Over and over again I work with clients who are feeling challenged by behavior that is motivated because they are concerned with how or what people will think of them. All too often, our behavior is motivated, literally directed by the thought “what will they think of me?” Clearly, at the very core of our human nature is our desire to “be loved or liked”. We are hard wired to be social, to be included; because we know we cannot exist or ultimately – survive – if we are alone. The Animal Behavior theorists teach us that our goal in living is to propagate our genes and we need to be desirable in order for that to happen.
To be desirable, some of us have concluded that we must pay more attention to how others feel about us than to what we think of ourselves. Included in this equation are the characteristics of Vanity (excessive pride), Cockiness (arrogantly confident and sure of yourself), Self Righteous (moral superiority), and Selfish (concerned with our own desires while ignoring the needs of others), none of which, we wish to be associated with or defined by. Consequently we develop the belief system that convinces us our thoughts, desires, attitudes, and behavior cannot take precedence over what others expect from us.
Repeat after me: “WHAT I THINK ABOUT MYSELF IS THE ONLY THING THAT MATTERS”
Let me clarify! I am convinced that 99.9% of the people on this planet are good-hearted at their core. I believe that we ALL are ‘made from the same cloth’, ‘are ONE with another’, ‘created from the same spirit’, etc… The only reason we behave differently is because we are, for a myriad of reasons, unable to connect with that ‘inner’ self but you know it… you’ve seen it… you FEEL it… at least, from time to time.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see? More importantly, what do you FEEL? What do you THINK? What you think of yourself right then… as you gaze into your OWN eyes – THAT IS WHAT MATTERS – nothing else.
I will often ask clients what they WANT to be… WHO they want to be… and the response is generally the same: “I want to be happy and I want to be a ‘good’ person”. It is sometimes challenging but from there we need to define ‘happy’ and ‘good’. Again generally, that response lists attributes such as: kind, honest, considerate, patient, loving, and empathetic, etc.
You know – deep down – whether or not your behavior demonstrates those attributes or not! We know – deep down – that judging (for example) is unkind. Therefore, each time we pass judgment, the FEELING that we are being unkind touches our heart – it trickles down into that space that agitates our conscience. IF you are aware – you will FEEL it… IF you are paying attention… you will acknowledge it… IF you are thinking about who YOU are and what YOU want… you will correct it.
Adolescence is a place where this type of confidence is frequently navigated and we find countless examples of kids who say “I don’t know why I did it… I wanted everyone to like me”. We also find countless examples of the kids who ‘didn’t do it’ and instead demonstrate compassion or honesty in spite of their counterparts’ example.
Some people refer to this as ‘doing the right thing’ but we need to make sure that the ‘right thing’ is something that allows us to look in the mirror and FEEL good about. If doing what someone else calls the ‘right thing’ isn’t consistent with what settles softly on YOUR heart – then it isn’t the RIGHT thing for YOU.
Sometimes the best you can get is: The Lesser of Two Evils… meaning that neither choice necessarily feels good but always… one will feel less bad than the other. Sometimes when choosing what is ‘right’ for us, we must make choices that feel bad for others. Sometimes, Choice A is better in the short run and provides immediate satisfaction but Choice B wins the long game – hands down. Have the courage to choose Choice B! Years from now you will be able to look in the mirror and know that even though it wasn’t easy, you made the decision you were able to stand by.
IF you can look in the mirror and FEEL GOOD about the choice – DEEP DOWN it was the ‘right’ thing to do – then square your shoulders and BE PROUD for making a tough decision. Stand tall in confidence! IF you would rather keep it a secret because you are afraid that people won’t like it – DON’T go that route! The little part of your brain that tells you to keep it secret – THAT’S the part of your psyche that is telling you “this won’t feel good when you look in the mirror”!! You will be unable to feel happy with yourself no matter what other people think.
This post is offered for the sole purpose of helping you understand when saying “NO” is a good thing – how to recognize and stand up for what is GOOD for you versus what you do for the benefit of ‘being liked or loved’.
Comments and debate are welcome!