Do you care too much about what others think?


Don’t let what others think matter more than what you think.

As someone whose livelihood depends on people thinking well of me, I’m very conscious of what people might think about me. Will people like what I write or say? Will they think I’m too opinionated or that I harp on too much about being courageous?

Last month I got an abusive email from a male reader of this newsletter (he’s since unsubscribed) who felt I was being derogatory using a subject line that said “Never cower!”  For a little while I felt wounded, taken aback because it never occurred to me that my words might be offensive. I wondered if maybe I should have used different, softer, language.  Perhaps, in hindsight I could have.

After I got over the sting of his rebuttal I realised that if I’m going to share a message with people living around the world, sometimes there’ll be people who don’t like what I write, or say, or wear, or think.  Sometimes there will be people who just don’t like me. Ouch. While I will never like not being liked, I accept it.

If you’re like me, and most people I know, you also like to be liked. Nothing wrong with that! However sometimes we can let our desire to be liked – and our fear of being disliked, criticized or rejected – keep us from saying what we know needs to be said, from making a change, from saying no, or setting a boundary or from simply expressing our unique individuality fully in the world.

Never  let what others might think matter more than what you think!

While speaking at a women’s leadership event yesterday I talked about how important it is not to be driven by pleasing others. It’s the same concept, different words.  A woman approached me afterward and shared how she has always struggled not to be too nice, but has realized that by failing to stand her ground over the years, and sometimes to assertively push forward her opinion, she’s ended up being railroaded on occasion and being passed over for promotions to people who’ve been better at speaking up, pushing back and standing their ground.

  • Do I speak up or stay silent and avoid ruffling a feather?
  • Do I say yes to keep people happy, or graciously decline so I have time for other priorities?
  • Do I wear clothes I really love, or what I think will impress others?  
  • Do I forge my own path, or the path others think I should take?

Of course I’m not encouraging you not to be thoughtful about how your actions will impact others. And I’m certainly not saying it isn’t good to be kind to those around you. Nothing is more rewarding than knowing your actions have positively impacted others. I’m simply encouraging you not to let what other people think matter more than what you think!  What I know for sure is that every time you have the courage to do that, you give other people permission to be more brave themselves.

Now just imagine what our world would be like if more people didn’t spend so much of their lives stuck on a treadmill trying to win approval and admiration? As Bill Cosby once said, “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everyone.”

Wise words.

12 replies
  1. Kylie Fuller
    Kylie Fuller says:

    Oh Margie, you just described me, this is a reoccuring lesson/theme in my life. I spend coutless hours at night tossing and turning over how I should have stood up for myself, or beating myself up over why I gave away my power. I know all of this and still struggle daily with it.
    Thank you for giving me another reminder of why I need to make myself a priority and not allow others to rule my thoughts, actions and how I feel about myself. My life, my choice, my mistake to always be N.I.C.E. I can still be a lovely person without giving away my power.
    Thank you!

  2. Katie King
    Katie King says:

    Well said Margie! There are moments when nothing will satisfy the more difficult people in our lives. Best to be true to our own beliefs and feelings. That is when we see who really cares about us or who is really an ally.

    • Margie Warrell
      Margie Warrell says:

      You are so right. There are people who have decided they don’t like us regardless of what we do. And there are people who will find reason to criticise everything. So hence, the Dr Suess comment! :)

  3. Sean Spence
    Sean Spence says:

    Years ago (at about the same stage as your contact was at) I got 100% for ‘needing to be liked’ in my firm’s profiling exercise. Looking back, I can see why I was in that state. But the firm was clear – a) ‘needing’ didn’t guarantee ‘being’ liked! b) it meant that this detracted from giving the clients tough feedback and c) it also meant not fighting in the firm’s corner while looking after my own needs.
    I still like to be liked! But there are bigger issues at play in professional work and it is in the service of those bigger issues (client success, for example) that we have to put aside the need.
    This doesn’t detract from the power of ‘likeability’ in ensuring the communication channel is open. My clients know that if they get something tough from me, it’s in service of the bigger issue.
    Of course this was a long and expensive lesson to learn!

  4. Kenya Rahming
    Kenya Rahming says:

    Hello Ms. Warrell,

    Your email couldn’t have come at a better time. I was literally in tears before I read your email. I’m at the point of my career where I need to decide whether I want to get into management. I’ve met with mentors, whose input I value and who hold positions that I aspire to. They tell me what they recommend, but at the same time they say “only if that’s what you want – it’s up to you.” I want to be who I am and forge my own path, but I feel like if I don’t go along with their expectations, I’ll lose their respect. I also feel like if I go my own way, I won’t be as successful or it will take me longer to advance. I know everyone’s career path is different.

    Please forgive my rambling, I’m just at an emotional point in my life and not sure what I want to do.

    Thank you for your time.

    Ms. Kenya Rahming

    P.S. I’m reading your book “Find Your Courage” :-)

    • Margie Warrell
      Margie Warrell says:

      Hi Kenya, So glad it hit home for you. Obviously when it comes to decisions in our career, we need to seek advice and mentoring. We need to consider how we are being perceived and what others will think of our actions. Not doing so would be foolish. But we also need to be sure we don’t do something we don’t have our heart in, just because others think it would be good for us. Hope you gtake some time to sit still and get present to what you truly’ want. Also be sure its not your fear of moving into management that is keeping you from going that direction.

  5. Josephine
    Josephine says:

    Hello Margie , I must tell you, your words really are a god sent and I can really identify with what you are saying here. After loyally working for the same company for over 20 years, I have learnt the hard way about “being too nice”. I have literally assisted many many people to forge their way up in their careers to the detriment of my own. Only now that I am a little older can I see my mistakes. We’ll I guess it’s never too late to be more assertive tho, and reading your email certainly helps me feel stronger. Thank you Margie, love Jo x

  6. Sonia Bali
    Sonia Bali says:

    I was truly zapped with your article. It happens to us almost every minute of our life that we remain busy living the life people want to see us playing and we completely forget our true self. I think any minute deviating our attention from what we want or wish to do can only land us miserable in life. I think it is a great reminder to me to start living life from the window of my own beliefs and values rather that from others.

  7. Katie King
    Katie King says:

    Bravo Margie, be true to yourself and your unique message. You will only make a difference if you continue to be the individual you are!

  8. Aileen
    Aileen says:

    Thank you so much. I needed this – I rarely speak my mind, except with very close friends, and have trouble saying no, so therefore I have no time for myself and am totally tied up doing all sorts of things that I’d really not be doing. I will now try to think of myself a bit more and not what others would think of me.



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