What to do when you worry people are talking about you behind your back?

prettyndsweet12 asks: Dear Shirelle, I’m always worried that, whenever I’m not at school, people are talking about me behind my back and sharing my secrets. Can you give me some tips on how to relax and trust people?

Hi prettyndsweet12 –

This is a problem for just about everyone, including all us dogs.  You’ll see when we meet each other, our tails usually go between our legs, and we carefully walk around each other and sniff.  This answers two questions – first, have we met before (and do I remember something that tells me whether or not I should trust this dog), and second, will the dog let me get this close.  Trusting is hard, and although we want to trust that dog, we also fear that it might hurt us.  So we do the best we can.

Your situation is a little different, though.  You’re not so afraid of what someone’s going to do when you’re there as you are of what happens when you’re not.  The tough problem with that is that there’s no way to be sure.  If another dog lets me sniff his behind without attacking me, I can be fairly certain that I’m safe around him.  But how can I possibly know what that dog thinks of me when he’s off at another yard?  If he talked, how would I know what he’d say?  There’s simply no way.  Except…

Except the past.  If a dog has treated me reasonably well every time we’ve met for the last year, I am willing to risk being wrong, and take the chance to say he’s my friend.  It’s possible, of course, that he could be meaner than I remember today, but most likely he’s not.

So my big question to you, prettyndsweet12, is: Have these people done this sort of thing to you before?  If they have, then you have very good reason to think that they might do it again.  And if they haven’t, it sounds like you’re worrying about something very unlikely.

Now if they have done it before, and these are gossipy sorts you’re talking about, then there is no reason for you to worry and wonder.  We can absolutely assume they talk about you, just as they talk about everyone else.  Of course we can hope that they don’t say horrible lies about you, but we know that people like that might very well sit around talking about how they don’t like your new hairstyle or shoes, or that you gave a really stupid answer in math class this morning, or that you really like that cute boy in history class… and that’s irritating, but normal.  You’ll deal with people like that your whole life.  If they do share your secrets, then find out which ones are doing it, and tell them that you won’t be telling them your secrets anymore.  They’ll understand.  Maybe you’ll even teach them to be better.

But if they haven’t done it before, then I think you’re just worrying too much.  Your imagination is telling you that these people might be betraying your trust and being mean – and whether they are or not, you are betraying you!

Think of it this way: If I spent all my time worrying about whether burglars were planning to come into our house, I’d never get any work on this website done, would I?!  Now is it possible that burglars could be thinking that way?  Of course!  And if they do, I’m ready to jump on them and rip the back pockets off their pants!  But I refuse to spend my time worrying about it.  Because if I do, I lose!  Whether they’re actually planning to rob us or not.  And it would be ME, and my worries, that would be hurting my life.

So my solution, prettyndsweet12, is to stop worrying either way.  If they’re doing it, find out about it and cut those jerks out of your trust.  And if they’re not, don’t waste your time thinking about it.  Think about fun things instead – like rabbits and movies and soccer and dancing and… hey, ANYTHING is more fun than those worries!  You could spend your whole time doing math homework and be happier!


Hope that helps,




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