5 Ways to Speak up for Yourself and Not Worry About What Other People Think

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Making other people happy is problematic

girl looking in the mirror

Many of us learn early in our lives that making other people happy is beneficial. Most children want the approval of their parents, teachers, and peers. That’s completely natural. But when we learn to dismiss or ignore our own needs to meet the needs of others, it becomes problematic.

The “good girl” syndrome refers to a tendency to take care of other people at one’s own expense. This means growing up with fears of disappointing others, not wanting to speak up in case others are hurt, needing to excel at school and sports, obeying rules to the letter, and generally making other people more important.

Of course, this dynamic isn’t always gender-specific. The notion of self-sacrifice applies to those who sacrifice themselves in order to make other people happy. We tend to carry that same tendency into adulthood.

A popular meme says it all: don’t set yourself on fire to make other people warm.

Low self-esteem contributes to binge eating

sad girl with glasses low self esteem

And, although it’s natural to seek the approval of others, when it’s taken too far it hurts our self-esteem and also contributes to binge eating. Many people-pleasers don’t allow themselves to recognize that they resent sacrificing themselves to take care of others. They binge on food to symbolically stuff down those thoughts, and then get angry at themselves for what they ate or for how much they weigh.

If you’re afraid to speak up because of what other people might think, remember that you learned that way of relating to the world. If that is weighing on you, here’s some good news: you can learn a new way.

Live life on your own terms with these 5 tips:

1. Learn to say what you think.

If you’re concerned about the opinions of others, you may have developed a habit of keeping your opinion to yourself.

Start giving your opinion on smaller issues. For example, if you’re asked what movie you’d like to see, don’t say, “Oh, I’m fine with whatever you want.” Instead, give a specific and definitive answer.

As you get more comfortable with sharing your truth instead of burying it lets others be uncomfortable, you can start speaking up about more important issues.

2. Focus on what you like about yourself.

love your body handwritten on blackboard

Make it a daily practice to consider what qualities you like about yourself. Focus on a daily “win” which is something you feel good about. That can be an accomplishment, a boundary, or something that makes you appreciate yourself.

When you approve of yourself, you’re far less likely to need approval from others and it will be easier to be authentic and speak up.

3. Remind yourself that it’s impossible to make everyone happy.

what makes you happy

No matter what you do or don’t do, no matter what you think or say, there will always be someone who doesn’t agree.

Something else to keep in mind is that when we try to please everyone, we tend to be less respected. We tend to admire confident people, and confident people usually trust themselves and aren’t afraid to speak up.

4. Give up the idea of perfectionism.

i can self motivation

If you replay conversations in your mind long after the interaction is over, you might believe you’ll be judged for any response that’s less than perfect. We all occasionally do or say things that are imperfect or even wrong.

Consider whether you judge people harshly over minor misstatements or imperfections. Chances are, you’re much more benign to others than you imagine others are to you. Perhaps other people are less critical and judgmental than you imagine.

5. Set boundaries with unreasonable people without apology.

When you start to speak up and not be so agreeable all the time, often at your own expense, some people may not like that. They may challenge you, tell you that you’re being difficult or try to pressure you into conceding to their wishes.

The way to deal with them is to set a firm boundary. Say something along the lines of, “That doesn’t work for me” or, “I’m happy with my decision.” In time, those people will learn to respect your boundaries and be more considerate.

We all seek approval from time to time. But when the need for approval and the fear of causing waves creates anxiety, the wish for approval is detrimental to your self-esteem. When you speak up, set limits, and practice self-care, life will be far more enjoyable.

When we have a free and more relaxed way of being in the world, we don’t need food for comfort, distraction, or for any other reason.

With a little practice, you can free yourself from worrying about what others think. You’ll be glad you did!

For more tips like this, join the Dr. Nina’s “Food for Thought” Facebook community of like-minded people who are escaping from food obsession and guilt and creating a life of freedom, liberation and self-love so they can truly live their best lives.

 The Author


Dr. Nina Savelle-Rocklin is a psychoanalyst, author and radio host specializing in binge eating disorder. She is the author of The Binge Cure: 7 Steps to Outsmart Emotional Eating and Food for Thought: Perspectives on Eating Disorders, and co-editor of Beyond the Primal Addiction. She hosts The Dr. Nina Show radio program on LA Talk Radio.

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