My life has featured a lot of unnecessary suffering.
Self-conscious. Frustrated. Cynical.
In a perpetual state of worry about gaining — and losing — the admiration of others.
It took many years to realise that our many forms of mental anguish arise more from our judgement of others than of the perceived judgement others inflict on us.
Put simply, much of our inner suffering comes from our rejection of others.
When we judge, we are judging ourselves most of all.
It is understanding this that has changed so much for me.
“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” ~C.S. Lewis
I think we are unhappier than ever because society quietly encourages us to ‘love ourselves’ regardless of others. At the expense of others.
But we cannot have one without the other.
We live in a ‘swipe left, discard it if it doesn’t work’ culture. One bad word uttered by another, and they are cast out without a moment’s reflection.
‘There are always ‘better’ people. Don’t waste your time with those losers.’
Antagonism as a twisted strategy for human interaction is reinforced online, mainly through the anonymity and protection of the Internet layer.
To end our mental suffering, we need to step back and see how all of this plays its part.
Take social fear. This form of anxiety can only manifest when our perception of others is generally negative.
Yes, other people are a source of potential rejection; of judgement. But think about this. What is it that you are doing when you view others as a threat?
You are judging others as bad, and usually, that comes neatly packaged as an assumed stereotype.
We can be the biggest judge of them all…
‘Those people are all losers who live in their parent’s basements.’
‘They are all weak hippies.’
‘Oh, they don’t interest me.’
‘I just don’t get on with most people.’
…Or you emphasise the fact that you are different from ‘the norm:’
‘No one gets you.’
‘You had a different, unique background that no one could understand.’
‘You’re sensitive, and a special, hard case.’
Yes. We get it. It’s what I told myself for the longest time.
But that’s just Ego speaking. I have never gained a thing by emphasising how ‘different’ I am. Seeing myself as different, and continually reinforcing it over the years, has made things worse.
Much of our suffering is distilled directly out of viewing others as some strain of: enemy.
The more I see the enemy in others, the higher the perceived threat.
The more removed from others I perceive myself to be, the less human I feel.
If you are anxious around people in the real world, you fear the pain of a hurtful word; a snide look; rolling eyes.
You desperately want to avoid being judged. You can’t allow your secrets to come out. Being banished from the tribe.
It follows then that the more good you can see in others, the less judged you will feel.
Perhaps all our efforts to ‘fix’ ourselves is making it even harder to find the cure.
Maybe the ‘fixing’ lies in the looking outward.
To feel safer and more at ease in the world, we need to see others as less of a threat.
We can’t change anyone. So to make a difference, we need to change the way we think about others:
This means adjusting our philosophy.
Philosophy is everything. How you think of things is everything.
If you get anxious around others unnecessarily, only you can change that.
But with responsibility comes freedom. This freedom will happen when you make a choice: to see good in others.
Take responsibility, turn your focus away from the threat others pose you, and be the one who sees the good.
See the humanity.
Understand how we are all united in our flaws.
Craft the habit of compassion.
This doesn’t mean neglecting yourself. This is not becoming a ‘martyr.’ It is very much the opposite.
This is about redirecting your attention outwards so that you see yourself in a positive, life-affirming light — as stronger, no longer a victim.
This also doesn’t mean running around ‘doing good’ and saving the world.
You are the leader. You make the first move. Your existence crackles with a new found independence.
Start with ‘seeing’ the good. End the irrational, stressful cycle of self-obsession and fearfulness.
Simply, find a way to love others.
If ‘love’ is too strong for now, find a way to accept them.
Your love for others is there, no matter how hateful and ugly that person can seem. No matter what they did to you in the past.
Liberal, conservative, white, skinny, brown or Chinese.
There is something to love about everyone. Yes, this can take tremendous courage to see.
If you can’t find it, you have only your own suffering with which to contend.
And this is the worst kind of torture.
The pain I have inflicted on myself because of my lack of genuine love for others has harmed me more than anything.
Put aside what you dislike in others. Those things will always be there. Focus on those who matter, but reserve love for all.
People will continue to do stupid and grotesque things, and often without even realising it. Directing your energy to their failures will be your loss.
There is much to like, and plenty to love too. Look for it now, and you will see it.
As you walk past people in the street, see into them, and find the love you have for your fellow man. Do this today and see how your very demeanour changes.
Forgive those who hurt you in the past. Find a way to accept and love. Show yourself that you are strong enough to rise above that pain.
Get into the habit of seeing light and the beauty in others — seeing their spirit. This will be one of the best things you can do for yourself and potentially one of the least comfortable, to start.
Find your compassion with daily practice, and you will be surprised at what happens next.
You will feel light and loose. You will see yourself and others differently.
And how you see yourself will change your entire experience. Your belief in yourself will emerge and expand.
It will be so powerful as to obliterate any need for complicated therapies.
Your self-hate was the issue, and this new perspective will be its starvation.
Love others to love yourself.
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If you experience unnecessary anxiety around people or you feel held back from connecting more courageously and deeply with other people, this is for you.
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