أَتَخْشَوْنَهُمْ ۚ فَاللَّهُ أَحَقُّ أَنْ تَخْشَوْهُ إِنْ كُنْتُمْ مُؤْمِنِينَ
Do you fear them? But Allah is more deserving that you should fear Him, if you are believers.
Sura Tawbah, verse 13
A huge chunk of our life is determined by what other people say and think. If not determined, it is at least influenced by their opinions. It is as though we are afraid to carve our own niche and do things that we know are right, without being afraid of comments from others.
Believers respect other people and care for them. To love people is to love God. Allah says in Hadithe Qudsi that mankind is His family, and the most beloved of them to Him is the one who is most kind to them. So to be the beloved of God you must love His family. But that does not mean your life should be dictated by what they think.
Strike a balance between respecting people and listening to their opinions to benefit from the wisdom they can offer, and making your own decisions based on what you know God expects from you. Do not allow the fear of people to sway the decisions you make. What people say does not make an atom of difference to the Truth, which will remain the truth even if the world says it is falsehood. A Hadith tells us that if you have a pearl in your hand and people say it is a walnut, it will not become a walnut. And if you have a walnut and people say it is a pearl, the walnut will not gain value and become a pearl. Each will remain as it is.
Fear of others is a great hindrance to progress in life. It is like a heavy burden that you carry which makes the ascent towards perfection so much harder. Let go of it and see how light you feel. Remember that it is what God thinks that is of utmost important. People can neither benefit, nor harm, if He does not will it. Even the things you expect from people; love, respect, popularity, honor, support . . . all lies in His hands. It is He who has control over the hearts of people and can turn them towards you if He so wishes.
The next time you are worried about what people will say recite this verse and answer the question God is asking you. Are you afraid of them? If your answer is yes, Allah says He is more deserving of fear. Worry about, and fear, only Allah. All other worries and fears are futile, draining you of precious energy that should be channeled into worthier causes.