skip to Main Content

Why do other’s people’s opinions impact us?

Why Do Other’s People’s Opinions Impact Us?

A common issue that so many young people struggle with is that they feel that everyone is watching them.

Have you ever noticed that for so many, this struggle paralyses them? Preventing them from stepping forward, doing things that they want to do, and holding them back from thriving and reaching their potential.

So, why do we worry so much about what everyone else thinks?

Why do we get so caught up in a perception of other people’s opinions, that we allow those thoughts to stop us from moving? Staying at the red light, and refusing to move, even if it turns green.

My feelings about this are two-fold.

The first part of it, is where do we learn to give so much of our power to others? That adage, ‘you cannot pay your bills with other people’s opinions’ is the first part of it. But, when did the opinions become the priority?

We are all aware that others always make comments. Whether they intend to cause us upset is controversial. For some, they are merely annotating and narrating life, for others, their own insecurities tarnish their comments on others, for some, they may be simply agreeing with what you are saying yourself. The question we need to ask, why do we even care?

There is a great difference between feedback which helps us to grow, for instance, targets, 360 feedback in an organisation or from a medical professional giving us guidance of how to improve our health.

Versus those who comment on our looks, sexuality, personal decisions as to whether we do or do not have children, do or do not have a partner. Feedback is a diverse system, and one that has it benefits and limitations.

Historically, people’s opinions impacting the way that we live is not a new concept. The reality is that for some, living their truth has been a dangerous situation. Those opinions have, for the LGBTQ community been raw, dangerous and terrifying, limiting opportunities for individuals to live their lives.

For others, online bullying and harassment has destroyed lives. Social media opened opportunities for individuals to hide behind screens, and play the keyboard warrior, purposely writing cruel, targeted comments which cause longer term pain and suffering.

Our focus, today, is on the feedback which is about our personal lives, the way we dress, the way we socialise, our relationships, our dreams, goals and targets.

When did we begin to feel that other’s opinions govern those?

Has social media made our beliefs around other’s opinions even stronger?

No one is immune. Equally, there is not one group of individuals who are at fault. Personally, I have only recently received an incredibly offensive email from a representative of an organisation, who felt that my commitment to mental health made me a woke snowflake. When addressed with the organisation, I was simply informed that their age meant that they were not educated on such issues. Our responses to these issues, validate the problem, this wasn’t an adolescent who are frequently blamed for such behaviour, but someone who was educated enough to know better, be better and plead to want to make a difference to the world.

Earlier this year, I was fortunate enough to be on a training with Dr John De Martini, who highlights that when someone says something to us, we can consider that for every finger that they point at us, they are pointing three back at themselves. So, for every offensive comment that they make to us, their opinions and words to themselves is equivocal, if not more. Projecting their pain/uncertainty or fear ono others, in hope to bring them down to their level or normalise their own fears.

So, we know that on social media, everyone has an opinion, perhaps, we even open ourselves to them. when we post, we are aware that those in our audiences will be watching – whether we like them or not. Ask yourself this question, of all the people on your social media feed, do feel confident that they all even like you? Are you content their thoughts on you are positive? It is a rarity that those we have on our feeds are all ‘on our team’, often, we can discover quite the opposite. What impact does this have on self-esteem and confidence? On our belief systems? If we are consciously allowing people to view our lives whose opinions negatively impact us, are we helping ourselves?

In 2000, Tom Gilovich and colleagues, published a paper in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Their study involved a group of students, who they put in one room. They provided one member with an embarrassing t-shirt of Barry Mannilow (poor Barry, having seem him live in concert, I can attest that he is quite the showman) but nevertheless, they placed the student in said t-shirt and asked them to estimate how many people in the room would notice the embarrassing t-shirt. The students in the shirt predicted 50% of the group would notice. In the results, the reality showed that only 25% of people noticed the t-shirt. Our brains, readily overestimate the impact that we have on a situation.

The study was extended to provide 3 further t-shirts, of less ‘embarrassing nature’ and again, students predicted that 50% of people would notice. The outcome, was that of the room, only 10% noticed the t-shirts and could identify who was on them.

The study, a powerful real-life outcome, showed that the majority do not take a blind but of notice of us, and that we are easily forgotten, if noticed at all.

Yet, here we are not living our lives in case those around us, might MIGHT notice us.

The reality, the majority of people are too preoccupied with their own lives, their own problems and their own worlds, as well as their own worries about being noticed, to give any care to us. We all live in our own heads, and over estimate the number of people who notice our hair colour, size of our bodies, the way we move, talk or interact. We overestimate people’s opinions on our worlds, their thoughts about our choices and the way that we work. Holding ourselves back from living how we want to.

In reality, if I asked you to recall 20 people you interacted with last week – how many could you recall what they were wearing? Doing? talked? Ate?

So, next time you are inclined to cancel a plan, avoid a commitment or not do something, take a moment to ask if there is any evidence of the worries you are having…. Or, is it our imagination simply filling in the future with negative ideas, leaving us with the potential for regrets in place of memories?

Want to learn more? 

Are you looking for a deeper understanding of child mental health? Our Level 4 Child and Adolescent Mental Health Coaching Diploma takes you into an in depth dive of child mental health and how you can support.  You can join our Level 4 training (here).


© Dandelion Training and Development – All Rights Reserved



Further help 

For more articles about mental health visit – ARTICLES 

To learn more about child and adolescent mental health visit – COURSES 

For resources to support child and adolescent mental health visit –RESOURCES 

Back To Top