The Secret to Stop Worrying About What Other People Think
When you step on the field, are you thinking completely about yourself, or are you thinking about other people? It's easy as an athlete to care what other people think of you. It's natural. But it can also hurt you!
When you make a mistake during or game, or even during practice, do you immediately start to worry about what your coach is thinking or maybe what your teammates are thinking?
After a game, do you wonder what your parents thought of your performance?
Of course it feels good when you know that someone else thinks you're a good player. That makes you feel good and increases your confidence. But what happens when they don't think your a good player? What then?
That's where we can start to see some challenges arise. So, in this article you are going to learn how to stop caring what other people think as an athlete. And to start, let's get a little more specific about just how much worrying about the opinions of others can hurt you in sports.
How It Hurts You as an Athlete
Not worrying about what other people think is not the same as not caring about other people.
It took me a while to realize this because I am a very empathetic person.
This has its upsides and downsides. The main thing I always struggled with, and still do (though I am getting much better) is constantly worrying about what others think of me and trying to please them.
For yourself, of course you still value the opinions of your parents and coaches. But there's a huge difference between valuing their opinions and worrying and caring about what they think.
I know how confusing and difficult to grasp this concept can be, so I think it’s best to illustrate what type of behaviors and thought patterns constant worry about other people’s opinions and thoughts about us can lead to.
Behaviors & Thoughts Caused by Caring What Others Think:
- You're paralyzed by Fear.
- Unable to be yourself.
- You perform with anxiety and tension.
- You may be afraid to take risks and chances during games.
- You don't perform will full confidence.
- Your confidence is fragile because you are always looking for approval.
- You are constantly worried about how you look.
- Comments from others can impact your mood and how you play.
When these kinds of behaviors and thoughts are present, you aren't going to perform your best. And I think that's what's helpful to see as an athlete.
You care what other people think because you want them to think you're a good player. But due to the worry it causes, you actually are keeping yourself from performing as well as you can.
So knowing how hurtful worrying about what other people think of you is as an athlete, what can you do about this?
Why Do We Care What Others Think?
This is an interesting and difficult question to answer.
I think that much of why we care about what others think of us and our decisions boils down to the desire to fit in.
No one wants to be left out of a group or ostracized from your family. Even the most introverted person will value being a part of a group or organization.
This is just naturally ingrained into us as human beings.
In my experience, the idea of wanting to fit in or seek approval from others is a byproduct of us allowing others to set our self-worth and our value.
In an article on psychcentral.com, Lauren Suval talks about just this, and how approval increases our self-esteem and is a process instilled in us since birth.
So, what exactly do I mean by allowing others to set our self-worth and value?
Let me explain.
"In my experience, the idea of wanting to fit in or seek approval from others is a byproduct of us allowing others to set our self-worth and our value."
Our self-worth refers to how we view ourselves and how much value we put on our lives, ideas, and opinions.
When we are constantly worried about how other people view us or the decisions we make, it is really because we feel the need to have them view us in a favorable light. Think about your coaches or parents.
This will then allow us to feel good about ourselves because others think we are valuable.
However, thinking in this way leaves us so vulnerable to the opinions of others, and means our self-worth will be so volatile that it will take a toll on our psyche.
For me, I struggled with this greatly through high school and college while playing baseball.
My Struggles with Self-Worth as an Athlete
All through high school and college, I was so fixated on how others viewed me as a baseball player.
Do my teammates think I’m good? What do my coaches think of how I played today? I hope they don’t think I am a bad fielder because I made an error!
These kinds of thoughts were so common for me that after bad games I would actually feel depressed and ashamed.
This was a direct cause of me having low self-worth because I allowed others to determine my value.
Rather than knowing how hard I have worked and being proud of myself, I was only able to feel good about myself I “believed” others did too.
That is another funny thing about putting our self-worth onto others, they may actually think highly of us but we view them as thinking poorly because we already think badly of ourselves.
It wasn’t until I began to realize how much power I was giving away by doing this that I actually made a change. That change has allowed me to feel confident in myself and to create my own self-worth, a feeling that is truly freeing and empowering.
By doing so, my need for others’ approval has decreased, and as a result, I do not constantly worry about other people’s opinions anymore.
So, from my experience, the secret to stop caring about what others think is to focus on building our self-worth and how we value ourselves.
How to Increase our Own Self-Worth & Value
First, what exactly do I mean by self-worth?
Self-worth, while often used synonymously with self-esteem is actually very different. Self-esteem is focused on how we measure ourselves against others and based on external actions, while self-worth refers to how we value our worth as a person.
In their article on self-worth, Psychalive.com puts in plainly, that self-worth is about who we are rather than what we do.
Our goal is to build high self-worth, which means that no matter what happens around us, good or bad, and no matter what others say, how we value and see ourselves does not change.
This is the steadfastness that self-worth can bring. It allows us to be unflinching and consistent in our thoughts, behaviors, and actions.
By being completely firm and confident in ourselves, the care or worry about what others think will melt away.
A simple way to think about increasing our self-worth is that we are building up our own image.
To do this, I have found 4 techniques that are extremely beneficial: change self-talk, make a list of good qualities about yourself, set goals, and the mirror drill.
"Self-worth, while often used synonymously with self-esteem is actually very different. Self-esteem is often focused on how we measure ourselves against others and based on external actions, while self-worth refers to how we value our worth as a person."
When we are constantly concerned and worried about what others think of us, our mind begins speaking to us in all sorts of negative ways.
We begin to create dialogue in our heads about what everyone may be thinking of us, or reasons why they may think poorly of us.
This repetitive negative self-talk takes a toll on our confidence and leaves us feeling small and shy. The way I use to feel was like a turtle trying to go back into its shell.
Since our minds love repetition and comfort, negative dialogue becomes our norm, and as a result, our self-worth decreases rapidly.
Okay, so how do we go about changing our self-talk?
Well, I am going to break it down into 2 stages: first is to learn to identify and recognize negative thoughts, and then the second part is to start swapping them out for positive ones.
Recognize Negative Talk
The first stage in changing your internal dialogue is to become aware of all the negative thoughts you have.
You would be surprised at how many hurtful and non-supportive things we say to ourselves on a daily basis without being aware of it. It’s not until we start to pay attention to these that we can begin to change the way we think.
The best way to go about doing this is to really pay attention to your thoughts, and every time a negative one comes up, stop, recognize it, and begin to question the thought.
This questioning will take away the power the thought holds over you.
Swap Negative Talk for Positive Talk
Once you have begun to become aware of the negative self-talk, it is time to switch it out for some positive ones.
Here it must be individualized because we all have certain qualities about ourselves that are the main focus in our negative dialogue.
What you want to do is once you recognize what you say to yourself in a negative sense, find some positive self-talk that negate them.
Then, each time that negative voice begins to speak to you, immediately start repeating the counteracting positive saying.
Make a List of Good Qualities about Yourself
A second technique for building self-worth is to make a list of good qualities about yourself.
I know this may sound a bit cheesy and silly, but it really does help for us to write down and see all the good characteristics we possess.
And before you start to think that you don’t have any, I promise there are good qualities everyone can find in themselves; it may just take some thinking.
If you have some close family or friends you can always ask them to list the good qualities they see in you and use this as a reference when making your own list.
Then, once you have compiled your list, it’s a good habit to get into reading them at least once a day to help build a positive self-image.
A third technique that works really well to increase self-worth is goal setting.
These are not big goals, but rather small, incremental ones that build upon each other.
The goal of these goals is to slowly build confidence in ourselves by completing them. One after another, as we see ourselves set and accomplish goals, our self-worth will rise.
This is because we will be proving that we are capable of achievement and have something to be proud of every day.
I like to make goals for myself daily. Whether it’s to read for 30 minutes or do some activity that pushes me out of my comfort zone. It doesn’t matter so much what the goal is, as much as it’s something you can and will do.
However, you don’t want it to be too easy because there will be no great sense of accomplishment in that.
What I do is at night I will write down what my goals are for the next day. Then, the next evening, before writing out the following day’s goals, I will go back over the ones from the night before.
This process allows me to repeatedly see myself setting and achieving goals every single day. By doing this, my self-worth, and the way I value myself has grown a little bit each time.
The fourth technique for increasing self-worth is the mirror drill.
The mirror drill is discussed in the article I wrote on perfectionism, but it is equally as valuable for improving our self-image.
I first learned about it when reading The Success Principles written by Jack Canfield, but you can read more about it in a blog post written on his website.
Basically, the mirror drill is a way for us to show appreciation and love for ourselves on a daily basis.
What you want to do, is every night before going to bed, stand in front of a mirror, and tell yourself all the things you are proud of about you.
You want to speak out loud so that you can hear yourself.
It will feel very funny at first, but the more you do it the true powers behind the exercise will be revealed.
This constant reassurance and pride we show in ourselves, much like goal setting, slowly increase our self-worth and our self-image every time we do it.
When dealing with a nagging worry and concern about what other people are thinking about us, it is difficult to perform freely and enjoy yourself while you play. That is why it is so important to learn how to stop caring what other people think as an athlete.
By building up your self-worth and self-image you will be able to go about your days free from the concern of other people’s opinions.
Now, if you are interested in a more in-depth and personalized approach to stop worrying about the opinions of others, then you need one-on-one mental performance coaching.
With mental coaching, I will work with you on identifying the true cause behind why you are struggling with caring about what others think.
Then, we will work together to find the right tools and strategies to help you build your self-worth and confidence as an athlete.
To learn more about mental performance coaching, please fill out the form below.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.
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Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.
Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.eli's story
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