In talking about turning back on a recent walk I had to deal with my reaction to the potential judgement of others. We are all subject to the judgement of others, whether it is spoken or not. How does my awareness speak to this and how do I rise above it?
Much of my life was influenced by what others thought of me. I had a desperation to fit in, a need for people to think well of me. Behind that I was frightened that people would see through that mask and see the real me. I always felt that who I was and who I portrayed to others were different people. In fact they were, but only because I chose it to be that way.
Before I became aware of this division in me I thought that what other people thought of me was the most important issue to deal with. My life was only worth while if they thought well of me. If they did not think well of me then I was doing something wrong, I was not good enough. Paradoxically, instead of pursuing this and seeking to know what people thought and doing something about it, I shied away, afraid of experiencing their judgement.
I always felt socially inept because I saw judgement in every reaction. I actually thought that people were focused on me and looking at me all the time. I did not work out that most people were like me, they were focused on themselves. The truth was more likely that they did not actually notice me because I did not put myself into their attention.
Many years ago I was at a crossroads in my life. I had been working in lighting design in the theatre and was trying to establish a career in architectural lighting. At that point it was not creative or satisfying and I was wondering where to go in the future. I decided to seek the opinions of those who knew me well in different areas of my life.
I prepared a questionnaire about what they thought I was good at, not good at, what my positive points were and what my negative points were. I was looking to get a rounded outside view of me. It took a great deal of courage for me to go to people and ask them to talk about me in this way.
A lot of people were embarrassed to do this, afraid of upsetting me. Many people responded with great answers, talking about about how amazing I was. there were those who were honest—I am so grateful to them for that—and there were those just thought I was mad.
It proved to be a powerful exercise, if only for the experience of doing it. The picture I got back was pretty much in line with what I thought about myself. It helped me to keep moving forward and achieve great things, creatively, in architectural lighting.
At that time I also went to a clinical psychologist and got him to prepare a report on my strengths and weaknesses and type of career he thought I should pursue. It was an extraordinary feeling having an outsider look at me dispassionately and professionally and provide a written report.
Now I am always interested to hear what people think of me and what I do. I love positive feedback and I am able to receive negative feedback. What is important to me is what I think. Feedback from outside is useful in creating guideposts for my future endeavours, but it is not why I do what I do.
Do let me know what you think, I do pay attention to it, even if I do not do any thing about it…
- Do the opinions of others matter to you?
- Do you seek or hide away from these opinions?
- How important is your opinion of yourself?