Making Sense of the Eternal Internal Struggle
It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes. ~Sally Field
How many times have you not followed your heart because you were worried about what other people might think? How often have you avoided doing something you truly wanted to do because you couldn’t stand the idea that other people would judge you?
Have you based your major life choices on your own desires, or have you allowed other people to influence you? Do you have regrets because you have given someone else the power to make decisions in your life, whether directly or indirectly? Have you chosen your job, a partner or your home because someone else thought you should?
You’re Not Alone
Most everyone has, at one time or another, made a choice in their lives that was based on someone else’s opinion. And while there are certainly times when it’s appropriate to do so, there are plenty of times that we regret not following our own intuition.
The difference is this: when you accept the advice of someone else because you feel that it’s right for you, you’re following your own gut and can consider it inspired action–but when you bend to someone else’s will to please them (despite your own feelings), you’re shortchanging yourself in the happiness department.
Why Do We Care What Other People Think, Anyway?
It’s human nature to care what other people think. From infancy, we learn that when we do what someone else wants us to do, they’re happy with us–and that feels good. As we get older and learn to make the occasional unpopular decision, we are sometimes shocked to learn that some people actually seem to stop being nice to us when we don’t follow their “advice” for living.
But ultimately, we care what people think because we are taught to base our identities on the messages they give us. When our parents tell us we’re good for following their rules, for example, we begin to feel that we need to follow the rules to be good. When our kindergarten teachers scold us for coloring outside the lines, we begin to feel that unless we “stay inside the lines,” we’re wrong.
We take the messages that we hear from others about ourselves every day of our lives, and we internalize them–to such an extent that we find ourselves dependent on the approval of others for our own self worth.
Should We Just Stop Caring?
Of course, this is a two sided coin. While we certainly need to learn to follow our hearts and our own intuition toward inspired action and to make our own life choices, there are times we need to follow the rules. For example, to be productive members of society, we need to follow certain societal norms–at the very least, we have to follow the laws of the land.
And, the fact of the matter is, most of us aren’t able to just “turn off” caring about what others, especially those we care about, think about us and our choices. We don’t want to become cold and immune to the emotions of others, but we want to be happy. To be happy, we must make our own choices, follow our own divine inspiration for what we want our lives to be. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who must live with the decisions we make.
So where does this leave us? Are we doomed to an eternal internal struggle? How do we start taking charge of our own lives and stop letting the judgments and opinions of others dictate our choices? What do you think?
Next Up: How to Stop Caring What People Think (Without Looking Like a Huge Jerk)