I think it’s safe to say that we’re so interconnected that we need each other to survive. But just how much have we given thought to what this really means? How much do we need others? How much do they need us? Why do we even have relationships?
The times I’ve had people tell me I am acting like “I don’t need anyone/others” or called me the B-word, it’s usually because the person feels that they’ve tried to be nice to me, tried to get my attention, tried to be my friend and basically tried everything but felt ignored, taken for granted, not appreciated etc.
I am not perfect, and sometimes I can come across as “I don’t need anyone/others” but that is my “issue’ to deal with, if it’s even an issue. Sometimes, it’s just the other person’s “issue” and they need to deal with it.
When you need someone else’s approval and validation as a measure of your own worth, you’ll find yourself constantly compare yourself to someone else, obsessed with what you are lacking, what you still need to do, where you’ve gone wrong/not measured up etc. In most part you’re focused on your imperfections, faults, shortcomings, pain, mental anguish, struggles, rejection and all the things that affect your sense of worthiness, self-confidence, attractiveness or likability.
You are always thinking about what others think about you and whether they like you or not. You get so caught up in everyone else’s feelings and thoughts that you forget your own. And because your skills for detecting other’s feelings and thoughts about you have been finely honed as a result of many years of practice, you are on a contact quest to favourably influence their feelings and thoughts. You’re consumed by the need to “fit in”, belong to the “in-crowd” and/or become the most popular person in the room.
And as long as you think and believe that others’ feelings and thoughts about you are good, you feel worthy, attractive, liked, loved, wanted, popular etc. But when it looks like someone’s feelings and thoughts about you are not favourable, you either go overboard trying to “fix” those feelings and thoughts to favour you or develop feelings of dislike for the person you think/believe “does not like you”.
But here is the catch: even though you are acting out of genuine concern for how others feel and trying to make sure they feel liked, valued and wanted, your actions are “selfish” in a way because it’s something born out of self-preservation and not self-less love.
By constantly trying to make others feel good about themselves (worthy, attractive, likable, wanted etc.) you are sub-consciously trying to control how the other person feels about you. You’re trying to “fix” their feelings and thoughts to your favour by controlling how they think and feel. Many people especially those who are emotionally mature can sense when you’re trying to “nice them up” — a majority are put off by it.
Trying to make others feel good about themselves gives you purpose and sense of doing something valuable with yourself. And even though at times you feel you don’t like all the work of trying to “be nice”, you do it because it’s the only way you know how to get others to reciprocate. When you feel really fed up and stop all the compliments, nice words and actions; the attention, affection and compliments from the other end dry up too.
Now you feel even more rejected, more unappreciated, more take for granted, more unworthy, unattractive, unlikable, unwanted etc. You start disliking the person you thought liked you. Even worse, you blame all the other “not so nice people” who act like they don’t need anyone/others but get all the attention, approval and validation that you feel you rightly deserve. You feel even more unhappy, frustrated and invisible!
For many people in relationships, the toll of trying to fix other people’s thoughts and feeling to your favour does catch up with you in that you spend so much time “keeping it together” and very little time creating a relationship based on mutual liking and respect between equals. You feel ignored, unfairly treated, walked on and taken for granted because you feel that however much you give, and whatever you do, you’re are still left feeling worthless, unattractive and unwanted.
But this is not the reason you feel invisible, hopeless and helpless, the real reason you feel unhappy, invisible, hopeless, helpless and frustrated is because you’ve given the power over your thoughts, feelings and actions to someone else. Without them to make you worthy, attractive and wanted, you feel like you are nothing. In fact you feel nothing — numb, bored, sad, depressed, dead etc. You’re nothing, a no-body!
How do you stop yourself from this constant craving for external approval, validation and elevation?
By going back to the basics — Who are you without the need for anything outside of yourself?
It can take some time for you to discover who you really are without anyone or anything to prop you up. In many African cultures, at 12 – 15 years of age, young men and women are sent on a self-quest journey with just water and little food. They are told to constantly hold on to the thought ‘Who am I?’. If a negative thought comes to mind, ask oneself “Who said that is who I am?” Many young people are often surprised to find that what most of the things they think they are, are what people have said they are or have projected on them.
For some young people it takes days, other it takes hours but when the young man or woman comes come back, they are asked some very basic questions. If the answers are not satisfactory to the elders, the young person is sent back to “find yourself”.
Part of this quest for self is the deepening of one’s awareness to one’s external environment. The young man or woman is encouraged to use all of their senses yet remain focused and aware of what is inside, underfoot, over the head, all around, as well as what may lie further on because one self is not limited to the physical body but extends and is connected to the universal energy (everyone and everything).
Once he or she finds him/herself, the young man or woman is required to “sacrifice” something that they very much value at that moment they “find yourself”. It can be anything like the last bit of water or food they have left (and could be what they need to survive), or an object with deep emotional value such as a bracelet, bead necklace, sandals etc. This is a symbol that you’ve let go all external attachments because they mean nothing when you have “yourself”.
So here are some questions for you.
1. Who are you without your family members, without a Bachelor’s of Science and Master’s of Science degrees, without a job, without what you’ve accomplished, without what you think others want you to be etc?.
2. Ask yourself, “If this is who I really am, why don’t I have the ease/love/contentment/ belonging/joy/happiness/well being it implies?”
Asking yourself this particular question can lead you to a very painful past — things that people have said you are or have projected on you.
If feelings of fear, sadness, hurt, and pain surface accept them and embrace them. It’s the authentic, neglected, abandoned, rejected, ignored, repressed etc part of you talking to you. If tears come, let them roll, do not try to suppress or stop them. When you are ready they’ll stop on their own. If laughter comes don’t worry about how you look laughing, just laugh-softly and quietly, hard and loud, whatever comes. If feelings of anger surface, don’t try and make them go away by blaming, excusing, or psychoanalyzing why you are angry, and who or what you are angry at. Just acknowledge that you are angry and that it is okay knowing that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you want, that sometimes bad things happen to good people and sometimes you don’t need to know why.
3. Then next thing is to answer the question, “From now forward, I will know I am not thinking, feeling or acting to my truest and deepest self when I am…”
Take full responsibility for giving yourself the attention, affection, validation and everything else you want from others when you are trying to “fix” other people’s feelings and thoughts to your favour or trying to able. “fit” in, belong to the “in-crowd” and become the most popular person in the room.
Feeling worthy, attractive, likeable, wanted etc. and actually having those inner feelings mirrored back to you by others is all about loving yourself enough to allow others to be who they are. A relationship – any relationship — is nothing more than a mirror reflecting back to you who you are and where we’re at in your life’s journey. The mirror can’t reflect back to you what isn’t there.
Hopefully you’ll find yourself; take back the power over your thoughts, feelings and actions; increase your likability and start commanding attention, affection and respect — without asking, demanding or begging for it.
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