Worrying About What Others Think

While meditating this morning, I realized that the majority of the time my attention was focused on either past or future interactions with others. On further reflection, I found a common “theme” to all of them: my ego was especially concerned with what other people thought about me.

Reflecting on the memories that were popping up, I realized that the purpose of “reliving the moment” was in order to replay the emotion that I had felt during that particular exchange. For instance, during one interaction I said something that caused embarrassment; as a result I kept “replaying” the embarrassment. While replaying the event, my mind would keep telling me: “Oh, you shouldn’t have said/done that! Look how stupid that made you look!”

There were other memories that I replayed because my ego felt something I had said or did made me “look good” in the eyes of others. These memories were replayed to enjoy the feelings I had originally felt when the experience occurred.

My fantasies about the future focused mainly on conversations I would have with people. I thought about what I would say to make me look clever or funny. However, I also have recurring fantasies about people “wronging” me; i.e., of “playing the victim”. In these scenarios, the purpose is always the same: to prove in one way or another that I am better than others.

The source of worry

Looking at the big picture, it is clear that these types of memories and fantasies show that I am not comfortable with who I really am, and that I look to others to validate that I am a good person. Even though it’s clear to me that relying on external validation is doomed to fail, the habit is still deeply entrenched inside of me.

I will repeat: I know that inner peace comes from self-validation. I could say this phrase 100 times a day. Yet it still it seems the majority of each day is spent fantasizing about what others have thought or will think of me. As a side note: I of course can’t be sure what people are actually thinking about me, so my negative and positive reactions are instead based on what I THINK people are thinking of me at a particular time. (What a mess!)

The no-worry experience

So after spending considerable time in meditation this morning doing anything but actually meditating, an interesting thought occurred to me: what does the experience feel like of not worrying about what others think about me?

I took a deep breath. And then another. The mind started to empty, and muscles started to relax. I started to get a “deeper” feel of the energy in my body, where it was flowing, and where there were blocks or points of pain. I let everything be as it was. Even the pain. A sense of peace started to come into my body.

But predictably, the experience didn’t last long before a memory knocked me out of the present moment. But I did come away from this meditation session with an interesting question:

What would it feel like to spend an entire evening with friends without even one time ever worrying about what other people were thinking about you, or might think about you?

It sounds a bit like heaven to me.