You’ll see overweight men keeping their suit jackets on to hide their bellies if they’re out for lunch with an attractive co-worker. You’ll see large-breasted women constantly re-pulling their cardigans over their breasts in a pointless attempt to conceal them. If a girl thinks her bum is too big she’ll try to hide it with long tops and coats. Short men avoid standing near tall ones if they’re trying to impress someone.
You think that what people see when they look at you is either the bad quality you’re focusing on as a part of this week’s meditation, or you’ll assume they’re focused on some particularly negative aspect about that particular day–like a stain on your shirt or spot you missed shaving or some hair that won’t go where it belongs. But people are rarely noticing those things. That’s because they’re too busy doing exactly what you’re doing.
Just as you’re pulling your sweater down over your butt or standing behind a piece of furniture that conceals your gut, everyone around you is busy doing the same thing. The desire to be accepted by the group is a very human thing, but language and advertising have whipped an otherwise healthy human drive into a crazy over-drive that has 99.9% of people worried most of the time about some aspect of their physical selves.
There is no need to invest time in these thoughts and strategies. In fact authenticity and openness have never looked more attractive in a world driven by egocentric fears about not being enough. In today’s world a calm demeanor, sense of humour and open mind are far more valuable than any combination of body parts.
The more “attractive” people are the more they worry about what you think. No one is imprisoned more by ego than someone who dresses and acts in ways to get strangers and acquaintances to approve of how they look.
You’re trying not to criticize your least-loved body part as a part of the weekly meditation we started yesterday. Make it easy today by focusing your attention outward instead. As you walk past each person try to figure out what they think their worst quality is and see if they work to hide it. If you don’t see them hiding it then that’s not what they think is their thing. The younger the person the more they’ll be inclined try to conform, so don’t watch octogenarians looking for a lot of signs of ego.
Get out of your thoughts and self-discussions comparing you to your ideals. Use your consciousness to take the world in rather than comment on what’s already known. Watch others. See their fear. See how misplaced it is and realize the same is true for you.
Give others compliments. Accept the ones given to you. And stop criticizing yourself. It’s never accomplished anything and it never will. It’s time to surrender. What’s waiting is a quiet world rarely invaded by judgment. It’s a beautiful state of mind to live in. I hope you’ll join me.
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.