Sometimes, we do things differently when others are around because we’re worried about what they think.

Sometimes, we’re so worried about cracking, or making a bad sound that we’re not really able to think about the music that we’ve worked so hard on and we absolutely love.

In this blog post, I discuss people-pleasing and caring too much about what other people think. And what you can do to manage your people-pleasing tendencies.

If you’d rather listen instead of reading, check out the podcast version below! There’s also a video version on YouTube found below:

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Hey everybody! It’s Chelsea Melcher here with Red School of Music. Today I wanted to talk to you about how to stop caring about what other people think.

So if you don’t know me, my name is Chelsea. My husband Paul and I have a music school, the RED School of Music, together. And I’m also an active performer; I’ve done various operas musical theater concert works, recordings… all of the like.

And so I definitely know the struggle of what it means when you care about what other people think. Especially too much, right? It can really get in the way.

My Struggle with People-Pleasing

I’ve really struggled with people-pleasing and caring about what others think. I’ve worked through it as well (and i’m still working through it). I’ve done a lot of work into this and so this is my journey as someone that cares about what other people think.

I’ve always been a people-pleaser type of personality. And so in that, I’ve often found myself in different situations—whether they were music-related, like performing, or they were socially-related or business-related. It rears its head where I really take to heart what other people think to the point where it’s probably to a fault.

So in my singing, sometimes I’ve done auditions where I was so up in my head about who was listening, what they thought. What did they think about this, what did they think about the rep that I’m singing… to the point where it really affected my audition.

And I wasn’t really able to enjoy it. I wasn’t able to actually think about the music that I was singing. I was just caring about what they were thinking instead.

And sometimes in social situations, I’m a very non-confrontational person. So there have been some times where this fear will creep in where there might be something where I disagree, or I feel like I want to say something.

But then all of a sudden, there is a fear of disrupting the peace, or the fear of making someone unhappy with me… that all of a sudden, it feels there’s something inside of me that can often shut down.

Who are the People-Pleasers?

This is for you if maybe:

  • You feel like there are certain things where you do things differently in front of other people.
  • You’re worried about taking a chance on stage, in your music, or in your lessons.
  • You’re worried about people that are listening and what they are thinking in that moment.

This is for you. If you’re interested in more self-help resources in managing people-pleasing and caring too much about what other people think, I have a free five-step checklist that you can look through and use as a guide that delves even deeper.

And so this is something where you can be worried about judgment as well. It’s kind of this trap that you can get involved in.

I see this with students a lot where they will be at our studio, and there are other people that can hear outside the door.

You can tell that all of a sudden, all these thoughts like, “Well, what are these people thinking?”

And so this happens a lot.

Right now, I’m feeding Molly, so I’m teaching a bit outside from my garage. And so I’ll have students where there will be cars that are passing and then they’re looking like oh my gosh who’s watching me as I sing?

I’ll just be going for it and trying to encourage them to do the same thing. And so that’s been some of my journey with caring about what other people think and doing all of that.

And so I have five tips to help with stopping to care about what other people think.

How to Stop Caring About What Other People Think

Step Number 1: Where is it coming from?

Ask yourself… where is this coming from?

Most of the time, when we’re concerned about something, we can go back and think about our childhood, any situation that may have happened in our childhood.

(Not that everyone’s childhood is traumatic per se—there are definitely traumatic childhoods.)

But there are some things that we’ll experience in our childhood that are traumatic to us.

Our brains are not cognitively developed in the same way that they are as adults. And so sometimes there is something. You think about the phrase “children crying over spilt milk,” it’s the same sort of thing where it’s like “Oh no, it’s no big problem, it’s no big deal,”

But then to you as a child, it’s a really big deal. And it can deeply affect you and deeply affect the personality that you have for the rest of your life.

And so in thinking about that, in a performance aspect, maybe you had a similar situation.

For me, I would wait for the applause. As a young child and you’re performing in things, you wait for the applause after the performance to know that only then does that mean you did a good job. Or there’s people coming up to say good job to me, so that means I did a good job.

And today, there will be so many times where I’ll do a performance, but no one that I know is there. And maybe I’m not seeing people afterwards or I’m not able to see people afterwards, so there’s nothing to judge of what do people think. I don’t know.

And so it’s one of those things where I have to trust but that’s one of my personal experiences as a performer of where this came from.

Another thing is this feeling of needing to please. Needing to make sure everyone’s happy. Where is that coming from?

For me, I had some work done about this. And I figured out that it was probably from my childhood with my older sister growing up. I have an amazing older sister, she’s one of my best friends and she’s incredible.

In growing up, if you have sisters, you know. Sisters can be amazing and sometimes, they can fight. They can be catty, they can be brutal in a way.

And I never had a traumatic experience with my sister… but she’s my older sister. I’ve always looked up to her and wanted to please her. Always wanted to make her happy.

There’s some connection for me in making sure,  “Oh my gosh, I have to make sure that my sister is happy.” And so that’s where my people-pleasing comes from.

There have been certain situations where i stayed silent in order to keep the peace, or things like that.

And so in doing that, and in going back into your past… what it does is it helps you put a label on it. So instead of this thing that you’re struggling with, that you just keep struggling with, you’re able to say,

“Oh okay, this is where this came from. And yes it was traumatic to me at the time, but that doesn’t mean that it still has to be traumatic to me now.”

It kind of helps you realize it when you put a label and say, “Okay, this is what this thing is, and this is where it came from.”

And just like that, it lessens its power on you when you do that. That has definitely helped me in figuring out where this need to please and make everyone happy is coming from, especially if I’m performing or onstage.

Step Number 2: Where is the Source?

The second tip is to consider the source. So this is a tricky one.

Is this coming from a certain family member?

Is this coming from a friend?

Is this coming from a company?

If you’re a student and you are really worried about what other people are thinking, you’re worried about taking risks and in your singing, you can think about what are you worried about.

You’re probably worried about somebody—a certain person—maybe this is a friend. And maybe this friend had said something bad to you in the past. So maybe for you, you’re like,

“Oh, that’s my source. This is where this is coming from in the first place.”

“I had a friend that said something negative to me.”

“I was singing and I was feeling totally great about singing in my past, and then all of a sudden one of my friends said… and they didn’t really intend it, but it really deeply hurt me and it made me feel insecure.”

Or it could be a family member. Sometimes people will be like, “Oh yeah I was feeling really confident about singing until I sang and then my sister came downstairs when I was singing. She was like “Ugh, can you be quiet? You sound terrible.” Or something like that, where she doesn’t mean it by any means but it’s something that comes back to you and it affects you.

And you realize okay, that’s where that’s coming from. So then in this step too, consider the source.

And then you can think about… what’s the worst thing that can happen? So if it’s some comment coming from a friend and you’re worried about what does this friend think, then what’s the worst thing that can happen?

Well, your friend can make you feel really crappy. And if so… are they really a good friend or a family member?

Family members can be quite brutal to each other, and there’s always love there, right? But the people that you love the most can sometimes be the people that you hurt the most.

And so in considering the source, if it’s coming from, say, a sibling—a sibling that doesn’t really intend to, but they’re being pretty rude to you. The key is realizing, “Okay, that’s not really truth, right? It’s coming from somebody that intends well but we just battle it out.”

Something for me, when I’ve considered the source before in my performing or auditioning, sometimes there was an experience that I had where I was auditioning for a specific company. And I thought this was a company that really aligned with things that I was going for, and priorities that I had. It seemed like a really fun company to work with. I knew some people that had worked with this company.

And so I did my audition and then after I did my audition, putting my whole heart on the line… One of the gentlemen said something to me that was criticizing a choice that I had made in that audition. And for me, that just broke my heart, because I just gave it everything! And of course, when you’re auditioning, you’re putting your heart on the line, right? You’re just standing in front of people and you’re just like “Here, take me or leave me! Do what you want with me!”

And so in that comment, it really made an impact on me because I was thinking, oh my gosh, they didn’t like it. They hated it.

And so I had to consider the source and I had to consider thinking about. And then in thinking about it, I was like, “Wait a second… If this is what I have to offer, this is what I have to bring… and I’m somebody that likes to take risks and make certain choices on on stage. And if they can’t get behind that? Then this is not a company that I want to work with.”

And so I had to talk myself through that one and really come to this conclusion of, “I don’t want to work with them.”

And so in considering the source, you think about the worst thing that could happen. And you can work through it. How would you handle it?

So in that example, that was me thinking, okay, this is a company that doesn’t really align or see what I have to offer or see me putting my heart on a line and all of these risks or choices that I’m making.

And so… what’s the worst thing that can happen? They don’t want to hire me.

Is that really the worst thing that can happen with a company that doesn’t truly see the value in what I’m bringing?

That’s really not that bad after all, right? So when you go through the worst case scenario, maybe it’s not the worst case after all. And then it can loosen its power on you as it did with me.

Step Number 3: Giving them the benefit of the doubt

So number three tip is giving the benefit of the doubt.

So many times it’s not about us, and we make it about us. But it’s really not. There’s so many things going on behind the scenes. Everybody has a different story, everyone’s coming at it from a different perspective, and all of a sudden, sometimes we can project things and make it about us when it’s not really about us.

So if you take a look at the example of me in this audition that I had… Maybe he was having a really bad day, and there was a comment that was said to him. He was really upset about it and then he was really hungry because it was past his lunch time and he didn’t get it. And so he was super grumpy, and then maybe a family member sent him a message that was really stressing him out. And then it was just kind of the last straw that broke the camel’s back. That’s maybe why he said something to me, and maybe he didn’t even truly mean it! Maybe it was just a bad day.

Even I don’t know what the behind-the-scenes situation was, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt and say, “What is the best possible situation that this could have been?” That’s something that my dad actually taught me. When you’re interpreting something a certain way, any kind of conflict or any sort of situation where you’re maybe people-pleasing…

If you’re interpreting a certain way, you think about that. Maybe they didn’t mean this. Maybe they were having a bad day. Maybe it was about this, maybe it was about that. And then give them the benefit of the doubt. And it changes how you feel about it.

There’s been so many times with me personally. I have good intentions with my situations and interactions, and I’m sure that there’s been times where something has been interpreted and I didn’t mean it that way. And I only wish that people would give me the benefit of the doubt as well.

And so that is a gift that you can give to other people. So if you’re afraid about what they’re thinking or you’re nervous about their judging, you entertain the thought that maybe it’s not really about you after all.

And you have to always remember that people want you to do well. People in the audience, people that are watching and listening to you, your teachers, your colleagues, your friends, the judges… EVERYBODY wants you to do well, they really do. And they’re more comfortable watching you when you’re more comfortable. And so you have to remember to give people the benefit of the doubt.

And sometimes when people are judging or auditioning, they’re thinking “Is this going to be a good colleague? Do I want to work with this person in the future? Is this someone that’s going to really help with the mission that we have in music?” And so you have to just remember: it’s not always about you and there could be something behind the scenes that you don’t know.

You just have to say, “Okay, you know what? I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt.” And it’s going to make you feel so much better too. It’s going to give you a lot more confidence on stage.

You also have to remember: there are people in the world that aren’t all happiness and roses. We know that right? And so if there’s someone that you’re worried about and you’re singing something for them; if you’re worried about what they’re thinking, maybe this person is kind of a nasty person and maybe would say something mean, you know where that is coming from? That is stemming from oftentimes jealousy and so oftentimes, there’s something that you have that you’re offering that they wish that they had. Or they feel bad that they don’t have it.

And so cutting you down and making fun of you in some way or making some snide remark and then you hear about it later… that’s because they’re actually jealous, and they are inspired by you in some way. They wish that there was something that they could pull off of what you have. So you just have to remember that too, because there can be really nasty people in the world too, but giving people the benefit of the doubt does make a difference for your emotional and mental well-being, so always remember that.

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Step Number 4: Looking inside and “filling the void”

All right, so tip number four: you can work on filling that void.

Sometimes, we just feel the need to please. There’s like this void, and then if someone isn’t happy with it or we’re not sure or don’t have enough feedback… sometimes we need all that feedback.

If we’re not getting it, you can feel this sense of emptiness. The people-pleasers: they know this. They know what I’m talking about here. And so what you can do is you can fill it with things that are “feel-good” things. Priorities that you have and distractions.

And so for me, my priorities are my family and music, and especially my children. Making my house look really nice, being in a really nice environment that makes me feel calm and makes me feel productive and makes me feel creative. Those are all really important things for me.

So if I’m having a situation where I’m really worried about what somebody else is thinking, or it’s kind of getting in my head, or maybe there was a negative experience that I had with the music school… Maybe there was somebody that was really upset about something and I got some sort of a negative feedback in some way—it’s really weighing hard on me.

My initial reaction usually is like, “Oh my gosh! Well I care so much and I’ve been working so hard in this music school. I wish that they saw that I had good intentions and everything like that!” But sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. And so I have to say, alright, I’m going to fill this void with something else.

Then I will make a list of things that give me joy. And so a lot of times right now that’s playing basketball with Mikey. He likes playing Space Jam, so we play that. And then we’ll go shoot hoops together, and it’s a great thing to do with the two-year-old. Also going on a walk. I love going on walks with Paul and Molly. Notice how I didn’t say Michael there.

(Michael, for your future self that might be reading this: you are not a good walking companion. Because you’ll either want to run and pretend that you’re Lightning McQueen and run way far ahead and give me a heart attack and try my best to keep up with you because of cars and you know streets and everything like that. Or you’ll just say that you want to walk, but you won’t walk fast, and then you’ll drag behind. Or you won’t stop talking like it’s constant.)

(So walk time usually, a lot of people you see them going on walks and it’s kind of this calming peaceful time— not here, we have to bring some kind of tree, we have to bring water, there’s so much going on so if for your future itself Michael hopefully we can work through this walking situation.)

Something that I also really love is singing, of course—and just singing the songs that I especially love to sing. One of the things that I’ve worked through as a people pleaser is sometimes I would sing things for other people. I sing the songs that other people want me to sing but then I don’t really feel connections with them. And there are always reasons to do that, yes.

But something that I really worked on (especially during this pandemic) where a lot my performances have been cancelled is I have to think, “Okay well, I’m gonna sing songs that I want to sing,” like just me, these are the songs that I pick out. Not that somebody picks out for me. It’s really exciting in that way and so those are all things that help me.

Step Number 5: Let it shape you!

The the last tip that I have: Tip number five is let it shape you.

There’s a lot of situations that can happen in our life and they’re not fun. They’re uncomfortable and they can really hurt us. They can really break us down.

But you know what? You are not one of those people.

Because you take those things, and you let them shape you. We need to create a thick outer shell for ourselves. We’re always learning and growing.

So anytime that we get feedback (as much as it might hurt sometimes), we can really take that and then use that to grow. We can become smarter with that. we can come become stronger with that we can use all of these things to help us.

One of the things that has helped me become stronger especially in performing is having really embarrassing situations. Everything that you can probably think of that people are worried about when they’re performing? It has happened! Like voice cracking, that’s one of the things that a lot of my students are worried about: cracking in front of people. That has happened so many times. (Who has cracked, tell me right now in the comments!) Because I know I’m not alone here. And then also forgetting an entrance, forgetting words.

So there was this one time where I was doing this competition. And for whatever reason, I completely blanked out on the words. And then I just had to sing on syllables until I figured out. It was about a verse and a half of that, so maybe 60 seconds of that happened. So has that ever happened to you? Have you ever forgotten the words? Tell me in the comments.

I literally have fallen flat on my face in front of a big group of people. Not only once, but I have done it two times. Two times on this stage! So to y’all that are worried about that, I have experienced that and I’ll tell you what. Yes, it’s embarrassing, it’s hurtful to one’s ego, but you’ll live through it. You’ll learn to laugh at yourself, and then you say “What was I so worried about?”

I mean you have these experiences that can be really embarrassing and really, say, traumatic but then you just use them. You use them to make you stronger and to realize, “Oh wow, well at least I’m still alive. I’m okay, so I’m all that much better to have experienced that.”

There was this one time where I completely ran out of breath. I was doing this really long phrase, and it’s gone. I mean I know in performances you have to be ready for whatever, and especially with this particular conductor that I was working with at the time. He would change things all the time, so I was just ready for whatever. But on the night of the performance, there was a specific phrase: it was particularly long and I always sneak a breath in the middle of it, but this performance, this phrase, was stretched out to be probably five times longer than what has ever happened in any rehearsal before! And I totally went out of breath and was gasping for air. And it did not look pretty in front of a whole audience, but there I was! I mean it was being videotaped and everything!

So all of these things that have happened to me, I try to utilize those to make me a stronger person, a stronger performer and just to feel like you have a thick outer skull, right?

Conclusion

And so all of these things can help you. So please let me know in the comments: what bad experiences you might have had performing or some things that you are working through yourself and then please also let me know what helps you not care about what other people think, what helps you feel like you just can go out there and do whatever in front of an audience and it doesn’t really matter. Thank you so much for spending this time reading about my thoughts today! It’s been wonderful and I hope you all have a wonderful day!

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I was a voice major in college, and I felt like it was a rough transition from being a student, a music major to suddenly being faced with the pressure of performing and making a living out of music.

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