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Friday, April 29, 2016

Mindfulness - What if nobody cared?

Markus Spiske, Flickr

"Oh, you purchased a brand new Lexus? You’re a published author? 
Your job title is X and you earn six-figures? So what!" 
(The Minimalists)

In my quest toward authenticity, I have been pondering whether some decisions I make, and some actions I take, have more to do with what others expect of me than with what I, myself, want out of this life.

I can think of a few examples in my past:

  • Hanging out with the "cool crowd" even if they are shallow, mean, or both (ah! the joys of Middle School);
  • Trying to behave like a full-force extrovert when in fact I am more of a - friendly - introvert: I love to chat and make connections, but I prefer one on one or structured interactions (such as when I teach or give a talk) to big parties, and I need a lot of alone time;
  • Trying to look "feminine" when in fact I have a slightly androgynous disposition: I feel like a clown in frills, dresses, heels, busy jewelry, heavy makeup, or complicated hairdos;
  • Trying to go for a scientific career path when in fact I thrive in languages and humanities; in the same vein, making career choices based on prestige + earning potential when in fact my true calling (and a balanced lifestyle) resides somewhere else;
  • Refraining from expressing certain opinions or feelings for fear that people would disagree or disapprove;
  • Showing off my accomplishments or possessions;
  • Generally trying to get people's approval and "impress" them, instead of just going for what feels good and feels right.

Indeed, my mindset used to be along the lines of "your accomplishments (and your looks) = your worth as a person". Not just any accomplishments, either. Mostly the ones that have to do with wealth and prestige. I had never questioned it until I met the future father of my children, who, despite earning the right to put Dr before his name and a string of letters after, never made any fuss about it, and barely ever mentioned his accomplishments. I was impressed, not so much by his credentials, but by his sincere humbleness.

Nowadays I strive to nurture my authentic self, even if that means less overall approval or admiration. I still value good manners, kindness, and personal hygiene, but other than that, I avoid worrying about "what will people think". When I do "show and tell", I do it to inspire, not to impress - which means I approach it in a very different manner, and for very different reasons.

So my question, today, is the following: 

If nobody's opinion ever mattered whatsoever, what would your life look like right now? What, about it, would be different?

Would you have the same job?
Would you live in the same place?
Would you hang out with the same people?
Would you date the same person?
Would you have the same hobbies?
Would you own the same objects?
Would you dress/talk/behave the same way?

Mindfulness this Week

What are you ready to change for the sake of authenticity?

Be part of the process: 

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  1. I LOVE this post. CatMan always says that it's an honor to be disliked by certain people. He's 20 years older than I am, he was drafted into the military in the mid 1960s during the gear up for Vietnam, which led him to embrace the counter culture at a time when it was not exactly "safe" to do so. He says that being "a hippy freak" has always been a great litmus test, because it weeds out the kind of shallow people that you really don't want to associate with anyhow.

    The older I get, the more I'm able to see the wisdom in his approach. These days I rarely even think about what people in general must think of me, and can't even imagine the days when I worried about things like my hair or clothing. I try not to be needlessly offensive, but the reality is that, in the long run, praise and approval do very little to affect one's true happiness. In fact, the opposite is often true. And there really is a kind of peace in knowing that the people who like you, truly actually do like you - they haven't just been tricked into it somehow.

    I'm not sure who said it, but there's some famous quote out there that goes: "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." Words to live by!

    1. I am putting those words of wisdom in my hat: "Being "a hippy freak" has always been a great litmus test, because it weeds out the kind of shallow people that you really don't want to associate with anyhow". Thank you for sharing!

  2. You are just being true to your Gemini nature :-)

    As for your questions: As for my job, to get here required a positive vote from many many people. Friends and dates required other's consent, but the rest were not so dependent on other's opinions so would likely still be the same. I might have a dirtier home, however :-)

    1. But what is the Gemini nature? Has anybody ever been able to define it? Geminis are impossible to pigeonhole! They just go wherever the wind takes them. :-)

      Dirtier home, haha!

  3. AHHHHH I LOST MY COMMENT IN MY CRANIUM after reading the Gemini thing and wondering too what IS a Gemini nature?!

  4. Loved the part about your significant other's sincere humbleness. When people don't need a lot of credit or attention for what they do, you are almost assured that they are happier doing it as well. I always thought that my professors who showed a lot of humility despite their prestigious publications, etc, were better teachers.

    I have plenty of my own examples of trying to win approval, but one stands out. I remember telling my friends in elementary school that I wanted to start a charity that would become a household name and asked if they wanted to join me and become famous for it. I just neglected to have a cause in mind and they were confused by my need to be a famous philanthropist over actually, you know, helping people.

  5. Great example, thank you for sharing! While trying to win approval we forget the real goal of our actions and, dare I say, of our presence on this planet.