Too often we pull back from an innovative idea, allow ourselves to be treated poorly or decide to not try something new because we find ourselves thinking, “I don’t want people to think that I’m…”

What?

Too successful? Too outspoken? Too self-loving?

Instead of believing that it’s OK to do what feels good or right to us, we prioritize what we think others want.

We assume that others will view our choices or changes negatively, so we stay safe rather than risk judgment.

Maybe it’s because we’ve become judgmental of other people’s choices and failures. We’ve talked so much about why others should or shouldn’t be doing what they are doing that we’ve restricted our own ability to live outside the box and take some risks.

Maybe it’s because we’ve been told to make others comfortable. We fear self care because people may actually think that we (gasp!) like ourselves. If people think we like ourselves, we might be called self-absorbed, or we might find ourselves isolated.

This thinking is backward.

If we want our partner to be appreciative, we have to appreciate who we are. If we want our children to be self-loving, we have to demonstrate how that looks. If we want a promotion, we have to verbalize and stand behind our skills.

It’s in our best interest to embrace uncertainty and give martyrdom a rest. We are much better off doing what makes us feel alive than attempting to deflect or decipher the needs and opinions of others.

If we begin to understand and respond to our own needs, we might find that we feel better. We might find that people like to be around people who feel good.

When we feel good, our desire to criticize lessens. We find ourselves more empathetic when it comes to others’ needs and challenges. The less we judge, the freer we will be to try something new, to do what feels right, and to take risks and learn from our experiences.

All of the sudden we discover that our worry over others is an energy drain that keeps us separated from our true selves.

This is when we start to ask the questions that help us identify our needs. And rather than worry about what others may think, we embrace the importance of what we think about ourselves.

Cathy is a self-awareness teacher, author, and host of Zen Parenting Radio. Follow her on Facebook or Twitter.