I recently received exceptional advice: “What other people think of you is none of your business”. It triggered an “aha” moment for me. What else have I been concerned with but what others think of me? It has driven many of my decisions, preferences, and reactions in everyday life.
What other people think of you is none of your business--Best advice I've received in a while! Click To TweetI am an innate people pleaser. I have an inner drive (perhaps obsession is the right word?) to make sure that everyone around me is happy with what I say or do. At times, it has even inhibited my willingness to share what I believe. I think this is a common trait, but I am perhaps a bit more sensitive to the reactions of others around me.
When people around me are unhappy, I tend to internalize it. This has made me a very self-conscious person. At times, I appear to be quite indecisive because I am trying to calculate the ramifications of each decision prior to making it.
As you can imagine, this robs me of any chance I have at inner peace.
Recently, I have been taking stock of what makes me tick. Why do I feel the things that I do? What makes me feel vulnerable or self-defensive? How do I tame my inner voice?
Along the way, I’ve started to transition from self-conscious to self-aware.
What has changed?
I no longer judge my every action or feeling as if I am managing an employee. My inner voice has shifted from condescension to gentle probing, with a tone of understanding and encouragement.
I’m starting to realize the deeper, driving motivations behind what I do, rather than simply judging myself based upon my actions.
How do you move from self-conscious to self-aware?
- Build your ‘self-acceptance’ muscle
They say that it takes an average of 21 days to build a habit. For the two weeks, I have been reading (and re-reading) Awaken Your Strongest Self by Neil Fiore. In this book, he underlines the importance of accepting all parts of yourself, while building the capacity of your ‘strongest self’ to choose what is best for you and take action. This book has been transformative for me in that I’ve started to view my tendency to be extremely self conscious and indecisive as a part of myself that wants to avoid mistakes.
As a result, I no longer have to over-identify with my feelings and view them as all of me. I accept my feelings, I feel them, and then I do my best to act in my best overall interest. I try to address the deeper needs that I have, rather than pushing myself to immediately react to problems as they manifest on the surface.
It is as if I’m finally becoming the best friend to myself that I’ve always wanted to be. When this need is not filled inwardly, we crave the approval and acceptance of others.
However, this is not a one-time job. I have to practice radical self-acceptance every day. There are many times that I react to a situation based on my tendencies, and completely skip this important evaluation process. However, I do try to slow down after the fact and think about why I reacted the way I did, and what might be a better way to deal with the situation moving forward.
As this becomes more of a practice with me, there are times I am able to catch myself before I react.
Can you accept that there is a reason for everything that you do, even if you don’t agree with it?
Can you try to understand that part of you, perhaps a remnant of your upbringing or past experiences, that is driven to react in a certain way in order to protect you?
Can you respect and affirm its motivation, while helping to guide it in a more productive direction?
2. Spend more time with yourself
I know, you barely have any time to spare as it is! However, this is important. There are times where I am so focused on the needs and desires of others that I am completely negligent of myself. Perhaps you can relate?
Over time, I find it easy to skim the surface of my needs, while holding others in higher regard. That only helps to reinforce that I am not as important. I realized over time that this habit came with consequences. It was much easier to address my discomfort with a situation or outcome with food, than to deal with the underlying emotions.
I didn’t feel that I had the time or bandwidth to prioritize my needs. Now, I know that it is a priority no matter how little time I have. My ability to cope with difficult situations is enhanced by the support by that I provide to myself. If I can take a moment to think about why I feel fearful, jealous, lonely, insecure, mistreated, or vulnerable, I can address those needs rather than act on them.
What do you feel when you are stressed or worried?
What do you feel you need in that moment?
Is there a deeper need that is going unaddressed?
How would it feel to validate that part of yourself, to acknowledge and accept what it feels?
How would it feel to realize you still have the executive power to choose to react in your overall best interest?
3. Reassess your priorities
In a recent article, I discussed that we don’t really have to do it all. What we identify as important to us can, and should, change over time. Many of the things that I felt were a priority in my life, I actually lacked the motivation to do. When I was honest with myself, I realized that I was doing them in order to be perceived in a certain way, or holding out a carrot for own self-acceptance.
Make sure you are doing things for the right reasons, so that you can minimize inner conflict. When you can align your everyday actions with your purpose or overall mission, it is easier to take action. It is easier to continue to move forward even in the face of opposition. Also, you will find satisfaction and fulfillment as you carry out seemingly inconsequential tasks. In the end, is it not the accumulation of these smaller tasks that allows us to accomplish our greater goals?
However, when you are doing something that truly does not resonate with you, you will find yourself procrastinating or giving up at the slightest hint of resistance.
Is there anything I am doing for the wrong reasons?
How can I align the things I have to do with a larger mission or purpose?
Do I do anything to help take care of me? How can I prioritize this moving forward?