People Aren’t Thinking About You

Using the narcissism of others to your advantage

  • Justin Zoradi
People Aren’t Thinking About You

There is a funny cartoon of a group of people mingling at a party. Above each of their heads is a thought bubble that reads, “I wonder what they are thinking of me?”

This silly cartoon sheds light on the fact that, for the most part, people aren’t thinking about you. They are thinking about themselves.

This is frustrating, but it should also be liberating.

We all know humans can be quite narcissistic and self-serving. But the narcissism of others gives you license to take great risk and then fail miserably.

Because when you fail, there is a high likelihood that most people aren’t even paying attention. (Click to Tweet!)

Most of us spend tremendous effort trying to avoid even the possibility of failure. I know I do. We are worried about missing the mark because we fear what people will think of us. This forces us to play it safe, limiting ourselves to the things we already do well.

But the truth is, people aren’t really thinking about you, at least not in the way you think they are.

Most likely, people trust you a lot more than you trust yourself. They think you are far more resilient than you actually may be.

This is a license to be bold.

Once you free yourself from constantly trying to impress others and embrace the possibility of failure - the suffocating walls of self-doubt will erode around you.

While it’s hard to accept, no one will ever care about your interests and projects in the way that you do. Use this to your advantage. Take risks, fail big, rinse and repeat.

Remember: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." - Robert F. Kennedy

Are you scared to fail? Worried what people will think? Discuss in the comments below.


Photo Credit: Jason Jones, Creative Commons

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Comments (32)

  • Chris Cameron

    Chris Cameron

    05 February 2013 at 15:34 |
    Justin, Really good article. Short, sweet, to the point - and it is a really good point. I'm going to speak to the CA Fish and Wildlife Commission on Wednesday about falconry regulations, and as I was preparing my talk, I was thinking just that..."what are they going to think about me?!" Your article reminded me that they really don't care, which will help me do a better job. In fact, putting in notes about how "I appreciate them doing their job" will help them "hear" my points even better...because, they are really thinking about themselves and how I view them!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:09 |
      Thanks Chris!

      You're right, the folks at the Fish and Wildlife Commission probably aren't thinking about you. This gives you the ability to be bold & confident. You'll rock it!
  • David Sanford

    David Sanford

    05 February 2013 at 16:08 |
    Imagine how bold, courageous, and fearless we could be if each of us believed what you've just shared.

    The incredible truth is even the most successful people wrestle mightily with fear. When it comes to the five most crippling professional fears, all but the first deals with what other people MIGHT think (if they were thinking about us).

    Those five professional fears are:
    1. The fear of silence.
    2. The fear of sharing.
    3. The fear of selling.
    4. The twin fears of rejection and failure.
    5. The fear of success.

    Thanks for the great reminder...
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:09 |
      Love this. Thanks David! The 5 professional fears are fascinating.
  • Phil Long

    Phil Long

    05 February 2013 at 16:46 |
    I have learned to remember the 20/40/60 Rule.
    When you are 20 you worry about what others think about you.
    When you are 40 you don't care what others think about you anymore.
    When you are 60 you realize nobody was thinking about you at all.
    I'm sure this serves some constructive purpose...
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:10 |
      Phil. Wow. the 20/40/60 rule is immense. Hadn't heard that before. Thanks for sharing!
  • Marije


    05 February 2013 at 17:15 |
    Dear Justin,
    Thanks for a great blog. It's a relief to realize that we all struggle with the same issues, more or less.
    I agree with you that we all tend to pay the most attention to ourselves. However, if you're betting that they're not looking at you, you may be in for a nasty surprise. For we also love to criticize others (to make ourselves look better)... So - it's perfectly possible that at some point we do get unwanted and perhaps even unfair attention. And then what...
    Can I make a suggestion? I'm trying to learn to accept (rather uphill work, I admit) that I may not always get what I want from others, or from myself for that matter, so I can give up that part of the fight and use my energy at simply living the best life that I possibly can. For my own sake, and for others. Because this doesn't mean disregarding other people! Learning to accept is tricky, it's a bit of a paradox; here's a nice anecdote about what acceptance is - and what it is not: http://not-a-psychiatrist.blogspot.nl/2012/09/anecdote-jon-kabat-zinn.html

    Best wishes, Marije
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:11 |
      Thanks for reading Marije! Appreciate your suggestion. You're right, people do like to criticize others. No doubt about that.
  • Tim


    05 February 2013 at 17:46 |
    interesting post, Justin! I tend to have issues with either self-doubt, a lack of self-assurance, or perhaps both. And indeed it is tough to internalize the fact that no one can (and should!) care more about your interests and activities than you, as obvious as it sounds..
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:11 |
      Thanks for reading Tim!
  • Celeste


    05 February 2013 at 18:35 |
    You reminded me of something that happened years ago...back when roler skating was the thing.
    I didn't skate because I felt I was no good at it. When a friend asked me why and I gave my answer he responded with, " look around you, no one is thinking about you, they are just having fun"
    Good point which I obviously recall to this day but...old habits die hard. I like to think I am better than I was back then but then I still fight those dragons of fear and self-doubt.
    Really liked the comment about the 20/40/60 rule
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 19:12 |
      What a great story Celeste. Your friend was totally right.

      The 20/40/60 rule is awesome eh?
  • Larry J Rutledge

    Larry J Rutledge

    05 February 2013 at 19:26 |
    I think this is why there are so many scriptures that talk about dying to self. Because if we can ever learn to die to ourself, to truly respond as though we were dead, we would cease to struggle with this fear.

    Its funny to me when I think about it, but while I know in my head how amazing God truly is and how far above anyone and anything He is; my heart still worries far more about what the stranger next to me thinks of me than what God thinks of me.

    And while that is rather embarrassing to admit I think it is the truth for many of us. Its not that we don't love God nor that we don't care about what He thinks about us; instead I think it is that tangible element of that stranger is right here, I can see them, hear them, feel them and God is not tangible, in that we see, hear and feel Him only by faith.

    And that takes me back to where I started, in that I believe this is why so many scriptures talk about dying to self. We have to learn to overcome our natural tendencies and reactions and instead live true to the faith we pursue.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      05 February 2013 at 20:57 |
      Thanks for sharing Larry! Insightful stuff.
  • Marc Alan Schelske

    Marc Alan Schelske

    05 February 2013 at 23:44 |
    Love it.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      06 February 2013 at 02:05 |
      Thanks for reading Marc!
  • Eugene


    06 February 2013 at 17:28 |
    of learning. The reason "old folks" are branaded "old wise men" is because of one Awesome article. Life is a continuous journey thing...."Experience". Everything that was mentioned in your article has to happen for us to learn the true wisdom of living peacefully. Life is a process... (ask Uncle Sonny, he knows what I'm talking about). We all have to go through a series of learning steps. Those that pay attention becomes happy in life later, those that don't will fail miserably. Surprisingly enough, it's what you perceive as other think of you that sometimes (negatively or positively) impact your actions.
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      06 February 2013 at 20:21 |
      Thanks for reading Uncle Eugene!
  • Eugene


    06 February 2013 at 17:33 |
    Oppps, something went wrong with my initial comment... here's how it's supposed to be: Awesome article Justin! Here's my thoughts on this issue: Life is a continuous journey of learning. The reason "old folks" are branded "old wise men" is because of one thing..."Experience".
  • Lauren


    06 February 2013 at 18:48 |
    I like this a lot. I think that there's more to fearing failure than just worrying what others think about us. I think we don't take risks because we do not know how--that require creative thinking, rather than just resorting to looking at the achievable. I think we have educated ourselves out of creativity. I'm sure you've seen the Sir Ken Robinson TED talk on it, but if you haven't: http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity.html
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      06 February 2013 at 20:21 |
      Brilliant. Thanks Lauren. Appreciate your comments.
  • Jill


    10 February 2013 at 13:47 |
    Great post, Justin!
    This has been the most common theme in my life since I was a little girl: caring what others are thinking of me.
    As of the last 3 years, I have been on a journey with God to be free of this. It is a huge time/life waste and it's amazing to be in the process of liberation of it.
    Thank you for your encouraging post!
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      11 February 2013 at 00:45 |
      Thanks for reading Jill!
  • racheal


    28 February 2013 at 22:11 |
    A great piece of truth to shift a perspective just enough to keep pressing on when discouragement creeps in. Thanks. :)
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      01 March 2013 at 01:02 |
      Thanks for reading!
  • Warren Baldwin

    Warren Baldwin

    16 May 2013 at 15:40 |
    Linked here from Don's blog. Liked the article you wrote there.

    Your articles are insightful and thought-provoking. Really enjoyed this one. I think it is true that other people aren't as concerned about our success/failure as we obsess over. That is all in our head. Do we write other people off when they fail? Generally, no. So, they won't do that to us, either. Freeing thought.

    Just added your blog to my feed.


    Note: don't know why, but the box for the web site wouldn't accept my blog address: http://www.warrenbaldwin.blogspot.com/
    • Justin Zoradi

      Justin Zoradi

      17 May 2013 at 18:32 |
      Thanks for reading Warren! Appreciate it. Glad you found me through Don's blog too. And yes, it is a freeing thought. I think we all fail to realize just how little other people are thinking about us.
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