Many of us want to do, be, or have something, yet we deny ourselves because we are afraid of what someone else might think.
This could be as simple as expressing an opinion or making a large life decision.
We have to really start to understand that this is an entirely normal and common issue that basically all humans experience in some fashion. We also need to realize that it is perhaps more exaggerated in our modern culture because of how deeply we are conditioned to respond to and crave validation, approval, and confirmation from external sources.
This is partially because a consumerist society can’t really function unless the majority of its participants carry deep wounds of insecurity and an inherent lack of self-worth. This is also true of the majority of modern religions and spiritual practices.
I’m not saying that there is anything good or bad or right or wrong with this. I’m just saying it is something to get in touch with, otherwise we are likely to live our lives under deep delusion and disempowerment—thus, at the mercy of a variety of external sources.
First, we have to realize a few important things:
1. This isn’t something we can “do” through force of will or effort.
2. We need to understand the nature of the situation that we find ourselves in and how we relate to it.
3. We should care about and value the opinions of those that we genuinely respect, yet we shouldn’t be controlled or limited by other’s opinions, allowing them to shroud our own inner voices.
4. Ultimately, it comes down to developing and cultivating the right kind of sensitivity, not being numbed or disconnected from our environment, or—at the other extreme—deluding ourselves with the idea that we are too sensitive and/or too spiritual.
This isn’t something you really do or force, unless you want to end up like one of those passive-aggressive, highly deluded, disembodied types or someone who constantly has to point out how they don’t give a f*ck. Failing to realize that, in these examples, both parties have totally missed the point and are just deluding themselves and others.
Without cultivating understanding and sensitivity, we are likely just operating at the same level of ignorance which has created the situation that we found ourselves in to begin with. No amount of protesting, waving of placards, chanting of mantras, 12-step programs, or social groups can surrogate for actually engaging with and reflecting on our experience as it is.
A simple experiment we can start doing to get in touch with this is: Begin to pay attention to what we are actually saying versus what people are hearing and/or responding to. How often do they genuinely match up? Are we even in touch with what we are saying? Is that what people are responding to? How often are other people just responding to their emotional reactions, to their interpretations, or (likely) misinterpretations?
How often are others merely projecting their fears and anxieties?
Furthermore, does this person have what we want to have? Have they achieved what we want to achieve? Is their life following a direction that we find attractive?
By the same token, we can turn these questions back around on ourselves and get in touch with what other people are actually saying to us, whether or not we are hearing them, and what we are actually responding to, or not.
All in all, it’s very simple, direct, and easy. It just takes some time, effort, and practice to begin to cultivate genuine insight and understanding into the nature of our experience as it actually is.
Author: Brandon Gilbert
Image: Athena LeTrelle/Flickr
Editor: Leah Sugerman
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Callie Rushton