“Many times I’ve stopped myself writing about the Experience. And every time I’ve asked myself why….
I was stopping myself from writing about the Experience because of what other people might think”
(Roisin Ingle; Irish Times Magazine 12/09/15)
Roisin Ingle reminded me about the challenge of living an authentic life this week when an extract from her book Public Displays of Emotion was published in The Irish Times Magazine.
She wrote about her decision to have an abortion and the tension between doing what she thought was right and the risk of being judged by others. Not easy.
Living an authentic life is not always easy. It includes saying No, voicing views that may go against what others want or believe and making choices that others don’t like.
This is naturally uncomfortable because we all want to get approval and be liked, it feels good. But when natural dislike of disapproval becomes fear of disapproval it stops us saying and doing what we believe in. We are then on the road to perfectionism, people pleasing and the inevitable exhaustion that comes with trying to be all things to all people.
Despite the fact that I know all of the above, why does saying or doing something that others will not like still seem so difficult at times?
I think that our deepest fears (including mine) are not that others might judge what we have said or done but that they might judge who we are and therefore we become of less value, of less worth to them.
Here’s the dilemma; living an honest life, our life of choice can mean going against what others want and society expects. At the same time we don’t want to live a life limited by other people’s expectations, our authenticity undermined by fear or shame. So what can we do?
The biggest lesson I have learned (and am still learning!) is that I cannot control what people think of me, but I can learn to have a true and healthy view of myself.
Someone can think whatever they want about me, whether it is true or not. The point is what do I think about myself?
I think that I am responsible for my actions but my entire self is not defined by my actions, I am not my actions.
All of me, who I am, my worth, is not defined by one part of me and so all of me cannot be validly judged on the basis of knowing part of me.
Roisin Ingle summaries this perfectly;
“My abortion is part of my story, part of who I am. But it is just one part of my life: I was divorced. I have two children. I am messy and domestically challenged. I have a tendency to lose things. I like chips (probably too much.) I cry easily. I had an abortion”
So in summary some people will judge us from time to time but the real work and reward is in not buying into that judgement. Other people’s opinions about us will be based on certain events and views but they are not our whole story.