Viktor Sander

How I stopped caring what others think

Let’s talk about how I stopped caring about what others thought of me and how you can apply this in your life.

For me, it started a late night out, now many years ago.

I was just beginning my journey of self-development. I was especially concerned about my lack of experience with girls: I had never even kissed a girl.

I always felt like that was something I had to hide and make sure nobody knew about. I worried a lot what others would think of me if they knew.

But this night was different.

I had been out clubbing with my friends and had to grab something to eat at a local hamburger joint. There was no table available, so I sat down by a middle-aged woman.

We started talking.

I don’t know exactly why, but that night I felt like I just didn’t want to care anymore. I think I was tired of always trying to hide my big shame; my inexperience with girls. So I told her everything about it.

It was as if the shackles weighing me down finally shattered. It’s still one of the most liberating things I’ve ever done.

(By the way, she didn’t really believe me, because how could I seem so confident about it?)

I felt like I was unstoppable. All of that shame and self-consciousness just washed away.

After that night I realized something…

I had been totally honest with who I am to a total stranger, and the world didn’t come crashing down because of it. Quite the opposite – she was one of the first people in my life who’d seen me as confident. Why was I so concerned about hiding it for everyone else?

Here’s what I realized: First when we are okay with others knowing about our insecurities, can we become truly confident with who we are.

This didn’t mean I started telling everyone about my fears and insecurities. (That would just be weird.) But I stopped feeling afraid of being exposed.

If anyone would ask me about my experience with women, it wouldn’t throw me off balance. I knew I could just tell them like it is.

And sure enough, with my newfound confidence, meeting girls soon wasn’t a big issue in my life anymore. Today I have a wonderful girlfriend as of 5 years.


Here’s me and my girlfriend on a recent trip to Thessaloniki, Greece.

How to deal with fear and insecurities

That burger joint experience taught me something fundamental about fear:

Fear feeds on itself. When we avoid it, it becomes stronger. The funny thing is that when we stop running away from our fears, they eventually stop being scary.

When I finally admitted something I thought would destroy me if it came out, I realized that nothing had changed. I was still me. People still liked me, maybe even a bit more because I became more relaxed and authentic.

The first step to stop caring what others think and become more authentic

To become truly confident and stop caring so much about what others think of us, we need to face and deal with our insecurities. As long as we walk around in life afraid of being “exposed”, we can never fully be ourselves: we can never be relaxed and confident in ourselves.

That’s why the first step towards getting an unbreakable confidence is to admit to ourselves what we are insecure about.

We don’t HAVE to let the world know about it, but we need to accept that it’s okay IF the world knows about it.

What’s the worst thing that will happen if your insecurities come true?

That’s not a rhetorical question. I want you to actually try to visualize a worst-case scenario.

It’s healthy to think about because we often realize that even the worst scenarios are quite benign.

Perhaps someone laughs at us. Perhaps people who aren’t our real friends don’t want to hang out. But the world keeps turning, and no one can poke a hole in your surface as your confidence is solid.

This idea is confirmed by the research behind the psychological principle of self-acceptance. Studies have shown that accepting ourselves like this leads to many benefits that boost our confidence.

Here’s a short list of traits shown in studies to improve with self-acceptance:

  • Less fear of failure
  • An increase in self-worth
  • An increase in independence
  • An increase in self-esteem
  • Less desire to win the approval of others
  • Less self-critique and more self-kindness when mistakes occur
  • More desire to live life for one’s self (and not others)
  • The ability to take more risks without worrying about the consequences
  • Feeling freer in life to do what we truly want

Your first mission: Write down something you are afraid or insecure about. By doing that, you are taking the first step towards facing it and becoming more confident in yourself. By writing it down, you also make sure that your fear stops growing and becomes too much to handle.

Bonus mission: After doing the first mission, think about how you can challenge and face your fear. Here are some examples:

Telling someone about something you feel insecure about: It could be applying for a new job, introducing yourself to someone, going to a party, calling a friend/date.

Write it down below in the comments (anonymously is OK) and take your first step. Too often, we think we are alone in our insecurities. If you see someone that shares your fear, reply and let them know they’re not alone.

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Comments (60)

  1. Anonymous

    I am really insecure about my friends making fun of me on my back. I am paranoid that they are discussing about how bad or what a fool I am once I go away. I constantly think that they are doing a prank on me.

    • Viktor Sander

      Have your friends been doing a lot of “pranks” on you or are you just worried? They don’t sound like good friends if they are the reason you feel like that.

  2. Anonymous

    I am insecure about sharing knowledge to my juniors. I fear they will just take in Whatever I have learnt, grow in their careers, surpass me, and keep on enjoying their lives while I toil and spend all my time figuring out how a new concept works and teaching it to them.

  3. Hari

    I have a fear of public speaking..I suddenly start to shiver and my voice starts to crackle.But I do have the will to speak confidently which will hopefully happen one day..

  4. Anon

    I feel like I’m going through life not meeting and connecting with people in public because I’m so afraid of social pressures of what others might think If I compliment them or start a simple conversation

  5. Anonymous

    My biggest insecurity is my insecurity. … i fear that I wont find love, that im going to be stuck in a job that I hate and that i am going to be unhappy because of my lack of confidence in myself and my anxiety around connecting with people

  6. Anonymous

    Being judged by others

    • Anonymous

      Buddy, I feared that too. I fear that still. But I have minimised the scope of fear by choosing to care about being judged only by people who matter.

  7. Anonymous

    I am insecure about my height with the fact that I am only a 5 3 make. In addition, I am insecure of never having even been on a date with a girl in my life as I am a 30 yr old male.

    • Anonymous

      I like short guys …. 🙂

  8. Alan

    I realised recently that being unashamed of my social inexperience, treating anxiety-causing situations as an opportunity to learn something, and being myself is what I should do for my self-esteem. However, I’m anxious about losing friends and making new enemies because of this (I’m still in high school), and I don’t know if I have the capacity to brush them off so easily. I have an unusual physique as well (leaner, toned upper body but with gynecomastia and large, disproportionate legs and thighs), which I’m working on, but at the moment I’m worried it’ll help me become more of a target.

  9. Connor

    I am affraid that people (particularly girls) will find out that I haven’t had sex/any intimate interaction with a girl in over two years. I am affraid they will laugh, I will become the subject of jokes, and all of this will lead to me being even less desirable, because I will seem unwanted and unconfident.

    • Asdfhhjkl

      Well to tell the truth I like guys who are less physical and more real, and ones that are willing to wait for the perfect girl

  10. Anonymous

    A fear of talking to people 1 on 1 who I don’t kno well

    • Connor

      I have this fear too. Something that helps inspire me and worry less is to think about how everyone you ever knew and are close with (including your family) at one time, didn’t know you well. It is typically through gradual interactions and conversation that strangers become our close friends. That being said starting light is definitely good! Small talk about the weather, or a comment about something going on in he environment your in with them is a good way to start. Then you can try to use those “micro conversations” to try and open up to more interesting dialogue and find similarities that you both have. One way to make a person like you/like talking to you is to make them feel important (not in a groveling way, but just that you are genuinely interested in them). One way to make this happen is to ask open ended questions to them. I.e. you are waiting for the bus and you ask a stranger if they know when the next bus is coming. They tell you, and you can make some comment like “it’s nice that buses come so frequently in this city” (or critique the bus time). They might only give you a simple nod or one word answer, but that progresses the dialogue to a point where you can ask something like “are you from this city?”. They might be taken back for the first second or two, because we are so used to not talking to strangers in our society, but they will likely respond, and be glad you asked! People like to talk about themselves and they like to feel important. You can easily follow up their answers with more open ended ones like “what’s it like being from?” Or “what made you move?”

  11. Chanuth

    I have a fear of talking to people 1 on 1 as I feel like I’m constantly being judged by them. I wish I could act the same way I would if I was at home or by myself to show them I’m a very enthusiastic and funny person.

  12. Jacob B.

    One of the biggest fears I’ve had in recent years is that if I were to start dating, my partner could, at some point, start cheating on me for many possible reasons (sometimes, I feel like a person who could easily get cheated on in a relationship). It could be that I’m not “attractive enough” for them to want to stick with me in a romantic way, possibly because they’re spoiled, or just careless about how their actions affect others. This has often led me to take extreme caution when deciding to go into a romantic relationship with someone, considering the red flags that could indicate an abusive relationahip. Another possible reason is that I’m not really giving them the attention or affection that they desire in a romantic partner; this might be because I’m asocial or don’t really have much of an interest in romance (which isn’t really the case anymore, since I feel a lot more social now that my mood has imoroved). Because of this fear, I’ve been feeling very proactive about improving my appearance, so that people feel more comfortable around me. That’s why I’ve sought the help of a wardrobe consultant, for example. Deep down inside, I want to look good and develop better hygiene, and it doesn’t hurt to up one’s appearance, as long it’s safe, right?

    • Viktor Sander

      Hi Jacob, I think it’s great that you are taking more care of your appearance. It reflects that you are also taking more care of yourself on an inner level.

  13. Anonymous

    I feel insecure whenever I am in public and someone looks at me. I feel like I have to keep a straight face and look cool instead of being myself.

  14. Kayla

    I’m the most insecure in socializing. I tend to like my space, but sometimes, if I want to hangout with my friends, I freeze up in how I should ask them. I’m about to start my Junior Year in College and I would like to increase my social being where I can easily talk to people and get comfortable around others instead of making small talk all the time. I tend to not open up to the opposite sex because I don’t want to be needy or lose my independence even though they told me plenty of times, that they like hearing from me. Overall, I think I’m the most insecure when I overthink what would be others’ reactions if I express my feelings towards them which is hard and I don’t wanna be a burden and get hurt by people who don’t care.

    • Viktor Sander

      You are so strong for sharing. I admire that kind of self-awareness you seem to have. With that awareness, how do you feel about gradually challenging your fears? Maybe try giving a friend a genuine compliment, or opening up about something small to them.

  15. Anonymous

    I feel really insecure about being perceived as boring and/or stupid, especially when socializing with my similarly aged peers. I feel like I have nothing original to contribute, only some rehashed and possibly incorrectly understood thoughts of other people that I’ve come across online or in books.

    It’s made a lot worse because of my ocd, which sometimes makes it almost impossible to stay in the moment and instead forces me to ruminate and worry about the past or the future. As a result I’m engaging in a lot of avoidance behaviours and can stress about future interactions already days before.

    • Viktor Sander

      I actually think you sound like a very interesting person to have a discussion with. Nobody’s thoughts are fully original, being aware of our own biases like you are can make for very interesting conversations.

    • Anonymous

      same actually, but what i have learnt is that you have to stop thinking that “oh im so boring” “i have nothing to say” . actually, what makes people interested in you is when you listen to others first and when others feel that you are a good listener. no one likes a chatter box, and this could be good if you’re shy in sharing abt yourself ! when you listen to others, you will know what they are interested in and it will be easier for you to find common topics with them! good luck!

  16. Anonymous

    I feel really insecure about being perceived as boring or stupid, especially when communicating with my similarly aged peers. Often I feel like I have no personality and nothing original to share and am only re-distributing some elses thoughts. Mainly what I’ve read online or in books. This is probably partly due to the fact that I don’t end up doing much of anything interesting because of the anxieties related to socializing.

    Often this insecurity leads to overcompenstation where I try too hard (to be interesting) and I feel like a fraud afterwards.

  17. L

    I feel really insecure and stressed about what to study.. I’m 21 and have been going on and off programmes now for three years and am really indecisive.. and now I’m way more stressed and insecure because many of my friends are just about to graduate. So when I start studying they will be way into their careers.
    I initially wanted to do graphic design and commercial film but have a feeling like I could do something more intelligent.. I’m interested in psychology but feel like it wouldn’t be creative enough.. I want to be successful and unique so badly but I just see everyone running past me because I can’t make my mind up. So you hear, full of comparing myself and fear of failure. It stresses me out and have a hard time knowing how to deal with it. Any tips?

    • Viktor Sander

      I started college when I was 18, but I regret I didn’t wait longer to decide. If I had some more perspective and real-life experience first, I know I would have been more motivated and successful in the end. So I would say it might not be such a big rush as you think. Even if it depends on your life circumstances.

  18. Carl

    I’m afraid of rejection, so much so that it prevents me from taking action. I’m afraid of being alone and will often tolerate inexcusable behaviour to avoid the possibility of people not wanting to be around me 🙁

  19. Anonymous

    I’m scared of being left alone, I feel if I’ll let everyone know me completely they will go away because I’m boring.

  20. Anonymous

    Hi it is weird though that I’m afraid of my daughter. Its not her fault it’s me. Because I don’t know what to talk much. I’m a housewife. I don’t go out and mix with people much. I’m not that intelligent or clever and confident kind. Whenever she wants to talk i just lost my tongue and she gets upset. She is a nice and intelligent person. Its me I’m worried about. Please help me. What should I do about it?

    • Anonymous

      Hi,
      I had to comment on this because I’ve had a similar relationship to my dad. But first of all, as you may be aware of, I think you have a misconception about yourself 🙂 1. A person who’s actually able to admit to their insecurities and reflect on who they are, are intelligent people and usually kind. 2. The fact that your daughter have those traits you mention must mean she learnt them from the people who raised her, and I assume you were one of them.
      If I were you I would probably try to let her know how you feel and want to better the situation. Perhaps you can ask her if she wants to do something with you one day, something you both would enjoy. Maybe you don’t have to do all the talking but you can be a good listener, everyone would like to have someone like that! I think it’s good to see the best in your children, but don’t idealise them. Practice seeing yourself as equal to them. The relationship with your children are one of the most important ones so take care of it by taking care of how you think about yourself in a mature way, I believe you can do it! Kind regards Olivia

  21. Daniel

    I am afraid of passing by and chatting with groups or trying to join conversations. I just get quiet and they look at me and each other, probably wondering what to do

    • Anonymous

      I too fear that, I want to talk to people but it’s just difficult to approach them

  22. Chris

    Things I am afraid or insecure about:

    – At school, I have a few friends in every class but I’m not part of a ‘cool’ group. So, I don’t get invited to things like parties. So I’m afraid that people might think I’m not cool and a loser.
    – When talking with people I’m not close to yet, I’m insecure that I might be too boring
    – Especially in group conversations, I’m worried that what I have to say isn’t good or ‘cool’ enough
    – People talking crap about me

  23. Anonymous

    Whenever I say something and my friend doesn’t react much I worry that they find me boring and awkward to be with. I also feel insecure about my friends and whether they will leave me most of the time.

  24. Katie

    I’m insecure about being into personal development and healthy living as I’m afraid my partner (and others) will judge the things that I read and do (for example, using affirmations). I constantly feel the need to hide this interest from him.

  25. Matilda

    I’m insecure about not sounding smart enough sometimes I forget the words I want to say because of my anxiety and overthinking. I feel like I loose track of what I was going to say and sometimes find myself cutting it short because I get so nervous

  26. Girl27

    Hey,

    I have a lot of fears but one of the biggest is when I have lunch at work with other colleagues and someone asks me a question or when I want to say something that will get people to look at me. In these kind of situations I instantly start blushing and since I’m aware of that it even gets worse.

    • David Morin

      Thank you for sharing!

      A little tip, try to just roll with it, it’s OK to blush. Most people actually think it’s kind of cute. When you let go of trying to control it or hide it, it will also stop being such a big issue. Hope that helps!

  27. AN

    I’m insecure about my insecurity (weird). The biggest part of my anxiety is that I’m self-conscious of people seeing how anxious I am. How much of a “weak loser” I am, how scared and desperate I am for them to like me and how I absolutely know that they don’t or won’t. My self-image is low and I know other people know that my self-image is low, so then the downward spiraling feedback loop begins. I see myself acting as if I WAS inferior and unlikable and hated almost compulsively which of-course puts people off. I end up getting really paranoid about this. I see it as if it’s a Gollum-like self that I can’t help but turn into when I’m around other people, made up of how I see myself and how I think others see me. I might be insane! And I’m insecure about that.

    • Viktor Sander

      You are so brave for sharing and looking at your own insecurities AN. I think you’d be surprised at how many people are insecure about their insecurity, I think that’s probably one of the most “normal” and common insecurities out there. It’s good that you already have so much self-insight on your destructive behaviors, that helps a lot in trying to improve them.

  28. Wow this is good. I remember reading somewhere, feature your insecurities until they become your strengths. So you don’t let them rule you anymore.

    Alright, but let me join the fray as well.

    I am insecure about failing to live up to my potential. That I will try to little to be good in life. Maybe I should forgive myself more for necessarily achieving arbitrary images of perfection.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thank you Timon and thanks for opening up!

      I think your plan on being more forgiving and compassionate towards yourself sounds AWESOME. Self-compassion and acceptance are probably two of the most powerful concepts out there to start living life more fully, in my opinion.

  29. Anon

    I’m afraid of letting loose and dancing in social/club/party type events with people that I know. It feels really awkward to me and I stand there as if I’m the only one noticing how strange everyone looks. I think this still happens even when I like the music that is playing. In the end, I don’t have as much fun as other people do and that bothers me. I’m also very afraid of karaoke. I wonder how people are able to sing badly in front of their friends without caring and still have a grand old time.

    • Viktor Sander

      Hey Anon, brave of you to open up about your fears! I can definitely see what you’re saying, I felt just the same dancing at clubs when I was younger. But then over time I got used to it and could start relaxing and having fun, just by doing it a LOT. It helps if you practice on focusing outwards, so you don’t get stuck in your head. Same thing with Karaoke, it’s about focusing outwards and just having fun with your friends. Laugh together with them at how bad you ALL are. You don’t need to be perfect, it’s often, even more, fun if you are BAD. Easier said than done, but here’s a video where we explain the concept of focusing outwards better: https://socialpronow.com/is-it-possible-to-double-your-confidence-in-5-minutes/

    • Anon

      I have the same fear. Sometimes my friends will start dancing or singing to music, and I’m always too scared to join in; even if I know them well. I end up awkwardly standing there like you said. If it is one on one I can sometimes muster up the courage to dance, but it is very hard for me to do in group situations, like homecoming or a party. However, my friends did convince me to dance recently at a party; I did’n’t move around quite as much as them, but it was a big improvement. If we face our fears a little at a time I believe we really can conquer them. I still am scared of dancing and singing in front of people, but I have made progress.

  30. Barbi

    I’m really afraid of never making close friends. I started university a month ago, and I thought that by now I would have at least one person I could invite to go see a movie, or have coffee with. There are some people I talk to on a daily basis, but mostly about university stuff, and I feel like I can’t really connect with anybody, while others act like they are best friends already, so I’m scared of never finding a real friend.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thanks for sharing Barbi. Have you considered just probing a little if anyone wants to go see “name the latest movie”? There are also usually different societies/clubs to join in most universities, that’s a good place to start making friends too. There are so many just like you who wants new friends, especially at university, but many are too shy to take initiative.

  31. AC

    Hi, I’m insecure about how I look. Not just my face, but my body, my clothes, and my hair. I’m worried if I don’t wear the right clothes, I’ll get made fun of for having an odd fashion, if I have the wrong facial expression, that I’ll get called retarted or ugly, if I don’t wear makeup, then I’ll get called ugly and everyone in school will know how disgusting my face is without it. I’m even insecure about the makeup I wear. I’m insecure about not being able to go out in public and feel comfortable without makeup, I don’t want to wear makeup all the time, but if I don’t, then I’m very uncomfortable and I don’t function right. I’m insecure about my hair, I’m worried if it doesn’t look flawless, that I’ll look ‘ugly.’ I’m insecure about the type of guy I like. When I told my best friend about him, he was disgusted. I know the guy I like isn’t as ‘pretty’ as everyone else is most people’s eyes, but I like him for who he is. But that situation made me realize how messed up everyone is. They think you need to be pretty to be worthy of being liked. And this is most likely the reason behind my insecurities. I’m also insecure about starting a conversation with the peers around me. I’m just fine with random strangers in he street, but I have an issue with my fellow classmates…

    • Viktor Sander

      Thank you for sharing AC. I was just reading up on body image when I was researching for our new program. I found an amazing book that has given many people in your situations very good results, it’s called “The Body Image Workbook: An Eight-Step Program for Learning to Like Your Looks” by Ph.D. Thomas Cash. I highly recommend it.

    • J

      I have be literally the EXACT same insecurities. This world is ruled by external beauty and the moment they see a pretty face dating someone snot as good looking, they judge. Hardcore. “She doesn’t deserve him.” Why, you ask? “Have you seen him? He’s way more good looking…”
      Or, “Dude for YOU, he’s way, way too far good looking” (That happened to me haha *le cri*)

      Worst part, you cannot even say anything back to that. They always happen to have something to shut you up.

      And speaking of classmates. In the past few years, I have developed this fear of being judged by them. I was convinced that I was introverted and socially inept, since I couldn’t hold a conversation with anyone in my class (except a couple of my closest friends). Worst case scenario, because of this strong belief, I started to get intimidated by almost everyone in my grade.

      Since then I started observing myself. I learned a weird thing about me, I was comfortable and confident around absolute strangers, but when it came to people of my age, more specifically my grade, I was petrified.

      I just wanted to say, you’re not alone. At all.

  32. C

    I’m insecure about the fact that I am 34 and never been in a relationship…in my teenage years I was very shy and lacking in confidence and withdrew from social things. I have since gone through life hoping for things to happen but never got anywhere. It’s difficult because although I sense my friends know this about me, it is something I feel terrible about and also it makes finding someone all the more difficult because I think they will reject me for it. I have kept hoping something will happen and I will meet someone great, but as yet it hasn’t happened despite the fact that I am unrecognisable in terms of confidence to who I was years ago. These days I feel like my opportunities to meet someone are also very limited. People say to me all the time that they don’t understand why I am single, but I can’t answer that question…but my insecurities around it are certainly a part of it.

    • Viktor Sander

      You are so brave for sharing C, I think you’d be surprised to know how many shares your situation. I hope someone else reads this and lets you know you’re not alone. And there is definitely always hope, no matter your age. Most people who are looking for a relationship don’t care that much about your experience because it doesn’t matter in the long run.

  33. M

    I am very insecure about my position in terms of popularity in my school. I used to be quite popular but something happened and that made me distant from the rest of my grade. So now I am insecure about being a ‘loser’ by my definition and not having any friends (although now that 3 years have passed from the incident, I have a few friends). I am also insecure about starting and maintaining conversations; i am afraid that people might think im boring and validate my ‘loser’ status. Because of this i am very scared to talk and share my opinions, which in return make me look very ignorant. Thank you and have a great day!

    • Viktor Sander

      Great job sharing M. It’s so good to be aware of these issues like you are, because now you can see the pattern this creates and how it affects your behavior. Can you see how this becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy? Where you are afraid others will find you boring, so you don’t talk as much, which actually makes you even more boring. Now that you are aware of this, you can start working on breaking this pattern. Best of luck!

  34. Anonymous

    Hi, I am afraid to srike up a conversation with others

  35. Mateen

    I’m very insecure about going to my job interview. The thought of it is freaking me out. I am doing negative things as a result, like procrastinating when I could have been preparing for the interview. Also insecure if I don’t get the job or do well on the interview, what my parents, family, and others will think about me. These thoughts scare me. I’m scared of a lot of things. Anyhow. That felt really good. I was also scared to tell u it feels good, even though you probably don’t know me, just because it makes me sound cheesy. Anyhow, have a good day.

    • Viktor Sander

      Thank you so much for sharing Mateen, that’s so brave of you to share and a great first step! The harder and scarier it feels, the better it usually is to do it when it comes to facing our fears.