As humans, we are naturally inclined to care what other people think. We want to be liked, loved and accepted. If we can’t get people to accept us for who we are, we are often more than willing to gain acceptance for who we aren’t.
For introverts, this can mean pretending to be more extroverted than we truly are. We find ourselves hanging out at places we despise with ‘friends’ we don’t like. We begin making excuses for our personal preferences – as if there were something criminal about them. We might even adopt other people’s aspirations and dreams in an effort to gain acceptance. We can’t handle the look of disapproval on our friends’ faces when we tell them we want to be a writer or librarian – you’ll never make much money doing that, they say – so we choose goals that seem more impressive.
This raises an important question.
Why do we care so much what others think?
“Too many people overvalue what they are not and undervalue what they are.” ~Malcolm S. Forbes
We allow others to assign us value because we do not know our true worth. We think that we are worthy only when other people tell us it is so.
Once I have a job that is respectable in the eyes of my family, I will be worthy.
When people see me as pure, good and perfect, I will be worthy.
When I receive an impressive degree, I will be worthy.
Once people think I am beautiful, I will be worthy.
The list goes on. There are innumerable ways that we can ask others to give us value. We do this out of fear. Fear that we are not loveable just as we are. Fear that we will fail. Fear that we are not enough. Consider the words of Anais Nin:
“She lacks confidence, she craves admiration insatiably. She lives on the reflections of herself in the eyes of others. She does not dare to be herself.”
She does not dare to be herself. These words are drenched with fear. What will happen if she risks being her authentic self? The implication is that she will lose the admiration she craves so desperately. But why does this woman have such an insatiable desire for recognition?
Most people have had fantasies of fame and accolades. I know I have. I’ve imagined myself winning an Academy Award, talking about my bestselling book on the Today Show and dancing on So You Think You Can Dance. It is natural for us to want people to applaud our achievements and look at us with respect. Essentially, we want them to tell us we are worthy. Why? Because we want to be loved.
We associate recognition, admiration, and acceptance from others with love. In reality, nothing we do, say or achieve establishes our worthiness of love.
Believing we are worthy
“We live our deepest soul’s desires not by intending to change who we are, but by intending to be who we are.” -Oriah Mountain Dreamer
We were born worthy. We are enough just as we are. The sooner we realize this, the easier it will be to not give a damn what others think. Take a moment to recall all of the things that you have done to impress, please or gain acceptance from other people. Brace yourself, the list is probably pretty long. If you’re like me, it will include some major life choices, such as where you went to school, what degree you chose, the jobs you pursued, the people you dated or didn’t date, the places you lived.
Now imagine what choices you would have made if you loved and accepted yourself 100%. What would you have done differently if the opinions of others didn’t matter? For me, the answer is A LOT.
Remember that we are all imperfect beings in a very flawed world. Growth is our goal – not perfection. And, as Jean Vanier put it, “growth begins when we start to accept our own weakness.”
We can only love ourselves completely when we embrace the dark and the light, the good and the bad. Many of us only want to accept and share the “good” aspects of our personality. I prefer to live by the words of Carl Jung, who said, “I would rather be whole than good.”
The funny thing is, the more we are able to accept our whole selves – darker bits and all – the greater our capacity to generate and receive love. We begin to realize that it never really mattered what others thought of us. In fact, they probably thought of us very little. We are the source of our own happiness. We are enough.