As a freelancer or entrepreneur, it’s tempting to think your trailblazing ways are independent of other peoples’ opinions. Yet despite your independent career path, it can be very difficult to stop caring what other people think of your business dream.
Whether it’s family, friends, contacts on social media, or even a complete stranger, there are sometimes moments where a comment here or a certain vocal inflection there signals a doubt or reservation about what you’re doing.
When this comes from people you particularly care about, the resulting frustration and fear can be palpable and it’s easy to begin doubting yourself and your whole business plan.
Signs you’re caring too much what people think
You know things will work out – or are already going well – yet despite the signs of success, what your loved one says can feel like the proverbial punch in the stomach. There’s an emotional reaction. If your freelancing or entrepreneurial endeavor is still at an early stage, these emotional seeds of doubt can become catastrophically all-consuming.
And all because someone who likely knows very little about your business or industry made a poorly worded comment, well-meaning or otherwise.
Some of the signs of being overly influenced by other people include:
Self-censorship – You begin to constantly censor yourself which smothers your unique charm, personality, creativity, and ideas. The fear of being criticized or doubted, especially by those you love, leads you to make choices based from inhibition rather than logic and strategy.
Constantly seeking approval – It’s natural to want those you care about to approve and be excited by your freelancing or entrepreneurism. But when decisions you make are based around receiving approval rather than doing the right thing, you know you’re caring too much what people think.
Successful entrepreneurs have often embraced strategies the layperson would deem to be counterintuitive to success – and yet they thrived.
Avoiding help – No person is an island, even if you’re a solopreneur. Whether it’s hiring a business coach, working with a virtual assistant, or even getting a therapist for the benefit of your mental wellbeing, a helping hand of some kind is essential (see also: delegation partners).
If you actively avoid help because you worry people will think less of you, then you might be caring too much about their opinions.
Analysis paralysis – Stuck in a rut? Going around in circles, again and again? Afraid to start something new? If you suffer from analysis paralysis – the inability to quickly and clearly make decisions – you might be putting too much stock in what other people will think.
Ways to stop caring what people think of your business
So how do you stop yourself caring what other people think of your business dream? How can you make yourself immune to comments from those dearest to you and from those you barely know?
Here are five things to consider, and thinking habits to cultivate, for when you feel defensive, downhearted, or fearful:
- Consider the source
Unless your family or friends are freelancers or entrepreneurs themselves, it’s very difficult for people to truly understand what it takes to start and grow a business. They may have preconceived notions based on scare stories from the media or what they imagine a ‘real’ job to be.
Always consider the source of criticisms, judgements, or misunderstandings. Does the person have more knowledge or experience of your intended career path than you? If the answer is no, then it’s not particularly beneficial for you to put too much stock in what they say. You know what you need to do and why.
- Imagine the future successful you
When you begin to care too much what other people think of your freelancing career or startup adventure, then think ahead a little. Picture in your mind’s eye what you will feel and think a few years in the future when your business is a success and you’re making good money.
Your loved ones will be delighted for you. And you’ll be glad you gave little credence to what they may be saying in the present.
- Feel the regret
Now ask yourself how this future version of you would feel if you gave up on your business today because of other peoples’ opinions. Regret and horror would probably sum up your future self’s feelings.
The pain of regret, when stuck in a 9-to-5 job or unemployment, will be a lot harder than facing doubt and criticism about your business goals today.
As a famous saying goes: “We only regret the chances we didn’t take”.
- Walk in your own shoes
We all have our own paths to walk. Our inherent nature, our upbringing, our experiences, our education, our talents and skills, and so many more variables, all influence who we are as people. A career path or expectation that is right for your lover, or your best friend, or your parent, is not necessarily going to be right for you.
And this is something you need to recognize and embrace. You have your path and everyone else has their path, based on what is right for them, and no one else.
- Forget past failures
Most successful entrepreneurs have a string of ‘failures’ behind them before they strike gold with a winning concept. The same applies to freelancers, who might struggle through years of frustration and low pay before finally coming into their own and hitting a 6-figure income.
But when a loved one comments on how long things are taking or whether things are going to work, it’s suddenly all too easy to think of yourself as a failure for not getting things right quickly. Which is just not true.
Emotionally disentangle yourself from past or current failures. Take the lessons learned from them, analyze them with logic, and then look only forward with determination to succeed, just like all successful entrepreneurs have done.
Place less importance on what people think
It can be difficult to stop caring what people think of your career. But for the sake of success, it’s important to work on placing less importance on the opinion of others, especially your loved ones.
Respect their opinions, yes, and give them time to express their views. Always be kind. The key however, is to recognize they are not you and in most cases, they know very little about the realities of freelancing or entrepreneurship.
They want what’s best for you but sometimes this concern and worry can be an extra weight of expectation around your shoulders.
The good news: You don’t have to carry it.