The amount of time we spend stressing about what others think is astounding. There’s a trend on TikTok where people confirm this with a snippet of Beyonce’s Crazy in Love playing in the background. We let those thoughts get in our minds and they shape our days, our belief system and our self-talk. It’s brutal.

There are those who do affirm that they do not care what others have to say about them. The truth of that may be real from a responsiveness perspective, but it may not be as clean in your mind. We can’t see the process of frustration and pain that may happen there as well as the amount of residue that does remain. We can’t see what is happening in each person’s mind, even those who swear they don’t care. However, we can become better than the feedback we hear, or more likely, that we imagine someone is thinking, but who is teaching us how to do that?

In the workplace, for instance, many hours are spent jockeying for position through calculating how others may perceive what you do. You want to present the best of you, but you are also wrapped up in the way that best of you will be received. In that, stress begins. And lest you think (I love when I sound 1900’s British) that this is a deliberate process, it is often a learned behavior early on in life through the observation of adults.

As a child, you see how adults get things done and establish their positions amongst friends and family. The stress of what others think is across life, not merely the workplace. And much of those learned behaviors get practiced early on in school. We are on high alert regarding the opinions of others. We need to wear the right sneakers. We need to have the right shirt. Our hair has to be done just right. And we heap pounds of stress on our shoulders in managing all of this. This “training” carries into our careers, our homes and our relationships naturally. In a video of Prince being inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, he said, “Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay.” His acceptance speech was profoundly thought-provoking, and his viewpoint was spot on. Because freedom allows us to engage physically, mentally and emotionally across a variety of pathways and circumstances, we can travel roads that cause more damage than good, leading to an unhealthy pattern of behavior. The decay we experience is from the inside out.

Think about all the people who have taken up residence in your brain. Why are we renting rooms for free to these people? Take control over these arrangements; speak truth to yourself. You cannot control how everyone perceives you. You, also, don’t know that people are spending time perceiving things about you as you might imagine. You are making mental decisions which affect your behavior and your level of stress that do not need to be.

Take a moment the next time that unwanted tenant starts blabbering to you about you. Take that commentary apart and examine from where it comes. Does it have a basis? How do you know? You can take control of these emotions and unwanted pathways. There are thieves in the temple of your mind and soul, and you are the one who let them in. Enough.