Courage Part 2: What Will Others Think? Approval Addiction and People Pleasing

When I was growing up, my mother would always say, “what will people think?” It would drive me bananas, I would say, “who cares what they think?”

Some of us spend a lot of time caring about what other people think of us, and what we are doing; many of these people are either casual acquaintances or strangers. Worrying about what others think affects our ability to be courageous, to step out of our comfort zone, pursue those things that make us better, and become the leaders we want to be.

Should business leaders care what people think?

Well… maybe

Great leaders are guided by their core values and personal philosophy. These values act as an internal compass to guide their actions.

Leaders will listen to opinions, but they use experience and judgment to determine whether there is a fit with their direction, and the advice or opinion they are given.

The customers who are the hardest to please, will provide the most helpful feedback to help leaders see their blind spots and dangers ahead.

Leaders take the advice of mentors or coaches to help them achieve their goals.

Leaders who have similar values to you and have had success in achieving what you are trying to achieve, add value to your course of action. They can help guide you when you face challenges and can provide advice to overcome the problem.

What about the rest of us who aren’t business leaders?

The answer is no different, know your core values and personal philosophy and apply them in the same way as business leaders do.

The topic of people pleasing, approval addiction and what others think about us comes up a lot. This is most noticeable in the social media sphere where we are addicted to likes. But why?

We get a dopamine rush when we get likes on social media. With more and more likes, more dopamine is released, there is more rush and so it goes. Dopamine makes us seek pleasure.

Do others really care what we are doing?


They care about what they are doing and wonder if you like them!

When does opinion matter?

It depends on whose opinion you are seeking, how important that person is in your life and what you want them to care about. In general, the opinion of strangers should not matter very much. You may want to consider the following hierarchy of opinions that should matter

  • immediate family: spouses, children, and parents
  • bosses and close friends (should matter a lot, although not as much as family)
  • colleagues and neighbors (should matter somewhat less)
  • acquaintances (should not matter very much)
  • people you encounter in the street or casually at a party (should not matter at all)

Opinion matters if your reputation is at risk of damage, for example if you have been falsely accused of a crime because it can affect you and your family directly. But if is superficial like your hair or clothes, then shake off and move on, it doesn’t matter what they think, and you shouldn’t care.

It’s a fact that some people won’t like you no matter what you say or do. Don’t waste your time on them and find those that appreciate you for who you are.

The truth is, what other people think about us is none of our business. Their opinions have nothing to do with you, and everything to do with themselves, their past, their judgments, their expectations, their likes, and their dislikes.


I wish I could honestly say that I don’t care what people think, but I do more than I want to. I don’t know why. The truth is, we all care about what others think at different times. The trick is to know when it matters and when it doesn’t. Here are some tips that I am following that may help if this is you:

Think about what your core values are and what your personal philosophy is. Use them to guide you about whether someone’s opinion matters.

Be aware of your shortcomings. These can be blind spots that can prevent you from growing. Leaders need to know all of their biases and weaknesses. It’s important information to have, and it’s not always easy to get this feedback from others. It is equally hard for others to offer genuine feedback.

I’ve heard from leaders that they have had to grow thick skin. In other words, they have had to harden themselves to some opinions. Leaders must make tough decisions that will not make some people happy. As a result, leaders will stick to their principles and know that it doesn’t matter if they are liked or not, because it could hurt their progress in achieving their goals.

Sometimes opinions change. When new information presents itself, it may cause someone to change their opinion of you. What someone likes now, may be different in three months.

Have a trusted group of advisors – they are your coaches. They don’t always tell you what you want to hear, but they tell you what you need to hear.  They will help course correct, to make sure you are headed in the right direction. These coaches can help you in your professional or personal life. Think about the challenges you’ve recently handled and the ones you’ll soon face. How did you do? What went right? What can you improve and how would you do it differently?

And for that difficult opinion – take a pause. Before you act irrationally, sit with the thought, idea, frustration or opinion for about 24 hours and see how you feel then. Chances are that the thought or opinion won’t be as burning an issue as it was 24 hours previously. When you have a clear head and are not thinking emotionally, you can decide whether it needs action and what kind of action. You can decide to let it go; or you can re – frame your thought. I have found that by asking questions, and actively listening, I can learn something new or understand better – if I remain calm and curious.

Hardening oneself from the opinions of others takes work.

If they are in the bleacher seats and not in the arena, their opinion doesn’t matter.”


Published by Diane Allen

Hi there, my name is Diane and welcome to my blog site! Leadership mindset is the mindset that embraces, vision, courage and action.

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