Worrying About What Others Think

By Anthony Gold

My high school had a very active and somewhat (locally) prominent athletic program: football, track & field, lacrosse, basketball to name just a few. In fact, one of my classmates became a player in the NFL. Many of our school activities revolved around athletics including pep rallies and the actual games / meets. For each event, nearly the entire school (about 2000 students) attended.

Except me.

In my four years there, I attended just one game.

Was it because I didn’t like sports? No, I loved sports. I even ran track for a bit and tried out for the football team.

The reason I didn’t attend the events was because I felt like I didn’t fit in.

For much of my young life, I just wanted to be accepted, blend in, and not be noticed. Unfortunately that was very hard since I grew up in a neighborhood where my family was the only Jewish family in a decidedly “un-jewish” environment. I was also much shorter and younger than my classmates. And my grades tended to be at the top of class. I was teased and ridiculed quite a bit, sometimes mercilessly.

Had I not had an insistent girlfriend, I never would have attended junior or senior prom. And even at those events, I was terrified of standing out, particularly because I had no idea how to dance or even what one was supposed to do when not dancing.

That’s the challenge when you base your sense of wellbeing on what other people think of you. You’re never truly happy, and you spend much of your time and energy focused on trying to please others.

An abysmal and unrewarding lifestyle indeed.

What I hadn’t yet realized was that worrying and concerning myself with what others thought were both choices I was making. Freely making.

Why was I doing that?

Clearly there was a purpose behind those self-sabotaging choices – albeit unconscious.

When we peel the onion away on our choice for any negative emotion, what we find – behind the insecurity – is a form of defensiveness. Something in the world (my life) is perceived as threatening, and I need to erect some form of defense to protect myself.

However, it’s actually in our defenselessness that true safety lies.

When we can step out of our egos and realize that who I am is not a function of anything external (number of friends, status, job title, wealth, possessions, skills, personality, bodily well-being) but rather an acknowledgment of our intimate connection with the oneness of the eternal (along with everyone and everything else) – then we experience an amazingly blissful peace and contentment.

From such a vantage point, all worry disappears regarding what others think. As Wayne Dyer once remarked, “Self-actualized people are independent of the good opinion of others.”

And what does “self-actualization” look like?

Simply recognizing the truth about who we are.

Join us in Monday’s class where we’ll explore the destructive nature of worrying about what others think and how we can practice becoming more “self-actualized”. I look forward to seeing you then.

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