UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young
• And the day came when the risk it took to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.
– Anaïs Nin
Worrying about what others think about us can be like a cancer that spreads through one’s consciousness. It takes away peace of mind and eats away at self-esteem. Every living thing begins as some sort of seed, within which is held its potential. The purpose of that seed is to grow into the fullness of its being.
We all start out that way. Think of a baby exploring the world. He is inside himself, looking out. He has no sense of how others view him. He is curious and delights in all that is around him. He loves to laugh. There is simply no self-consciousness. He lives in the moment.
Some adults live this way, but they are generally considered eccentrics! They are also great fun to be around. However, more often than not, that blossoming being begins to reshape itself in order to win approval. For a young child, a parent’s disapproval can feel like a withdrawal of love. Approval becomes equated with love.
This can be reinforced in school where the right answer can be valued more than creative thinking. For teens, this need for approval can become a constant source of insecurity. It is a tentative time for many teens as they begin to experience their own individuality, but there is huge pressure to conform. Taken to extremes, this can manifest as eating disorders, drug use or early sexual activity in a desperate attempt to fit in.
Sadly, this over-concern about how others view us can continue into adulthood. Sometimes, a person does not value himself and projects this devaluation onto others. They become super vigilant, always looking for clues that others do not like them. Often, there is absolutely no basis in reality, as others don’t really spend that much time thinking about them.
After assuming that someone has a negative opinion of them, the person then becomes angry and bitter towards that person. They are upset about what they think the other thinks of them. Thus, they fall into a negative spiral of low self-esteem, made worse by imagining the negative opinions of others.
Ironically, an individual who is very judgemental of others assumes others are just as judgmental. What makes it all the more difficult is that they truly believe their perceptions and are usually not open to hearing it is probably not as they think it is. Disagree with their perceptions and you join the group that is not in support of them.
Often, a partner learns to just keep quiet or to agree with their partner’s negative thoughts so as to keep the peace, but this only serves to reinforce the other’s insecure perceptions.
The cure, if there is one, is to practice stopping these thoughts and not allowing the mind to go down the road of worrying about what others think. It is also to begin to develop inner strength and to stop criticizing ourselves.
Like the little child, it is best to focus on the world outside, to find things to enjoy and think about being a positive person. Focus on bringing good energy into your life and the lives of others. When we are giving from the heart, there is no room for negativity towards others, or ourselves.
Gwen Randall-Young is an author and psychotherapist in private practice. For articles and information about her books, “Deep Powerful Change” hypnosis CDs and “Creating Effective Relationships” series, visit www.gwen.ca.