Focusing too much on others not only caused me much pain in the past, but I also feel like it delayed my personal development in many ways. By re-focusing on myself more than others, I was able to take leaps forward. My hope is that reading this article will help you come forward, too. So, how can we focus more on ourselves instead of others?
In order to focus more on yourself and not on others, you should be clear about what is important to you, and what is not. After you have decided and prioritised, the next step is to learn to say “no” very often. Finally, it will be very difficult to focus on yourself when adopting a negative or judging inner voice. Self-compassion will help you have a more positive inner voice and also stop comparing yourself to others in a detrimental way.
In more detail now, here are the few steps I would take again to refocus on myself instead of others.
Step 1: Cut Out the Non-Essential to Feel Lighter and Focused
In order to be able to focus more on yourself rather than on others, you first have to cut out the non-essential things in your life. Quite often, we focus on others because we have committed ourselves to too many things. For instance, if you are involved in several projects at a time, you may feel overwhelmed. You will have the feeling that you are not contributing as much or as well as you should have. This will lead to negative thoughts about yourself. Your self-image will suffer, and you will start projecting it onto to others. You will wonder whether they, too, think you are a poor contributor.
Set Clear Priorities in Every Area of Your Life to Keep Focus
The best way to overcome this, in my opinion, is to first cut out the non-essential projects, commitments, and things in your life. I, personally, strongly believe in clear prioritisation. There should be only ONE professional project getting a “number 1” grade in your head. No other project should be equal in importance. Can you prioritise your projects right now? The same goes for your free time. Ask yourself: “in case of conflicting demands or activities, which one will come first?” The answer should be perfectly clear in your head.
Communicate Your Priorities to Others Quickly and Clearly
But to start finding inner peace and worrying less about what others think, you need to take a further step.
No matter how clear your priorities are clear to yourself, others might have a different impression.
Imagine you are involved in a sports team during your free time. But then, you offer your help to a local charity organisation out of goodwill. What will happen if your team needs to train a little more for a specific game, at exactly the same time when the local charity needs all possible help to pull off its biggest donation event of the year? And how will you feel saying “no”, or only a partial “yes” to any of these two commitments you made? When accepting to help or to take on a project, make sure to specify that another project may conflict, at times. Make it clear that your quantity and quality of involvement may vary strongly, depending on how intensive your NUMBER ONE project will be. The best, of course, is to do this as soon as possible. But any time is a good time, once you have made the priorities clear to yourself.
Step 2: Learn to Say “No” Very Often to Reclaim Your Time for Yourself
I hate to break it to you, but PRIORITISING IS NOT ENOUGH! You will have to learn to say “no”.
Saying “NO” is an ESSENTIAL part of focusing on yourself more than on others.
For some strange reason, we have come to believe that doing more is great for us. Why? Because it feels like only those who do a lot have a great life, and are admired by others. If you take a closer look, you will see that this is not true. Most successful people focus on doing just very few things that they do well. There are some misleading examples. Take Richard Branson for instance. Hasn’t he built billion-dollar businesses in so many areas one can’t even count? Yes, but he always does what he is best at. He sets an incredible vision, which seems almost impossible to ever reach, and then goes out and finds the right people to build a company to reach it. His role is always the same: visionary and leader. Does he bother managing other details or aspects? Not really.
The Psychology Behind Saying “No”
To be able to say “no” more often, you will have to change your mindset. Every time you say “no” to something, you INTENSIFY your “YES” on your priority choice! And this will have a great impact on people either involved, impacted or judging you based on your priority choice. Every time you feel awkward about saying “no”, remember that this will bring more quality into your life, for yourself, and for others.
How Can I Start Saying “No” in order to Focus on Myself More and Less on Others?
Do you have the tendency to say “yes” too quickly and too often? Then the first step is to become more aware and mindful. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Did I say “yes” when I shouldn’t have recently?
- Why did I say “yes”?
- What did I feel when confronted with the question?
- How did I feel after answering “yes”?
- What can I do next time in order to be able to say “no”?
Next time you get asked whether you want something or can help someone, you should PAUSE. Do not answer quickly. Take the time to consider whether you should say “no”. If you can, ask whether you can sleep on it one night or two. We live in an ever-faster world, and this causes us to feel pressured to react and answer quickly to everything. Take the velocity out right at the source, it will make it easier to say a grounded “no”.
Step 3: Focus on Self-Compassion, Not on Self-Esteem
For a very long time, I have been chasing after higher self-esteem and self-confidence. I even went as far as to choose studies and a career path that I thought would make me more self-confident. Many of us feel very insecure and live in the hope that others will approve of us, or even admire us.
The Ugly Side of Self-Esteem: You End Up Focusing More on Others, Not Less
The problem with this desire is that in order to obtain approval, we feel the pressure to undertake a certain set of socially acceptable actions. To be admired, we need to accomplish things that often feel beyond our reach.
This all means that you are binding YOUR SENSE OF SELF-WORTH TO ACTIONS you need to take.
If you take no action, if you happen to rest, you are not worth anything. And in fact, studies have shown that SELF-ESTEEM does NOT have a very positive effect. In her book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself*, Kristin Neff explains how self-esteem causes most people to think they are above average. This distorted view causes pain when confronted with people’s real performance. Self-esteem also fosters a tendency to downplay others to show a better image of oneself. Another negative trait that I am sure you, just like me, would like to avoid having.
Can you now see how SELF-ESTEEM WILL CAUSE YOU TO FOCUS MORE ON OTHERS, NOT LESS?
Self-Compassion Will Help You Feel More Connected
So what to do if self-esteem is not the way to go? What you should really start focusing on is SELF-COMPASSION. By building SELF-ESTEEM, you were focusing on how you DIFFER from others. With SELF-COMPASSION, you focus on how you are SIMILAR to others. Whatever problem or pain you are going through, I guarantee you that somewhere, someone deals with the same pains. Think about this. You are NEVER truly ALONE. And paradoxically, this thought will help you focus more on yourself, and less on those precise others that you should not bother about.
Why Does Self-Compassion Work to Re-Focus on Yourself?
Self-Compassion Calms Our Instinctive Social Cravings and Helps You Focus Less on Others Around You
We are social animals. A couple of thousands of years ago, our chances of survival were extremely tiny if we did not live within a group or community of other humans. This explains why, especially in our increasingly individualistic societies, we feel so insecure and seek for approval all the time. But, most of the time, we tend to seek APPROVAL OF VIRTUALLY EVERYONE around us. This can lead to much pain since not everyone around you cares about you or can even relate to what you are experiencing. Instead, SELF-COMPASSION helps you focus on THE PEOPLE THAT GET YOU and CAN RELATE TO YOU.
Even if it is only virtually, in your mind, you feel reconnected to a community and can re-focus on yourself.
Your Inner Voice Becomes Friendlier and Focuses More on Yourself Rather than Judging You or Comparing You to Others
Self-compassion also helps you retrain your inner voice to sound more like a friend, and less like a judging peer.
How fun is it to focus on yourself, when your inner voice is only bashing you all the time?
Instead, you should really re-train to be kinder to yourself. To dive deeper into this crucial aspect which will help you focus on yourself better, I would really recommend reading Kristin Neff’s book, Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself*, which I already mentioned above. I genuinely hope that this article will help you take the first steps in order to focus more on yourself, and less on others. All this information is what helped (and still helps) me do just that. I’d be very happy to do my best to help even more or better: really feel free to comment or contact me if there is anything you would like to chat about.
Books That I Love… To Help You Out: