“Do they like me? Do they think I’m talented at this or that? Do they think I have a ‘cool’ personality, or at least that I’m fun to be around?”
Many people would maybe deny that they care much about what people think about them. But if we’re being honest with ourselves, whether we realize it or not, caring what others think is something that affects most of us. If we paid attention to the number of thoughts that go around in our heads each day that have to do with caring about what others think about us, and perhaps kept a tally of these thoughts, it would probably actually add up quite quickly!
Thoughts like a plague
I myself, by nature, was very bound to thoughts that revolved around what other people thought—so much so that it was like slavery. The thoughts plagued me and would not let me be at rest. Because of this, life was very “up and down.” If I knew that people thought well of me—gave me compliments or let me know how much they appreciated me—then I would feel great and be happy. But, if people expressed criticism about what I said or did, and let me know that they disagreed with me, then I suddenly found myself very upset. I knew that I had to overcome this tendency within myself.
There are several things that have been a huge help to me as I worked on overcoming. One is a single verse in 1 Corinthians 7:23, “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men.” This gave me something concrete to use as a weapon against all these thoughts that came throughout the day. Every time a thought would come up, I could pray to God, “Help me not to be a slave of people!” I knew that this was a prayer according to God’s will because it wasn’t His intention that I should be bound to other people’s changing opinions, especially since I knew very well that this brought only unrest and unhappiness.
The other thing that helped me was something simple that I once heard someone say. This person was in a position where a lot of people looked up to them, and because of this, someone asked them, “What do you think about yourself?” The answer was straightforward and honest, but “hit the nail right on the head” and stuck with me ever since. “I don’t think about myself,” they said.
Realizing it’s egocentric …
I didn’t have to wonder what they meant by this—I understood it right away. There is absolutely no reason to be constantly wondering what other people are thinking about me; I don’t need to be engrossed in all these egocentric thoughts. There is actually no need for me to “think about myself” in that way at all! It is an utterly ineffective and worthless pursuit, leading only to stress and causing me to miss the opportunities that God has for me to serve Him.
It takes a battle, that’s for sure, but it is worth it! A lot of unrest goes away when I stop over-analyzing what other people think about me, and stop making everything so complicated with my own complexes. For example, my thoughts of inferiority have to “beat it” when I choose to believe that they have nothing to do with how God sees things and the thoughts that He has toward me. Feeling sorry for myself also has no room when I choose to take it like this. Getting offended and defensive because I take things personally are also crushed when my thoughts are not revolving around myself, but I am rather occupied with finding and doing God’s will and living for Him alone. Put in simple terms, my ego is the thing that has to decrease!
Finally, the best part is that as my ego decreases, I become someone who is much more aware of the needs of others and I can more readily see how I can be a help to them in their situations and circumstances. Where before I was complicated and self-centered, I become more and more free from myself and more and more able to be a help and blessing to those around me, something that I really want to be!