I saw this quote and it resonated with the hell out of me.
Parenting. Social media. Parties. Parking lots. Everywhere we go.
Have you seen that episode of Black Mirror called “Nosedive”? Here is the Wikipedia synopsis of the episode:
“The episode is set in a (futuristic) world where people can rate each other from one to five stars for every interaction they have, which can impact their socioeconomic status. Lacie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a young woman overly obsessed with her ratings… Her obsession leads to several mishaps… that culminate in a rapid reduction in her ratings.”
This is a scary and easy rabbit-hole to fall into. Now, if you’ve read my previous blog post about being an “Extroverted Introvert”, then you are familiar with the constant struggle that is my social-interaction-process. Those of you who are truly Introverts on the MBTI Scale are likely to be free from this kind of madness. You just go on and do you, day in and day out. I envy you. For the rest of us, it’s hard to admit just how much of our behavior is triggered by a self-concocted audience.
In my counseling work with adolescents, I can recall countless incidents in which middle schoolers would sit in my office, in complete anguish about the way they PERCEIVED that they were being PERCEIVED. By others. Ninety-five percent of the time, these social stories were manufactured in their own heads. I remember one time in particular, I was sitting with a student who was a frequent visitor regarding such types of CATASTROPHES, and I got very real with her. She was refusing to go to her math class because “Michelle” was in that class, and the SHIT HAD HIT THE FAN vis-à-vis Michelle something like three weeks earlier, and EVERYONE IN SCHOOL was still GIVING HER LOOKS about it. And finally I said to her, “Listen. Nobody cares about this. Nobody cares about you as much as you think they do.”
At first this might sound like an insulting punch in the stomach to an already insecure, hormonal, crying young person. Obviously I was not implying that nobody cared about her as a human being. But rather people did not care about this particular event/drama/incident nearly as much as she was constructing in her own mind. Quite frankly, the majority of her peers were much more focused on their own selves and faux pas, and bad hair/skin, and wrong shoes/clothes/parent’s car/fill-in-the-blank. And that is what I told her. And for the first time, she exhaled and said, “I feel so much more relaxed now!”
I mock and joke about how silly we act during the ‘tween years and adolescence. But let’s be honest, many of us have not come such a long way where perceived judgment is concerned. Wellllllll into adulthood. I’m no different.
The realization that you are taking up much less space in other people’s minds than you think you are is terrifically freeing! What a weight lifted… if we can get out of our own way long enough to think clearly. We give strangers, and even acquaintances, so much power over our thoughts and actions on a daily basis.
When I was engaged, my mom was planning a lovely bridal shower in my honor. She asked me for input. I told her, “Honestly, I don’t have fun at most bridal showers. I find them boring and uncomfortable.” I suggested something different that included a a fun activity… like BOWLING! My mom’s first reaction was that she’d never heard of anyone having a BOWLING shower. I’ll never forget her response: “This isn’t your tenth birthday party!” We laughed.
But my mom pressed on, through the fear of social stigma and doing something most Long Island brides had never dared to dream of, and lo and behold my shower took place at a bowling alley! And wouldn’t you know it, people – both friends and family alike – even strangers in striped bowling shoes and passersby – came out of the woodwork, complimenting this outrageous and original idea, applauding our bravery and heroism for going where no Long Island bridal shower had gone before! To a bowling alley!
But it was pretty awesome. And my point is, even if it wasn’t fully embraced by all… nobody cares. We’re all far more preoccupied with ourselves than the fact that you wore two mismatched shoes out the door this morning, or that you want to quit your fancy high-paying job and go start a celery farm. It doesn’t matter. Find your fire, your happy place, your gut. Like a true Introvert would tell us, just do you. I gotta go do me.