Sunday, July 8, 2007

Correcting Perceptions

I admit that I still struggle with self-consciousness. I think it stems from being raised in a "what will people think?" environment, which created an exaggerated sense that everyone is looking at me...and judging. I do not like to be in the spotlight. I cringe when I have to walk into a room full of people. Speaking in front of a group brings on a cold sweat. What is it that is so terrifying that propels me to spend so much time worrying about what people will think?

Rejection...scorn...amusement at my expense...take your's all rolled into the fear that somehow I will be found lacking. Many people struggle from this fear, in differing degrees. The perception that we must somehow measure up to the standard of "those people" can be limiting and potentially self-destructive.

What is needed is a good dose of reality. There have been studies done about this phenomenon and the conclusions have shown overwhelmingly that we are not nearly as noticeable as we think we are. Couple that with the fact that many of the very people that we are terrified of are dealing with this same problem themselves.

Imagine a dinner party where a guest spends the entire evening worrying and wondering about what the others are thinking about her. Instead of being able to relax and enjoy the company, her thoughts constantly go to her hairstyle...her much food she puts on her plate and fork...what she just said...and what she will say next...and what will "they" say about her after she is gone. Now multiply that times another guest...and another...and another...and soon it's pretty clear why we have reached the point that we are probably the most unconnected society in the world. In the July edition of O, The Oprah Magazine, there is an article entitled "The Cure for Self-Consciousness," written by Martha Beck. Here is an excerpt from the article:

"Once, I had an intense, emotional cell phone discussion with a friend while riding in a taxi. At a certain point I fell into a strangled silence. 'What's wrong with you?' my friend asked. 'Why aren't you talking?' Covering up my mouth with one hand, I whispered, 'The driver can hear me.' At this point, my friend said something so lucid, so mind expanding, so simultaneously Socratic and Zenlike, that I memorized it on the spot. I've gained comfort by repeating it to myself in many other situations. I encourage you, too, to memorize this question and use it when you find yourself shrinking back from an imaginary spotlight. My friend said - and I quote: 'So?'

When I read this I laughed out loud. So simple...yet so freeing.

I open my heart when I write and share myself in a way that sometimes makes me feel vulnerable. I realize that I will never know all of those who read my words. There might be those who do not understand...or agree...or laugh at the outrageousness of it all.


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