Self-awareness is half of the equation. To evolve ourselves, we must know ourselves on a deeper level. To do so requires reflecting on our past. Heidi and I know that this sounds daunting – even scary. It certainly was for us when we first undertook the exercise. It is not always easy looking back — because, in addition to revisiting amazing experiences, we must peer into those not-so-amazing experiences. Just as successes and accomplishments inform us about our ambitions, talents, and desires, it is equally essential to dissect our mistakes, failures, disappointments, and even unpleasant experiences caused by others or outside events.
“It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself,
that determines how your life’s story will develop.” — Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Once we know our beliefs, thinking patterns, and behaviors, we can consciously choose to keep those that serve us well and reject or modify those that do not. This is not easy but it is where real growth occurs.
I am grateful that my coach pushed me to complete this activity and for helping me see how six little words profoundly impacted my development. I thank him for coaching me to reframe my thinking about what other people might think of me while keeping passion for development, empathy, and the other myriad strengths that comes with caring about what others think. And also, to reject the need to be perfect, to be liked by everyone and to accept myself as I am with all my talents and faults. The bottom line – I chose to no longer allow the six-word question to reduce me, rather, I chose to allow it to help me grow.
“I can be changed by what happens to me,
but I refuse to be reduced by it.” — Dr. Maya Angelou
Examining your own experiences
If you’re interested in diving deeper into your own experiences, we invite you to join us for our 8-week signature course, The Career Evolution Lab. We have an entire module dedicated to this topic early on to guide you on your own journey of reflection and exploration. Upon completing this module, we’re confident you will be able to:
- Identify your beliefs about yourself, your work, and your life away from work;
- Identify career-related affirmations that will support you in your career;
- Apply our pro tips and life hacks to overcome negative thinking related to failure, mistakes, and adversity and to view them as opportunities to learn, grow and evolve.
As you make decisions about your career, it is crucial to remember how you filter these decisions through an independent lens with full awareness of how your past has influenced your assumptions, beliefs, thinking, and behaviors. Heidi and I have been in your shoes. We are here to support you.
Let’s get started – your future depends on it!
The next cohort of our course begins the first week of June 2022. Register for our course before May 23, 2022, to save $200.