Why our sense of worth is never in others' hands
What others think of you is none of your business.
It's a confronting statement. Especially if, like me, you worked in PR for a significant proportion of your life and were heavily invested in the concept of reputation management.
Perhaps it's not as polarised as assuming that nothing you say or do has an impact on how you are perceived. Yet when we get to the nitty gritty (early doors in a blog for existential probing maybe) there is no independent, objective 'other' in the way it first appears.
This is, of course, ludicrous to a mind and body that has relentless interactions with others each day and amasses views and opinions on said others to solidify their 'otherness'.
We must, however, factor in that we all view the world through the prism of subjective conditioning. There is (an albeit subtle) invisible filter through which reality appears, based entirely on a history of conditioned beliefs that are acquired in life. We only see what we believe. If there was a consistent cause and effect relationship between events, people, places and the observer...then each encounter would be the same. And yet a group of people might go to the same event and have entirely different perceptions of it.
That which is perceived is never separate from the perceiver.
This might feel like a long-winded narrative to tackle the concept of others' perceptions and opinions, but sometimes we have to dig a little bit beneath assumptions to look at the design.
For those who go through life preoccupied by what others think of them; who analyse historic conversations, perpetually seek validation, sit on metaphorical thorny fences (ouch) with the fear of voicing an unpopular view, who agonise over upsetting others and feel crushed by criticism....read on.
These cycles of behaviour stem from a root fear of being rejected at some level or of a familiar ache of lack that often loiters in the gut. It may be a hangover from behaviour that made sense in childhood to secure approval, which continues to play out but no longer serves us. We may try all techniques under the sun to reframe the behaviour but that's so far downstream it's not going to prompt seismic changes.
The irony here is that the pervasive 'not enough' thinking is veiling the wholeness of who we are before all thoughts of identity creep in. Our true being - the clear uninterrupted space when we wake, before thinking loops rev up - is endless and indivisible. From this space there is no desire to please in order to clarify our worthiness as there is nothing we lack. It seems far too simple, but that's a cosmic joke as the mind wants to create complexity to draw identification with its constant chatter.
From our essential 'beingness' (available to us all), it makes no sense to consider that our worth might be held in others' hands. That we might hand over our validity and sense of aliveness to someone else for scrutiny. It was never theirs to own.
And so the pendulum mind may now swing to an apparent opposite - if nobody's opinion of us matters, then does that mean pure anarchy and no consideration or compassion for others? No. Of course not. Only a dualistic mind of opposition would surmise this. Because the crux of this is that, in recognition of our innate wholeness, there is no lack. Nothing to prove so no need to defend or protect an egoic identity. Simply wholeness, from which flows respect, love and compassion.
And in seeing the mirroring nature of the external world as an indicator of where we're hanging on to conditioned beliefs, there is an invitation to explore what's keeping them held as invisible truths. An opening up for curiosity and gentle enquiry. And in this unravelling, the idea of maintaining vigilance over how we are perceived, second guessing responses, recoiling at criticism, agonising over differing opinions, may begin to seem more and more irrelevant, because what is really there to defend and protect, other than a bundle of long-held beliefs?
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