Are you worried about what “people” think about you and your decisions? Dive deeper into who those people really are.
It’s rare to find people who truly don’t worry about how others will view their decisions or lifestyle. I’m certainly not one of them. In fact, most days I stress over small decisions here and there, wondering, what will *they* think? When it comes to larger decisions, well, the situation isn’t much better. I get so wrapped up with trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with my life, that I struggle to fathom what I actually want from my life. In trying to meet the expectations of others, I lose my own expectations along the way.
But who is “they,” who are these “others,” and who is deciding what I’m “supposed” to be doing?
That’s a good questions that I’ve only recently stopped to consider. Martha Beck, author of Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live, explains that most people have an ominous “they” lurking in their conscience, but this group of people we try to please is usually quite limited: “Most people have an Everybody made up of the people who raised them, plus a few individuals who became very important to them at crucial developmental stages in their lives.” Were not talking all of the country here—or even your town!
In an exercise Beck titles “Meeting Your Everybody,” she asks you to complete sentences like the following:
“People judge me because….”
“When I do well, people feel…”
“Everybody expects me to…”
“When I fail, everybody thinks…”
Once you’ve filled out each statement, think hard about which individuals in your life actually hold those opinions about you. Who are you really thinking of when you’re worried about “everybody” judging you? You may be surprised (or not) to find that “everybody” is just an aunt or an old boyfriend. Ask yourself: Will the effort to please these few bring joy and progress to your life? Or frustration and angst? In other words, are they productive role models for you specifically?
This exercise is especially helpful when you’re uncertain about a new career, relationship, or life path. If your uncertainty stems from worrying about what “everybody will think,” spend a few moments completing this exercise. Would you stop yourself from following your dreams or taking an exciting risk just to (possibly) please a handful of people who may or may not have your best interests at heart? I hope not 🙂
It may also be helpful to counter your “everybody” by listing people in your life who would support your heart’s calling as well as your judgment. I admit that it’s hard for me to exercise the narrow-minded phantoms in my mind. Sometimes they won’t get lost no matter how many times I tell them to quiet down. Instead of trying to force them out, which never seems to work for me, I’ll direct my attention to more positive figures in my mind. I crowd out the negative voices by welcoming the positive ones.
At the end of the day, however, it’s not even about pleasing those people who do support you. Follow what feels essential to your heart, and you’ll be on the right track.
Have you tried “Meeting Your Everybody?”
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Photo: Greg Raines via Unsplash