I’m sure I am not the only one stressing over how other people see me as an individual. It’s a common phenomenon in our collective human experience to waste thoughts on things you have no control over. The thing is, we all know that from theory, right? But to emotionally and mentally enter and inhabit that space of insight is something very difficult indeed.
This is something I personally struggle with. It’s gotten better over the years but it’s still an ongoing journey for me. A big part of overcoming the fear of judgement is to cultivate self-love and confidence: often, the shadows and sense of self-lack within us become negatively projected unto the speech and actions of another. This is an unhealthy, vicious cycle and a self-fulfilling curse of dwindling self-worth. Beyond that, though, well…there isn’t much you can do. You can’t exactly tell others to perceive you in a certain way.
Of course, this is a complex issue and I’m just presenting you my side of the cookie–you can take a bite, but you don’t have to. (I am really craving some form of bakery, so excuse the metaphor. Somebody give me a bag of yogurt pretzels, PLEASE. I will, WILL, marry you)
Thinking about it now, the world is obsessed with the idea of image: look at our social media. Without a doubt, they help us keep in touch and connect with each other, but the moment you set up that profile page…you are consciously projecting and creating a certain image or persona that you wish to put forward, are you not?
It’s absolutely neurotic to be honest. Constantly we are calculating in our little brains, fretting with our little hearts about how to act appropriately under this given circumstance or in front of this particular individual. Was that the right thing to say? Why did he say that to me and what did he mean? We spend so much time orchestrating scenarios in our heads, as if life is a bad manifestation of the perfect script in our mind.
Here’s a thought that might bring you relief: life isn’t a movie. Our dialogues and actions aren’t scripted. Things will never be perfectly linear and comprehensible and just the way we want it. Our interactions and conversations with others are filled with um’s and ah’s and awkward moments that may or may not be the reflection of who we are.
Here’s another thought that might bring you relief.
You are a multi-dimensional, multi-faceted and incredibly complex being and you can’t control how another person, who is also equally multi-dimensional, multi-faceted and incredibly complex, perceive you.
You cannot be encapsulated by a singular or a series of adjectives. Your existence is comprised of your worldview, your personality, your cultural and ethnic background, your family, your values, your experiences, your memories, your karma. You are an organic existence in constant motion. Your identity is a matrix of ideas that cannot be pinned down by what one person thinks or says about you. You are more than just words in a language. You are more than what meets the eye. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
And your perceivers are the same way. Like you, their individual existence is an entire universe. How can you possibly entertain yourself with the idea that they must perceive you in a certain way, or behave in the exact way you want them to? The sheer complexity, impracticality and impossibility of it. You cannot orchestrate a entire galaxy of organic existences according to your imagining. That is mission impossible. That is a shout into the void. That is a complete and utter waste of life force. You are bound to get lost in that black hole of no-return.
And let me just tell you that when I reached this epiphany, I was so, fucking, relieved. I spent the majority of my life with a constantly wounded heart about, more often than not, what I thought somebody said about me or thought about it. I was so relieved. So, so relieved. As human beings, I don’t think we will ever stop seeking validation from others, because we are social beings and we seek to be connected. But hey! Now I only need to worry about connections that are truly worthwhile to me. Like, oh my god, I cannot believe I don’t have to stress over this bullshit anymore. It’s really as simple as that: wanting others to perceive me in a certain way? Me wanting to appear in a certain way? Impossible. It just doesn’t work from my end or their end. Next time, if you ever go down that rabbit hole again, seriously—just fuck it. So, so, sooo not worth it.
In the end, I don’t think my fear of judgement will just magically disappear as if my epiphany is a convenient delete button. No, human beings are not like that. There is no on and off switch that you can find that you can just switch off your insecurities or fear of criticism, just like that. One thing I am learning recently is that spiritual wisdom or insights about life need to be practiced. Otherwise, they’re complete useless. Don’t keep the goodies inside your drawer, right? Show them to the world. Use them for your own benefit, go out there, dance, shine, and all that jazz.
It’s always an ongoing journey: the beautiful trademark of humanity, I suppose.
Oh, and that quote about the universe in ecstatic motion? It’s by Rumi. Seriously, that guy. So amazing.