You’re pretty hard on yourself. You imagine everyone is watching your life like a personal performance and you want to make sure they’re all taken care of. You want to keep them entertained and happy. You want them to like you. In these clawing, depleting motions you crawl away from your own being so that you can put on a performance for them.
Who’s them? Wow. There’s your parents. Siblings if you have them. Then enemies. Schoolmates and facebook friends. There’s even the them that is suggested to you by advertising. They lead you to believe that everyone’s just watching you for mistakes. Well I can tell you they aren’t. Because people like me don’t care about your mistakes and the remaining 97% of people aren’t looking at you because their ego is making them do the same thing you are! They’re sitting in their life thinking worried thoughts about what you think of them.
People think I’m kidding, but even school bullies are just being proactive about their fears. Rather than figure out how to face a challenge they try to intimidate everyone to the point that no one ever challenges them. It’s easy to win battles you never have to fight. Likewise, girls with fragile spirits will tease others to protect themselves.
People’s background motivations are easier to spot than you might think. But to be aware in that way you do have to have a quiet mind. You cannot be busy building narratives about your opinions or views of what’s going on. You can’t even be with them in a dress that is green because even that is too much of your opinion dividing up the whole. Just be open and aware with no expectations. Have faith in your ability to understand. Because that is the only way to spot the person beneath the performance.
Seriously. You can always go back to living the old way if this doesn’t work. But just take one day and dedicate it to this one shift: instead of talking about how you look bad or how you wished you looked differently, focus on others. As you watch them walk by the food court or whatever, just try to look at them and imagine what they beat themselves up for in the mirror every morning.
Is it their looks? The balding head or expanding belly? Is it their shoes? Or that 5 year old blouse? Or maybe it’s their dark roots, or what they’re ordering for lunch. Maybe it’s their kids, or that they can’t quit smoking. Maybe they feel trapped in a job where they don’t feel respected, or that they haven’t felt beautiful or loved in years. There’s a lot of things written on people’s faces that are worthy of compassion if you’d only stop assuming that everything is about you. Because every expression you have ever seen is a product of that person’s thoughts about their life and therefore their “reality.” And rarely does it have anything to do with you. And all too rarely does it feel any better than yours.
Spend some time meditating on why you do virtually everything you do. Really meditate on the reasoning behind every action of your life. You might be surprised at how often you come to the conclusion that your own actions were only undertaken because you hadn’t inspected them closely for value. Because way too much of your life is dedicated to building or maintaining an image, and not enough is being invested in living a real life.
Stop dancing for us. Stop being who you think will be acceptable to us. Sure there will be people that will judge the real you as well. But there’s people judging you now, but you don’t get the joy of fulfilling your role as the real you. You don’t owe us anything. But the world would be better if your life was joyful. So stop worrying about what anyone else is thinking and instead open your awareness and simply take in the many reasons to be joyful. Because that state of mind is ultimately your home.
Following a serious childhood brain injury Scott McPherson unwittingly spent his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and the self. This made him as strange to others as they were to him. Seeing the self-harm people created with their own over-thinking, Scott dedicated part of his life to helping others live with greater awareness. He is currently a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB, where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.