Do You Worry Too Much About What Others Think Of You?

10 January 2023

Developing The X-FACTOR To Transform Your Football Performances

Do You Worry Too Much About What Others Think Of You?

Social approval is a very common challenges for many football and soccer players especially young players and can worry their parents and coaches.

For the football player who struggles with social approval they’ll likely:

  • Mind read a lot and obsess what others think about their skills and technique.
  • Fixate on what others think about how they perform.
  • Fear making a mistake in case it results in team-mates or a coach shouting at them.
  • Worry about taking risks because there is a chance it could mean that others will laugh or ridicule them.
  • Get caught in the comparison game judging themselves, their skills, technique, training stats and performances against peers and rivals.
  • Experience anxiety when other people watch them perform in pressure situations.
  • Find that the way that they perform can change depending on who watches them.
  • Want to win so badly so that others will notice their achievements.
  • Remain on the outside of games, often hiding because they don’t want any attention brought on themselves.

Fear of failure is often connected closely with social approval where the footballer pays way too much attention to the opinions of others in order to gain respect, friendships, appreciation, admiration, recognition and acknowledgment. 

How can you become more selfish and play football for yourself?

This links to how and where you place your focus and attention.  Focusing on the process, execution, your peak performance enablers and key ingredients is vital.  This can be much easier said than done, given the way others (friends, rivals, coaches and parents) communicate and discuss outcomes and results. 

Here’s a tip to help you. 

Step 1:  Write down the thoughts or beliefs that you have when making assumptions about what others think.  Here are some examples:

  • “I wonder if my team-mates think I am good enough?”
  • “They’ll laugh at me if I try my tricks and they don’t come off.”
  • “The coach will likely drop me if I make too many mistakes.”
  • “What will the scout think of me if we lose?”
  • “If I keep missing my team-mates think I’m rubbish.”

Step 2:  Now look to change this thought or belief and introduce a refocus statement that will help you play your sport more selfishly and focus on the task in hand only and your performance.  Here are the counter examples based on the above scenario’s.

  • “Some days I might not play my best but it won’t be for lack of trying.”
  • “I’ll keep going regardless and try my tricks even when the defender gets the better of me.”
  • “I’m going to be brave and keep demanding the ball even if I make some mistakes.”
  • “I can’t control if we win, lose or draw.  I’m going to focus on me only and make sure I take care of my key ingredients”
  • “If I miss yet keep trying my best I’ll feel good in myself knowing I did all I could.”


1. Why do you care so much about others’ opinions of you.  To gain an understanding of what you “need” from others will help you put a stop to some of the irrational and arguably “bizarre” assumptions that you make.  What do you “need” from others?

2. Try your best to stop mind reading, it’s important to be aware when you begin to engage in mind reading and then look to refocus on the process for your shot or pass and your routines.

3. It’s reality check time.  How do you know what others are truly thinking about you? Test out your assumptions and have conversations with friends about what they think about your game when you play well or poorly.

4. Tune into the Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast

In this episode I discuss social approval and mind-reading in a short solo episode sharing case studies and a number of great questions that you can ask yourself in this regard. 

5. For coaches, this blog can help you too in setting up a culture where players are happy to take risks and express themselves without the fear of worrying about what you the coach will say or what their team-mates may be thinking.



“Attention is the ability to actively process specific information in the environment while tuning out other details.”

It can be useful to think of attention as a highlighter. As you read through some text, the bold and underlined text stands out, causing you to focus your attention to that area.  Though in football or soccer we aren’t just talking about being able to simple focus on the task in front of us, we also need to consider how you can ignore other competing noise and stimuli. 

For example, let’s consider a cup game and the referee gives a contentious penalty at the end of the game.  You are all set to take the penalty in the last minute to win the game for your team and go through to the next round of the cup.  You had missed your last penalty, so you are thinking about this miss, your mind is also wavering towards the importance of the penalty, how valuable it is to your club in terms of finances.  You see yourself as the hero, and the villain.   You can feel what it will be like to celebrate the penalty.  You also picture in your mind snide comments from team-mates of you miss.  Then there is the defender and goalkeeper from your opponents in your ear trying to put you off.  Telling you not to “hit it over the bar.”  The crowd too play a part shouting abuse at you.

In this situation, where you place your attention allows you to “tune out” information, sensations, and perceptions that are not relevant in this moment and instead focus your energy on what it is that you need to do.

How would you spend the minute or 2 before taking this penalty? What would your pre-penalty routine look like?​


⚽️ Footballers – You NEED, actually you REALLY NEED to have a “30 second rule.”

A 30 second rule:

  • When you give the ball away.
  • When you make a mistake.
  • When your team concedes.
  • When a bad decision goes against you.
  • When a team-mate has a go at you.

Arguably a 10 second rule would be better for you, but either way you need to have a rule, a strategy when things go against you.  Where you feel the rage, frustration, anger or disappointment then you QUICKLY MOVE ON and keep playing your game. 

That way you make the most of your skills and abilities and you help your teammates. Your coach will then place a huge amount of trust in you. Your opponents won’t enjoy playing against you either.



WATCHTest Your Awareness: Do This Test

LISTENDr. Patrick Cohn and Natalie Allport – Social Approval and Social Media for Athletes: Sports Psychology Podcast

READDo You Worry Too Much About What Other People Think?

EXPLORE – What does it feel like to be fully immersed in a task? Perhaps set a timer for 10 minutes.  Practice your keepie uppie’s using your left foot, your right foot and different parts of your body.  Notice what you feel when things are going well. When you are concentrated.  When you feel like you are improving.  Also notice when you are distracted, when you find it a struggle.  When you feel that the task you have set yourself is impossible.  You could even record yourself on video and talk out loud what you are experiencing.  What you are thinking.  Where your focus is placed.        

FACT – Everyone has an opinion in football, many are strong biased emotion based opinions.  You can choose to listen to others or ignore them, sifting out the noise.

TIP – Performance cues include any thoughts, images, or feelings that will help you execute your skills. You could seek to define performance cues for when you receive the ball, when you shoot, pass or tackle. Likewise, it is helpful to know what is not relevant when you receive the ball, shoot, pass or tackle.  These are called task-irrelevant cues such as thinking about a mistake you made a few minutes ago and the criticism you got from Jimmy your team-mate while trying to take on a defender.

QUOTE –  “Your love makes me strong. Your hate makes me unstoppable.”  –  Cristiano Ronaldo.”

THOUGHTS – We all crave love and attention, it feels nice to get a pat on the back and receive praise.  However, it’s also important to not rely on such positivity from others and let it make or break your confidence.  Many football and soccer players are guilty of this and it spoils their experience.  One key is to have perspective, to recognise, other people’s thoughts, emotions, values and actions are out of your control and can differ according to what’s going on in their lives.   


Share The X-FACTOR with your friends, family and colleagues, and create a positive difference to the lives of more football players, coaches, parents and enthusiasts.

David Charlton Sports Psychologist

Best Wishes 

David Charlton

Online Sports Psychologist | Mental Performance Coach who supports many highly motivated athletes, young and old, developing their skills or who are already highly skilled so that they gain a mental edge and get the most from their talent across the globe from USA/Canada to Great Britain and Ireland to UAE, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, using ONLINE Video Conferencing.    

Managing Director – Inspiring Sporting Excellence

Host of Demystifying Mental Toughness Podcast

Founder of The Sports Psychology Hub 

Author of The Mental Edge

With over a decades’ experience supporting athletes, coaches, parents and teams to transfer their skills from training to competitive situations, under pressure.

T: +44 7734 697769

E: [email protected]

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