Posted by: Dr. Jennifer Fee | December 15, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg: Genius, Jerk, or Nice Guy? It doesn’t matter what you think!

  Mark Zuckerberg, at the age of 26, has become the second youngest person to be named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”  He’s extremely famous, which means that lots and lots of people have strong opinions about Zuckerberg, even though they have never met him!  Some people after watching the movie, The Social Network, (about the origin of Facebook) completely buy into the portrayal of Zuckerberg as an arrogant, socially awkward jerk.  Other people walked out of the movie saying, “that cannot be true about him.”  I’m sure there’s many people who are very jealous of the extensive wealth that he has earned at such a young age. 

 And we have not even begun to touch the strong statements that people make about Facebook itself–the allegations of invading privacy issues, the conspiracy theories regarding Facebook and the CIA, as well as numerous criticisms about certain features of Facebook and how they work.  All of these issues in one way or another end up as statements about what people think about Mark Zuckerberg, given that he is the founder and CEO of Facebook.

  So millions of people have thoughts and opinions about Mark Zuckerbeg. Lots of people talk about him.  Some of what they say will be true, some will not.  Some people think he’s a wonderful genius, some people believe he is an arrogant jerk.  How does all of this affect Mark Zuckerberg?

  I have no idea, I have never talked to the man!  Hopefully he does not spend too much time worrying about it. However, many people do exactly that, worry about what others think!  In fact, this concern is a significant anxiety trigger for many people who come to me for help.  How much do you worry about what other people think of you?

Let’s face it, not one of us is thrilled to have people not like us or say negative things about us, it does not feel good!  However, the more accepting that we can become with the idea that other people will and do have opinions about us, the less anxiety we are likely to have.  Lisa* was telling me how upset she was because she was certain that Julie, another woman in one of her college classes does not seem to like her.  “It makes me anxious,” she said, “I feel like I have to do something to make Julie like me.”  As I explored with Lisa why it was important to have Julie like her, we discovered that Lisa really does not like Julie!  “Do you need to like Jule?” I asked, to which Lisa replied, “I don’t see why I do.  As long as I’m polite and not rude to her, we do not need to be friends.”

We have no control over whether certain people like us or what they think about us.  If you can learn to tolerate this fact, you will have less anxiety regarding what other people think.  The part you can control is how you treat other people–by being polite, kind, and respectful.

Another important piece to this that often we really do not know what other people are truly thinking anyway!  Some people decide that someone is thinking someone negatively about them based on a look on that person’s face or a behavior.  I often hear, “I could tell she doesn’t like me by the look on her face,”  or “He didn’t stop and say hello to me, so he must be annoyed at me,” or “We had a very short and curt conversation on the phone, I don’t think she wants to be friends,” and similar type of things.  I always challenge people to come up with at least two other explanations for the other person’s behavior/reaction.  At first, some people find it difficult to come up with other explanations, but after they get the hang of it, they can come up with numerous options.   A look on someone’s face might mean they have indigestion, they may have just heard bad news, or they are anxious about a job interview coming up in a few hours.  We think people are thinking something bad about us when they might be thinking about something in their own lives! 

You have no control over what other people think of you, and you may be wrong about what they are thinking anyway. The next step would be to “test” out your fears by asking very safe people what is really going on with them when you think it is about you.  “I’m wondering if you are annoyed with me, as I was telling you about my day you had an angry look on your face.”  You will most likely be surprised by the answers.

So, does it matter what you think about Mark Zuckerberg?  No! Similarly it does not matter what other people think about you.  Learning to tolerate that uncomfortable feeling will help you to reduce your anxiety.

Thanks for reading, and tell me what you think!  😉  –Dr. Jennifer Fee

*Not their real names

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Responses

  1. I really like this post, Dr. Fee. Part of therapy, for me, has been to not only change the way I view people–i.e., that they are not always judging me–but that even if they are, what does it matter anyway–if someone doesn’t like me for some irrational reason, then that’s their fault and I probably don’t want to be friends with them in the first place.

    It’s interesting, though, that you bring up someone famous, as he is being judged by millions of people. If someone famous had social anxiety disorder, it would be much harder to rid because they are in the limelight. Ricky Williams, a professional football player, for instance, confessed to suffering from social anxiety. He managed the anxiety with marijuana and got kicked out of the NFL. Since then, he’s found other ways to cope and has returned.

  2. Thank you for your kind comments, Mike. Yes, I brought up someone famous on purpose, because I do think that being judged by millions of people has to be a HUGE challenge.
    Yes, Ricky Williams is a great story –as is another great running back, Earl Campbell, who was brave enough to speak in front of a large audience of physicians, psychologists, etc. at an Anxiety Disorders Association of America conference (many years ago–at least 16 or so). I was lucky enough to be there for that!

    BTW…I’m eventually moving my blog to a self-hosted blog at http://www.anxietyhelpforme.com. It’s still has some kinks, so I’m posting at both sites for now!


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