Caring Less So You Can Become More

Do you ever feel like you’re in an endless state of catering to the opinions of others? Is your mind, too often, occupied by seeking to impress or meet others’ arbitrary expectations instead of on what really matters most?

You can listen to the full podcast episode here, or continue reading below.

What happens when we become obsessed or even addicted to what others think? When we care too much? In this episode of Playing Full Out I’ll show you how you can care less so you can spend more or your time, energy, and talent on what matters most to you.

Click to tweet:
“It’s one of life’s paradoxes that one must care less so to be more.”

We’re taught from a young age to please others; get acceptance and affirmation so we can meet our need for love. It’s a primal part of our being in order to survive as a baby and even in adulthood.

Then one day we wake up and realize that our whole life is dominated by manipulating others to think a certain way about us in order for us to feel good about ourselves.  This way of being becomes habitual and addictive.  But like any drug, the high is temporary. Then we have to go back to impressing others externally so we can feel good internally.   This is what happens when our opinions and self-image are externally based.

I was recently introduced to John who was looking at making some big changes in his life. John had ended a very successful run in a career after 15 years. He was unemployed and determining what the next chapter in his career would look like. He’d recently started a new family.  His wife was pregnant again and John felt the pressure not only to get a new career but also to identify where to move his family and their roots.  All of these decisions were weighing on him.

As I spoke to John it seemed that everything he had touched had turned to gold. But as John explained it was an external image that he described was not meeting up with how he felt internally. He said, “I know others perceive that I have this confidence, but I am reeling inside as I try to continually focus on impressing them. I simply want to enjoy what I’m doing. For example, when I’m working on a project. I want to completely work on the project and not think about how I’m going to do it to impress another person.”  “When I’m talking to people, I don’t want my thoughts consumed with what they are thinking of me, instead of on the conversation.”

His desire is a common one. How do I get over this need to please? How do I detach from others’ opinions of me so I can listen and hear my own best insights? Like so many people, John wanted to dedicate himself to his work, health and family.

When this focus on meeting others’ expectations consumes you, how do you get over it?  How do you care, less?

Ultimately, the question is how can I care less so I can be more? The reason for our attachment to what other people think is due to a weak self-image.  It stems from the thought that need others to accept and approve of us in order to feel loved.

There is a place on the spectrum that represents a healthy sense of caring.  On the one end of the spectrum you have your psychopaths who have no feeling or emotion. They don’t care at all about what people think. The other end is the obsession with trying to meet the expectations of others, and manage and manipulate them to think a certain way. Somewhere in the middle is a healthy balance.

What are the symptoms of caring too much?

How do you know when you’ve crossed the line to caring too much? Here are some symptoms I’ve observed…

*a manager resists delegating or asking for what he wants from his employees because he’s afraid they won’t like him or they’ll quit

*a seasoned professional who, despite her desire to drive down her hours, works 10 to 15 hours more per week than what she wants

*a highly functioning man’s attention is splintered as he worries about whether his boss and colleagues will applaud him

*as a guest at a party or networking event she has thoughts not on the conversation, but, “What is this person thinking of me?”

*a caretaker doesn’t find time to care for his own needs and instead over gives at his personal and professional expense

Common physiological symptoms are:

  • Anxiety is high.
  • Stress level is increased.
  • Poor sleep.
  • Shortened breathing.
  • Body is tense.

What’s the ultimate cost of being obsessed with other people’s expectations and opinions?

On the top level, performance is impeded. Advancement is slowed. There’s a lack of clarity in identifying what one really wants. An inability to hear one’s best judgments, insights and solutions. Confusion. And an incapability of being present in the moment, especially with one’s family.

There’s a good change that if you’re experiencing these symptoms, your caring too much is keeping you at a fraction of your best self.

How do you reset this kind of thinking?

“How do I undo this wiring or begin to have a greater sense of self? How do I reprogram for greater ease, higher performance and increased living?”

I don’t believe that we have to heal all of our childhood wounds in order to move forward and detach.  Breakthroughs occur from simple behaviors repeated on a daily basis. When we do things in a new way it becomes our default.

Start here…

Step #1 Be Aware

The first step is always awareness. For many people, they’ve been pleasing and meeting other’s expectations for 45 to 65 years without even knowing it. It’s such a part of their being that they aren’t aware of their weak sense of self.  You have to spot it to change it.

Step #2 Know Your Why

Know why you want to change your need to please. Know why you want to detach. What will happen differently in your life when you do? John wanted to feel greater ease. He wanted to lose the anxiety. He expressed that the only time he was able to let go and feel truly himself uninhibited was when he was drinking. He didn’t want that to be the way of his world going forward.  He wanted his son and daughter  to have a strong role model. That was his compelling reason why.

Step #3 Change Your Diet

You have to change what you feed your body and mind. Breakthroughs come from daily conditioning of the mindset. Here are some strategies to help you eliminate the need to impress, detach, get back into your own business.

  • Remember that you are safe. The mind can become confused and begin to believe that not getting love or approval from someone is going to kill us. Physical and emotional pain are confused. We have to realize that if someone doesn’t like us, we aren’t going to die. You can say out loud to yourself, “I am safe.” It is a reminder and interruption to our fight or flight responses in the amygdala to come back to the executive thinking part of the brain in the frontal lobe.  Within a nanosecond, your body can have that experience of fear that tells you you’re being threatened. Correct the mind when it becomes confused.
  • Give others back their power. Allow other people to think what they want of you. They’re going to do it anyway. When you give people permission to think what they want about you, you begin a much healthier relationship, not only with yourself but with others. When you stop resisting their judgment, you are then free to use that energy that you’ve been controlling and manipulating them with, to do what matters most.
  • Know what’s important to you. How do you detach from people? Know what’s important. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in 10 weeks, 10 months or 10 years?”
  • Talk yourself up.  Mantras do work. Say to yourself, “I have a right to be here. What I have to say or do is of value.” Use whatever works for you to overcome your obsession with your insecurities. It can help you to detach from other people’s opinions and be more interested and concerned with your own.
  • Don’t take yourself or your life too seriously. You’ve heard it said before, because it’s true. People aren’t thinking about you as much as you think. If they are, they probably have some issues they need to tend to. Let them be in their own journey, and you in yours.
  • Don’t beat yourself up. When you’re not perfect, acknowledge it. Be curious and interested about the message in the mistake.

Click to tweet:
“If you’re in another’s business and they’re
in their business, who’s in

Taking Bold Action

If you feel confident as a person, you’re able to admit your weaknesses. You’re able to look at your fear and anxieties.  You know your self-image is strong. If it’s weaker at this time and you notice the symptoms above, invest. Become aware. Know the reason you must change. Begin to take the actions above to reprogram your mindset daily.

What’s Next?

I invite you to think of three things to care less about in your work that will free you up to do what matters most to you. Then do the same at home.  Identify three things that, if you cared less about them, you’d be able to do more of what you love. Not only will you find you have more time and energy in your day, but your happiness, ease and fulfillment will soar as well.  You’ll notice the paradoxical correlation between caring less so you can be more.

Click to tweet:
“Be willing to betray another so as not to betray yourself.”
— Oriah Mountain Dreamer


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About Rita Hyland

With over 20 years of experience as an executive and leadership coach, Rita helps leaders — emerging and established — excel in corporate and entrepreneurial environments.

Through her coaching programs, private coaching and masterminds, Rita shows leaders how to win consistently and create the impact and legacy they desire.

Central to Rita’s work is the understanding that you will never outperform your current programming, no matter how strong your willpower.

When you learn to use Rita’s proprietary Neuroleadership Growth Code, a technology which uses the best of neuroscience and transformational psychology to hit the brain’s buttons for change, YOU become both the solution and the strategy.

Rita believes if leaders were more clear about how transformation really works and more intentional about creating what they want, their impact, success and influence in the world would be unstoppable.

Her mission is to end talented, hard-working and self-aware leaders spending another day stuck in self-doubt or confusion and not contributing their brilliant work and talent the world so desperately needs.