charismatic black woman against white wall

How much of our time do we spend worrying about what other people think of us?

How often does it occur to you? Do you think about what others will think when you plan what to put on when attending a meeting or, more likely nowadays, when appearing on a Zoom call? Do you worry how you come over during an online meeting? Are you afraid to speak up in case you upset or annoy someone? Is this holding you back?

Self doubt is so common because when something happens to us, we associate a meaning to it, experience a feeling about it and that feeling then becomes associated with every similar occurrence that follows. Crucually, we tend to remember the bad and unhelpful things far more than the good. (Part of our instincts for self-preservation.)

For example, as a child perhaps you spoke up excitedly in the classroom but your teacher made fun of your answer and the other children followed suit. You felt hurt and embarrassed and were anxious not to repeat the experience so you began to think twice about speaking up, as you remembered how it felt when you were ‘wrong’. You started to associate and associate freely expressing yourself with a feeling of shame and embarrassment. (As a communication trainer and coach I’ve come across many people with just such a memory.)

Being The Star of Your Own Movie

One of the great concerns of many people in face-to-face or networking situations, is the feeling that if you’re not acting like the life and soul of the party, people will think less of you. If you stand at the side of the room, you’re a sad person with no friends.

Actually, everyone else is probably thinking exactly the same thing.  They’re so busy thinking everyone is looking at or judging them that they haven’t actually got time to notice you, poor sad loner that you are.

I can’t remember now where  I heard the expression

‘You are the star of your own movie’,

but it’s particularly apt in these circumstances. Of course you are the ‘star of your own movie’ going through life, because you see life from your own point of view.  You are on the inside looking out, as it were.  But most of us are merely bit parts in other people’s ‘movies’.  (If we’re lucky we may co-star in one other!) So worrying about what other people are thinking is a bit of a waste of time, as they’re probably not thinking very much at all, but worrying about how they are coming over too.

A simple technique to help in real life situations – whenever most of us can get back to those! – when you are entering a meeting room or attending an event, is to have a silent running commentary going on in your head, which is resolutely practical and only dealing in the present.  “I’m walking into the room.  I pause and slowly look round.  I can see the drinks table over on the far left so I’m calmly walking over…I turn and look round the room on my right hand side…” 
Or “I am entering the meeting room. I calmly look to the right and then the left. I choose that chair there,. I am walking towards it with purpose..” You will look – and rather surprisingly feel – purposeful and confident.

This works because it takes your focus away from feeling negative and gives you something practical to do. Your sense of purpose comes through in your facial expression and in your body language.

If people do notice you it will be because you look enviably relaxed and confident…unless, of course, you actually are Kate Winslet or Leonardo DiCaprio…

Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio from US Weekly

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