Rinse and repeat.
And then repeat it and repeat it and repeat it like a mantra. What other people think of me is none of my business.
I often feel pulled one way and then the other by people's desires for me and opinions of me. The desire to please, to be the sort of person who is liked and accepted, is strong. There are parts of me which I wish to express but then I worry that people will not like me if I do.
But then, in that instance, what other people think of me is none of my business. Being true to myself is.
Sometimes I worry that the way people see me is in conflict with how they would see me if only I had the courage to truly be myself ~ and that's coming from the kind of person who is quite often truly myself. I have been told by more than one person that I am brave in my sharing of myself. And so I realise that though I feel so terrified to express myself, maybe other people are even more terrified to express themselves, and suddenly I think that maybe I am actually more myself than lots of other people are. Which amazes me, really. Because it doesn't feel like it, and it scares me. I have a strange and scary ongoing feeling that something bad will happen if I am myself. It is one of my many terrors, and is a delusion that persists. It has wings. Or balls. (Although, as someone said, "Why do people say, 'grow some balls'? Balls are weak and sensitive. If you wanna be tough, grow a vagina. Those things can take a pounding." But I digress ...)
If you have a strong inner life, there is always a disconnect dealing with other people because you know that you are never going to be able to truly share that rich and vibrant space with them. They will never see the whole of you. And because of that, we don't really ever know how we come across to other people, and some of that richness inside may not get expressed well or at all, and so then we can be surprised by others' reactions to us. We just never really truly know how other people see us. And we all want to be seen for who we are and accepted for who we are.
But still, despite that true and lovely desire, what other people think of me is none of my business.
It is so easy to feel invisible in this world. And the online space can make that feel even stronger. When people stop reading my blog (which has happened a whole stack over the past few years), I wonder why. I start wondering if I should change the content, make myself shinier. When people don't hit "like" enough on my Facebook page, or at all, I can feel rejected. Some days I feel lonely on Facebook because the people who give me the most encouragement are people I have never met, across the other side of the world, while the people I know in real life are saying nothing at all. I feel redundant and alienated and like maybe some of those people that I know in real life don't really see me at all. I feel like the best way I express myself is in writing. And I feel like maybe some of those people that I have known for years, who know me as Sue the transcriber or whatever, might think that I have a few tickets on myself, calling myself a writer.
Luckily, what other people think of me is none of my business.
Or in a face-to-face conversation someone might make a joke of something that is important to me that I'm never spoken about before so that then I don't feel like I want to ever to say anything about that particular subject for fear of being rejected. Because I'm so fucking totally oversensitive. Sometimes this pyroluric freak will take to her bed because rejection feels like its running down her leg and out through the floor from something someone did or didn't say (often on Facebook), and it's a rejection that ultimately has no basis in reality. It is hard to accept that these delusional sorts of feelings that are so strong are not real out there in the world but are more indications of what is going on in my body. At those times it is a solace to remember that what other people think of me is none of my business ... and that quite possibly what I think they are thinking about me is nothing even close to the truth.
I have been having a bit of success recently in a small way when it comes to writing. In the last six months I have had an essay published for the first time for payment. Last week, I had another essay published in the inaugural autumn issue of The Tincture Journal. On one particular day a fortnight ago I had three different email conversations with three different editors. One of those was saying that they would like to see a piece of mine that I had suggested. Another was to say that they loved my original piece of writing and would publish it on their website. Another filled my heart the most, because it was from The Griffith Review, which I love, and though it was a rejection letter it was the most encouraging one, telling me that my essay passed through the first round with flying colours, despite the fact that it was over their usual reading limit (over 4000 words), and that it was only because of issues of space that they had to unfortunately reject it.
Writing is a strange pursuit. When I first write something, though I am ultimately hoping for other people to read it, I have to write it as if I'm only writing it forever for myself, or I won't be able to write a word. It's as if I have to go inside, close the door, walk down the hallway right to the back of the house, climb the stairs, go down the laundry chute into the wine cellar where there is a hidden, winding staircase that nobody knows about up to a level where there is a flying fox that flies above the clothesline below to the the hidden room that is only accessible by said flying fox, being situated at the top of a 17 foot pole. And it's here that I write. Writing is a solitary activity that is about as personal as swimming around in your own guts, and then when you come back out of that space and return all the way up to your everyday house with a piece of writing to share, then, though you want pepole to like what you have written, and though you are doing a very intimate thing with them by sharing it with them, even if it's the whole world you're sharing it with over the internet, you still have to remember that what other people think of you is none of your business.
Repeat: what other people think of me is none of my business.
For some people, being themselves comes easily, but I suspect for most of us it is a difficulty. It is the tug between the pull of the herd and the call of your own wild. It turns out that one of the hardest things to be is yourself. Who would have thought that? And there are so many multiple layers to being ourselves that I suspect we can go through life with doors left unopened, that opened we would be surprised and maybe even dismayed to find contained undeveloped talents that would knock us a little sideways if we only knew that they lay hidden under a big pile of clothes from 1979 that we forgot to put back in the cupboard. Or they lie under a whole lot of "No, no, not that. It's not possible to do that. It will cost too much." And so there it lies mustering in the middle of the room under a pile of Keds and pairs of black shiny pants and shimmery boob tubes and fears until one day we forget that it's there at all when we glance in that room. Now there's just a pile of stuff, and it becomes easier to simply close the door and walk down the hallway to a different room.
Once you know how hard it is to be yourself and you feel it, then it sometimes becomes easier to at least begin the process of either discovering who you are and what you want (there are always surprises) or else in the even harder work of coaxing and cajoling those parts of you that hide, wanting to be seen, terrified of being seen. Those parts need the most gentle looking after, and if being kind to yourself feels like a weakness then they have probably found a ledge in your soul that they have climbed up on, away from your searchlight gaze. Those undeveloped parts of you need rose-coloured light to shine on them. They already feel a little dead, so if you walk in on them and shine your torch of scrutiny on them, the one that contains energy-saving cold white light, they will stay hidden away on their ledges. They are already in the morgue. Candlelight and rose-coloured light. They're the sorts of light that they like best.
They will also run from comparison. They are just themselves, and when you compare them to other people's shiny bits that have been Photoshopped for public consumption, they will run away from that. This interaction is just between you and them. Because what other people think of you is none of your business.
When I say that mantra to myself, what it does is it provides a space for me to climb out of the raging ocean of paranoia and insecurity when I'm worried I have stepped on someone's toes, hurt their feelings, said something they may not like and therefore may reject me and not like me as much. On and on it goes, that raging ocean. And those words when I say them ~ what other people think of me is none of my business ~ work for me. They send shoots of gold through the water that point out the ledge on the edge of the cliff that I can climb onto, above those waves, and see them for what they are.
And then I feel the bigger me, mySelf, and those fears subdue, and then the space and the hope flood in. Like the tide. As they always do.
|Meditation by Tonyelieh|