Last Updated: April 8, 2021 References Approved
This article was co-authored by Rahti Gorfien, PCC. Rahti Gorfien is a Life Coach and the Founder of Creative Calling Coaching, LLC. Rahti is an International Coach Federation accredited Professional Certified Coach (PCC), ACCG Accredited ADHD Coach by the ADD Coach Academy, and a Career Specialty Services Provider (CSS). She was voted one of the 15 Best Life Coaches in New York City by Expertise in 2018. She is an alumni of the New York University Graduate Acting program and has been a working theater artist for over 30 years.
There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
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Not caring what others think can be difficult. However, there are plenty of steps you can take to become more self-confident, form your own opinions, and develop your own style. Try not to assume others are watching and judging your every step, and avoid putting too much stock in their opinions. Form your opinions based on facts and evidence. Make decisions based on your values instead of compromising your beliefs based on what others think. When it comes to style, remember that taste is subjective, so no one has the final word.
We all like to be liked, but it can come at a cost.
Posted October 17, 2016 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma
To feel accepted is a nearly universal human desire. After all, we evolved to survive better in groups, where fitting in and having the trust and respect of our peers are the measures of success. The need to belong is in our DNA.
But sometimes that need takes center stage, and what others think about us takes on more importance than what we think about ourselves.
We may analyze each look and word that comes our way for clues that we’ve been judged and found acceptable or lacking. Someone passing in the hall without a hello may leave us red-faced and convinced we don’t deserve notice. We may people-please, always putting others first, which leaves us open to being taken advantage of while we chase praise. We may exhaust ourselves trying to be cool enough, hard-working enough, attractive enough, or successful enough to feel valued.
What’s behind this anxiety about being liked, and why are some of us so much more vulnerable to it than others?
In many cases, it’s a type of echo from the past. At some point in our lives, something or someone may have made connection and affection seem conditional, something we have to fight for and don’t really deserve. A sense of shame develops as we inevitably fall short of perfection. Author Brené Brown, who has spent her career studying shame and the ways in which we can develop what she calls “shame resilience,” writes of this in her book The Gifts of Imperfection:
“Healthy striving is self-focused: ‘How can I improve?’ Perfectionism is other-focused: ‘What will they think?’”
Perhaps your childhood caregivers were emotionally distant, physically or verbally abusive, or set impossible standards. Perhaps you were bullied at school. Perhaps you felt as though you never measured up in our competitive comparison culture.
Or perhaps you can’t pinpoint an explanation. You just know you feel insecure and unworthy, and that leads you to count on others for reassurance that you matter and belong.
To be sure, wanting to be thought of positively isn’t a bad thing. We all need a little awareness of how others view us to keep balanced and attuned to how we affect others. But too much concern about what people think can lead us to value only what others want from us, rather than what we desire and need. And the irony is that what starts out as an effort to ensure our happiness and acceptance can end up doing the opposite.
Creating a New Mindset
If you recognize that you are someone who’s anxious about being liked, there are steps you can take to get back to a healthier relationship with others and with yourself.
1. Keep things in perspective.
It’s said that people would care a lot less about what others think about them if they knew how little others think about them. And it’s true: Everyone has enough to occupy their mind. They also have their own insecurities. If you’re worried about how you come across to someone you’ve just met, keep in mind that they’re probably doing the same.
2. Question your thinking.
Humans tend toward cognitive distortions, patterns of negative thinking that can hurt our mood or behavior. For example, we may assume the worst, or filter out the good in a situation and pay attention only to the bad. Or we may overgeneralize or jump to conclusions. Pay attention to your thoughts, and question them rather than allowing impressions to run away with you. You may discover that what you’re fretting over exists only in your mind.
3. Let go of perfection.
It can be hard to shake the feeling that if you just get things right, you will be loved and admired. But this is a fruitless pursuit, not only because perfection is an illusion, but because what people think about you has more to do with them than with you.
4. Get to know yourself.
What do you really like? What do you really want? Are you making choices about your career, relationships, and pastimes because you want them or because they’ll please or impress someone else? Allow yourself to try new things and wonder, “What would I pursue or enjoy if I wasn’t so worried about being judged?”
5. Find your tribe.
Somewhere out there are people who can identify with you and appreciate you for who you are. Don’t waste time trying to hang on to those who expect you to conform to their wishes and wants. Cultivate authenticity, and you’ll find those you are meant to be with. As Brown writes in Daring Greatly, “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”
6. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.
It can be terrifying to go against the grain, speak out, take a risk, or face disapproval. But decide what matters to you, trust yourself, and go for it. We don’t grow by always playing it safe; we grow by allowing ourselves a chance to fail.
7. Accept a helping hand.
The anxiety you feel about what others think can sometimes be overcome with a little self-awareness. But in some cases, especially for those with underlying trauma or mental health issues, professional help can help you get to the root of your feelings. Allow yourself to reach out for the care you need rather than prolonging your suffering.
8. Be your own friend.
It’s a tough reality, but you will never be able to make everyone like you, no matter what you do. But look on the bright side: No one else can do it, either. So accept the twinges that will inevitably come when you realize you haven’t made a connection with someone, and focus instead on a goal that will take you further toward being the kind of person you want to be—learning to like yourself, flaws and all.
LinkedIn Image Credit: Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock
When walking into a new group of people, do you often wonder what to say and stay quiet instead of acting natural and spontaneous?
Deep down, do you find yourself thinking:
- “What is this person going to think of me if I say this?”
- “They’re probably not going to want to hear about this.”
- “If I go talk to her, she’ll blow me off and everyone will see.”
If so, it’s probably because you’re so concerned with NOT screwing up, you forget to have fun and express who you really are. This was a problem I had (and that I’m still working to improve) that kept me from getting the most out of my life.
But what if you didn’t care so much about all that? What if disapproval from others simply rolled off your back? What if, instead of trying so hard to avoid rejection, you simply didn’t give a damn about it anymore?
That’s why learning how to not care what people think of you is important.
Here are some suggestions to help you get there.
Remember You Can’t Please Everyone
Think about this…
Now think…do you really know him?
No, you don’t. So can you honestly say what kind of person he is? Probably not. But the thing is, we ALL do this every day. People make snap judgments depending on their upbringing, values and more.
In the same way, people judge what you say and do and how you look based on their prejudices and pre-conceptions. There is NO way you can control this. So while one person might think your Age of Apocalypse comic collection is lame, another will think it’s great (me for one).
The point is, realize you can’t control what other people think of you. You’ll drive yourself insane in the attempt. You can influence it somewhat, but in the end not being yourself to try and please others is not worth it.
Choose Your Own Values Then Live Up to Them
You know what feels great?
Living in line with standards you’ve carefully considered and set for yourself. In fact, this is a main part of healthy self-esteem.
It’s also an important factor in not caring what others think of you. Because what many of us do is judge our worth based on the opinions of others.
Yet, if you can look at yourself and see a man or woman who holds true (mostly) to values you deem important, you have a more solid measure of worth. Because that’s the kind of worth YOU control, not others.
Get Your Expectations Right
You need to consider if you have unrealistic expectations of what people will and won’t accept.
What I’ve found is many reserved and socially awkward people tend to predict horrible outcomes for their social interactions. Maybe this is because you experienced several embarrassing or painful encounters in your past. Maybe it’s because you’re overly negative.
Whatever the reason, if this is your mindset, you’re going to be fearful of other’s criticism of you. Not only that, if you’re expecting people to dislike you and waiting for your conversations to turn sour, you’ll probably get that result.
It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.
So next time you’re dreaming up some nightmare scenario about talking to someone, stop yourself and consider how things could go right.
Do the “Unacceptable”
To stop caring what people think, you need to prove to yourself rejection is alright. Because in the end, simply understanding the concept isn’t enough. You need to experience it.
So this means you need to do things like:
- Stare at someone until they look away first
- Do something silly in public like singing loudly
- Reveal your beliefs to someone who holds opposite morals
(In fact, for more great ideas for facing rejection first hand, check out Jia Jiang’s awesome blog.)
It’s about growing a tolerance to disapproval just as a body builder develops tolerance to progressively heavier weights. This way, you fear rejection less and act authentically and without neediness.
That’s when people start lining up to be a part of your life.
Just remember, fear of rejection is not something you switch off. It takes time and effort. And while you may never grow to like rejection (we all want to be loved and accepted after all), you CAN learn to roll with it so it doesn’t stop you from living.
(Image courtesy of Jason Rogers via flickr)
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Take time to celebrate your wins at work.
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You’ve just completed a six-month project under budget and ahead of time, and the client is ecstatic about the results. At the staff meeting, you wait for your boss and your coworkers to heap on some praise. When there’s no mention of your achievements, you start to feel disappointed and then you start to doubt yourself and wonder if you did as good a job on this project as you thought.
This is what Tootie Smith calls “some stinking thinking.”
Rather than worrying about what other people think about us, we should shift our mind to focus on our accomplishments and goals, says Smith, a leadership consultant and speaker. “Remind yourself, ‘It’s no accident that I’m in this position.’ ”
The reason some of us fall into this trap is we’re taught as children to be concerned about what other people think about us and our actions, says Dr. Samantha Madhosingh, a licensed psychologist and executive coach. “It’s part of our conditioning to worry about what other people think,” she says.
Don’t wait for someone else to reward you for your work. Reward yourself , Madhosingh says. “There doesn’t need to be a feeling of disappointment,” she says. Instead of waiting for a pat on the back, Madhosingh recommends celebrating your own wins regardless of whether someone tells you that you did a good job.
Remind yourself that you did a great job and then find a way to reward yourself with a special gift, a night out with friends or something special you have been reluctant to splurge on.
Similarly, you shouldn’t spend too much time worrying what you coworkers think about your work. “Women are too worried about how they will be perceived,” Smith says. “Slough that off. Show up for work knowing that you look great and you’re smart.”
Too many times, women focus on what they should do, rather than what they want to do, Smith says. Tell yourself, “I want to do this and I want to succeed,” then focus on your goal and start doing research and talking with people who can help you achieve your goals, she says.
It’s important to make a distinction between worrying about what your peers think about you and the quality of your work, and what your supervisor and clients need you to deliver, Madhosingh says. If you’re performing at or above the level that your supervisor and clients require, and you provide quality work, then you shouldn’t worry about what your peers think about you or your work.
“It doesn’t matter what your peers think,” she says. “They’re not responsible for you and you’re not responsible for them.”
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Did you know that highly sensitive people are particularly vulnerable to caring waaay too much about what other people think?
There are three reasons for this:
- We tend to be conscientious. We like to follow the rules and do the “right” thing.
- We tend to be high in empathy, which makes us acutely aware of what everyone else is feeling.
- We tend to shy away from conflict, criticism, and judgment, because they are highly stimulating, and therefore, get us all worked up.
Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with possessing these characteristics. They make us caring and compassionate people.
But sometimes our caring can go a bit too far, qualifying as excessive worrying or people pleasing. We might care SO much that we sacrifice our own well-being in the process.
One way to check yourself and reinforce an anti – people pleasing mindset i s to repeatedly expose yourself to books and articles that support maintaining a healthy level of self interest.
So for all my fellow people pleasers and excessive worriers, I wanted to share this list of books that have really helped me focus on my own life and what I think instead of driving myself bonkers obsessing about what other people think of me.
On a side note, I want to mention that instead of reading most of the books listed below the traditional way, I listened to them on Audible . To be honest, I was initially really hesitant about joining Audible , because it’s subscription based. For most subscription services I have tried in the past, I ended up feeling like I didn’t use them enough to warrant the price. But I have actually come to be all googly-eyed over Audible for two reasons.
First, I have realized that I can find a lot more time to listen than I can find to read. I still like to read the old-fashioned way too whenever I have a chance, but as a Mom of three, all the hours I spend cleaning the house, cooking, doing laundry, running errands, and driving people to places add up to a pretty significant chunk of potential audio book listening time. So not only am I able to add a lot more books to my life than I would be otherwise, but I’ve also had zero problems getting through at least one to two books a month, which is all it really takes to cover the subscription cost.
Second, and quite unexpectedly, I’ve realized that there is a special benefit to listening rather than reading. Somehow the author seems more real and alive when you actually hear him or her. And I find that their voice becomes more “sticky” to the point that it has great potential to drown out my inner critic. So a chunk of my negative self doubt-y mind chatter gets replaced by the author’s voice telling me to not give a f*ck. Does this sound weird? Maybe, but I’ll take whatever works. 😉
Ok, side speal over. Here are the seven best books about not caring what others think.
#1 Not Nice: Stop People Pleasing, Staying Silent, & Feeling Guilty… And Start Speaking Up, Saying No, Asking Boldly, And Unapologetically Being Yourself by Aziz Gazipura – This book is BIG. First of all, it’s big because it approaches Bible-length at 18+ hours of audio. But it’s also one BIG helpful idea after another. Not once during the 18+ hours did I wish that it would be over already, because it was just that helpful. This is simply a must-read if you are a people pleaser wanting to get rid of the guilt tripping that is holding you back.
#2, #3 The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck: How to Stop Spending Time You Don’t Have with People You Don’t Like Doing Things You Don’t Want to Do and You Do You: How to Be Who You Are and Use What You’ve Got to Get What You Want by Sarah Knight – Not Nice is great, but requires a commitment. These two by Sarah Knight, on the other hand, are great and also a breeze. She has an awesome message, which she delivers like a true entertainer. You will laugh your way through these two. And best of all, unlike some of the other books in this genre that make it their mission to teach introverts how to act more like extraverts, Sarah Knight gets that not all of us want to learn how to butterfly our way through social events. Some of us want to learn how to spread our wings and soar away from the social events. As fast as we can. All the way to Freedomville. 😉
#4 How to Be Yourself: Quiet Your Inner Critic and Rise Above Social Anxiety by Ellen Hendriksen – If you care to the point that it qualifies as anxiety and it’s majorly holding you back from what you want to accomplish in life, then this book is for you. The author is not only a clinical psychologist, but also an HSP who has struggled with social anxiety herself, so she offers the kind of compassion and understanding that only someone who has TRULY been there is capable of.
#5 Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone by Brene Brown – If you’ve ever felt like the misfit. If you’ve ever felt like you don’t belong. If you’ve ever felt like you need to twist yourself this way and that to fit in. Then this one’s for you.
#6 The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by don Miguel Ruiz – This book might come off as total woo-woo at first glance. But once I got through the intro, which is woo-woo, I loved listening to this book. The main message of the book is actually very straight-forward and the four agreements are simple:
Be Impeccable With Your Words
Don’t Take Anything Personally
Don’t Make Assumptions
Always Do Your Best
And the delivery is just beautiful. It’s almost like listening to a self help poem. 🙂
#7 Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown – This might be a bit of an oddball to include here, because it’s written by a business consultant and many of the examples have to do with business management. However, I found that the lessons are very much applicable to life in general. If you suffer from the “I need to be everything for everyone” disorder, this book will talk you out of it and help you hone in your focus on what really matters.
Anyhoo, I hope this list is helpful! Let me know what you think in the comments below. 🙂
Put simply, we are wired to crave a sense of belonging and safety. “In ancient history, we belonged to tribes that ensured our survival as a species,” says holistic career and mind-set coach Amina AlTai. “Belonging to a group made life less dangerous. Our primitive brain is still connected to that idea that we need to belong to a group and stay in their good graces in order to survive.”
“Our primitive brain is still connected to that idea that we need to belong to a group and stay in their good graces in order to survive.” —mind-set coach Amina AlTai
While this need to be liked and accepted may have served humans way back when, it now often robs us of our freedom to be ourselves. “When we are so focused on being liked or on what other people think, we can step away from our truth and lean into performance,” AlTai says. “We censor ourselves. We water ourselves down and become consummate chameleons in order to be accepted.”
If any of this rings true for you, keeping you from the life you truly want to be living, check out AlTai’s six tips for learning how to not care what people think, once and for all.
1. Remember that what others think isn’t your business
Although it may seem like external thoughts can have a major effect on our inner workings, that’s really not the case. Rather, it’s merely our perception that gives them power. With this in mind, AlTai suggests a powerful strategy for learning how to not care what people think is to remind yourself that their thoughts are their own and have nothing to do with you. Furthermore, the only way these thoughts can impact your life is if you let them.
2. Know that your value is not contingent on being liked
Embrace the fact that your value is not determined by how liked and accepted you are. “It’s not my job to be liked,” AlTai says of her career, which involves being present on social media and public speaking. “It’s my job to show up in my authenticity and deliver the contribution I came to deliver. Some people will like what I have to offer, and others will not, and that is real and normal. It has no implications on our value as human beings.” So if someone likes you or what you’re doing, cool. And if they don’t, that’s cool, too—you do you, regardless.
3. Define your values
Living your life according to what others think of you is a recipe for an unhappy and exhausting life. Instead, AlTai’s says to define your own set of values. Get clear on what’s important to you, not other people. Focus on who you want to be, not what others say you should be. From there, AlTai says, “we can align ourselves with friends and groups that share these values versus attempting to fit ourselves into a box that doesn’t reflect our truest expression.”
4. Find the core wound and write a new story
There is usually an old story, subconscious belief, or an emotional wound that drives the worry of what others think. AlTai suggests reflecting on this during a meditation or in your journal to help you better understand why it is that you, personally, care what others think in the first place. Think of your earliest memory of not being liked or accepted, how it made you feel, and what you most needed in that memory.
Once you’re clearer on that core wound, belief, or story, you can write a new story for yourself, literally. Write it out in a journal. For example, if your old story is that you need to be liked to survive or be worthy, AlTai says, then you can write out examples of times when you weren’t necessarily accepted and still flourished.
5. Forgive yourself and shift your mind-set
Overcoming the fear of what people think is certainly not something that can happen overnight. It requires practice and a whole lot of self-forgiveness. “We all get caught in our fear stories from time to time,” AlTai says. “It doesn’t make us wrong or broken.” When that fear rears its ugly head (and it will), forgive yourself in that moment and then choose a new thought and way of being. Shifting your mind-set in this way will give you the motivation you need to do what you’re holding yourself back from accomplishing.
Now that you’re clear on how to not care what people think, here’s how to get over your fear of being mean. And if a fear of rejection is keeping you from professional success, here’s how a career coach suggests you chase your goals.
Stop caring what others think about you and become free to pursue your dreams with the help of this transformational affirmations mp3.
- Do you often find yourself imagining how others might react to your ideas and abandon them from fear of being ridiculed?
- Do you lack faith in your own judgment?
- Does the fear of others’ reactions prevent you from pursuing your goals?
- Do you want to start believing in yourself more and to reduce the influence others have on you?
Being decent and sensitive means that we should take into consideration the feelings and thoughts of others and many times their opinion can save us from making the wrong choice. However, if you care too much what they think and how they will react to you, you can easily enter the enchanted circle of living by your imagination and blowing things out of proportion, which can make your options very limited.
Playing it safe from fear of others’ reaction prevents you from trying new things and doing anything that might cause them to make you feel bad about yourself.
That’s no way to live your life. If you want help and support to overcome this and to really, deeply stop giving so much importance to what people might say about you, then use this album and let it change the way you feel on a core level.
There’s no magic pill to make you more self-confident – you have to work on it and to make a real effort, but affirmations can motivate and empower you to stick to it. As you listen to this album your mind will gradually get used to the idea that your opinion matters and that you are your own best friend. It will make it much easier for you to accept this idea as truth and to develop the mindset that will help you to:
- Break free from taking opinions of others to heart. Especially with people we care about, it’s difficult to exclude emotions from our judgment. With regular use of affirmations you will notice that you are able to detach yourself from any emotion, positive or negative, that might cloud your judgment – you will simply be more realistic and objective and although acknowledging the emotions you have, be able to not take them into consideration.
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‘Care about what other people think and you will always be their prisoner.’ – Lao Tzu
Now be honest, how much of your time do you spend worrying about what other people think? On some level, we ALL care what the people around us think. As naturally social creatures, it is a completely normal and human desire to want to be accepted and loved for who we are. But there is such a thing as caring too much. And there are ways you can care less about what other people think.
Do you wonder if someone’s talking behind your back? What other people think about your looks, your clothes, your job or the decisions you make? Are you always seeking approval from the people around you?
Because when you care what others think to this extent, you’re making yourself volunteer for a trapped existence of misery and discontent.
The truth is, if you want to blaze your own brilliant trail through this life and to be happy, you’re going to have to learn to not care quite so much. After all, no one ever achieved extraordinary things by listening to every opinion and judgment that ever came their way.
So how do you get past wanting to ‘fit in’ and the worry of what others may or may not think?
For your own happiness and sanity, it’s time to start feeling good about your decisions and your life, regardless of what others have to say on the matter.
Here’s how you can start to care less about what other people think…
1. Stop apologizing.
An easy way to spot whether or not you spend too much time worrying about what others think is if you find yourself constantly apologizing to others for the way that you are.
If you’ve done something wrong and an apology is well warranted in that situation, then go ahead, say sorry!
But don’t get stuck in the habit of apologizing just for being who you are. Standing out from the crowd, expressing different opinions or caring about something that is important to you are no real causes for an apology.
2. Remember what is important to you.
Have you ever made choices or followed a specific path because it’s what others wanted for you, or because you felt that you ‘should’? If so, then you’ll already know that doing this rarely ends well. It doesn’t matter if it’s landing a job you can’t stand but that makes your parents happy, or turning down a big opportunity because you think your friends wouldn’t ‘get it’ – it’s virtually impossible to be happy as anything other than your most authentic self.
You are your own person; use this freedom to take action driven by your own goals. You shouldn’t be out to impress anyone, this is your life remember, so concentrate on what’s important to you.
3. Get out of your head.
Do you have a tendency to over-analyze everything? When we’re worried what others think of us, we can fall into the trap of constantly second-guessing and worrying about our every word and action. Make the decision to stop this immediately. Stop giving away your energy on things you cannot control.
People will judge you. That’s life. But it’s also important to remember that people are judging you nowhere near as much as your head would lead you to believe.
But why worry about what you can’t control anyway? It’s how YOU feel about your choices that is important, so concentrate on making them the very best that they can be, for your own happiness.
4. Be really conscious of who you surround yourself with.
What kind of people are you surrounding yourself with? It’s always easier to be yourself and feel good about life when you’re surrounded by people who uplift and inspire you, rather than spending your days surrounded by naysayers and negative people who suck the energy out of your dreams.
Obviously, you’re not always going to see eye to eye with everyone that you meet. And why would you? Life would be boring if we all shared the same ideas and beliefs.
However, having at least a small group of people around with whom you can be your absolute self can be hugely beneficial. After all, the more time you’re able to spend as your absolute authentic self, the happier you’ll be.
T he ultimate goal would be to live every second as your absolute authentic self, but all progress, no matter how small, is something to celebrate.
5. Learn to appreciate and embrace the individuality of others.
Once you’ve learned how to start living your own life free from the worry of what others think and secure in your own individuality, don’t forget to show others the same courtesy.
Try to accept and encourage others in their own uniqueness. Avoid gossiping, thinking negatively about those you don’t understand – and most importantly of all, avoid being quick to judge.
6. Remember – those who don’t care, DO.
Imagine how much simpler and more productive our lives would be if we stopped caring so much about the things that don’t matter, and instead, directed more of our time and energies caring about the things that do. What a happier world this would be!
Understand that your time is limited and use this as the wake-up call you need to start caring less and doing more. So what if your friends think your new business idea will be a big flop?
If it’s important to you, to your happiness, and you believe that it can have a positive impact on the world – why does it matter what others say? If you know in your heart that you’re on the wrong path and want to change direction, why are you worried what others might think?
With the right attitude, the right support and lots of action, you can create and achieve anything that you want. What might be right for one person may be completely wrong for another. We all have different needs and different paths to pursue, so don’t let your fear of what others think stand in your way.
Can you think of a time when you proved the naysayers wrong or had to overcome your fears about what others might think of you?
Share your thoughts with everyone in the comments below =)
Clear Negativity From Your Life and Clear Your Limiting Beliefs
When you are surrounded by negative people or hold limiting beliefs over yourself, then it can be hard to stop worrying about what others may think of you. But it’s not impossible. You can learn to care less about what other people think.
The free ebook: ‘Clearing Negativity From Your Life’, can help you to overcome your limiting beliefs and help you to break through to your best self.