If you often feel stressed, anxious or resentful it’s probably a sign that you care too much about other people’s judgements of you. Because you care, you find yourself keeping quiet about your true feelings, doing things you really don’t want to do and imagining that other people are (or might easily be) upset with you.

It’s exhausting to live like this, though many, many of us do, including me at one time.

Shoulds and oughts

A key giveaway is that you talk or think a lot about what you ‘should’ or ‘ought to’ be doing. These words are a clue that these ideas and beliefs are not really yours. In fact, ever since you were little you have been internalising other people’s values and beliefs (which they in turn internalised from their parents and significant others).

For example, when I was growing up, a key message in my family was that I should never be selfish. Now, that’s actually not a terrible message. Sharing and being generous is a great way to live. However, what I internalised was that I should always put myself last, and that it was somehow good for me to suffer if it meant other people got what they needed, or wanted. This wasn’t such a good message because it meant that I allowed truly selfish people to take advantage of me, while I felt angry, resentful and victimy.

The authentic ‘you’.

None of this, either being ‘virtuously’ selfless, or the resulting resentfulness, was actually the real or authentic me. How do I know? Because none of it made me feel good.

When we are fully connected to our authentic self, our inner knowing, we know it’s right because we feel peaceful, alive, even joyful. It can take a bit of practice to recognise it, like developing a muscle you didn’t even know you had, but the more often you do it, the easier it is – and the less connected you become to your false identity (what I like to call the Inner Troll) -those parts that aren’t really you, that make you feel stressed, anxious and resentful.

Whenever you notice that little voice in your head, telling you that you are stupid, or selfish, or that people don’t like you, ask yourself, who is noticing that voice? The ‘you’ that is noticing that voice is the authentic you; the little voice is not really you at all. So stop believing every word it says.

Every time the authentic you notices that little voice it becomes less powerful. So don’t give yourself a hard time for listening to your Inner Troll (it LOVES it when you do that!). Instead, congratulate yourself on noticing it, and just don’t take anything it says too seriously.

Over time, your Troll will become less and less powerful, as you get wise to its ways, and you will feel more and more connected with your authentic self, rather than worrying too much about what you imagine other people’s judgements might be. As Bette Davis once said, ‘What other people think of me is none of my business.’