UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
“What you think of me is none of my business.” – Terry Cole-Whittaker
• It is amazing when we stop to think how much of our culture is based on what people think of us or more importantly what we think they think of us or what we want them to think of us. Fashion magazines, beauty products, cosmetic surgery, automobiles, brands of beer, computers and cell phones – all are marketed with an eye to help us look better to the world around us. This is all pretty superficial.
A deeper aspect of the problem comes when the concern for what others think is not based on our appearance or on what we have, but rather on who we are. We are driven to speak and act in ways that will garner the approval of others. The fear is that if we show who we really are, we will be criticized, rejected or diminished in the eyes of others.
This all starts in childhood, particularly in school. Very young children have a Garden of Eden type of naked innocence. They are all about being and do not even have a concept of what others think. It is only when others begin to criticize, judge or make fun of them that they begin to feel the need to cover up their real self, or at least aspects of it.
Many years ago when I was a new teacher of a grade two class, I was puzzled by the fact the children followed their answers with a question mark. When asked, “What colour is the sky?” they would respond “Blue?” They already knew there was a difference between the truth of which they were quite sure and the ‘right’ answer the teacher was seeking.
When I first entered graduate school, there was one professor I challenged in class a few times. One of my classmates took me aside and told me if I kept doing that I would get a poor mark in the class. I must have been quite naive as this information shocked me.
In my practice, I see many people who just ‘keep quiet’ about things that bother them because they do not want to make waves, create conflict or risk offending others by disagreeing. Interestingly, it is often people who are mature and wise who feel this way. The unwise and immature seem to have no problem speaking up. I like to point out that, if the ones who see a situation from a wise or more evolved standpoint keep quiet, life aligns with the lowest common denominator.
If we set our course according to the opinions of others, it is not really our authentic path. We are like an animal in a cage, restricting ourselves by the boundaries we have set, assuming that only within those confines can we be accepted and liked.
If we are to evolve as individuals and as a species, we need to place a higher value on independent thinking and speaking our truth. We must not be afraid to model a higher path, to demonstrate moral leadership, whether or not others follow.
Our truth can be spoken quietly, in a gentle, non-confrontational way. If someone chooses to judge or reject us for it, they do not value our authenticity. In any case, as friend and author Alan Cohen once said, “If you have never been crucified, you have never done anything worthwhile.” Wise words that can allow us to embrace our crucifixions throughout our lives.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For more of Gwen’s articles and information about her books, Self Care CDs and the new Creating Healthy Relationships series, visit www.gwen.ca. See display ad this issue.