We are often judged by our physical appearance, intelligence, athleticism, career, interestingness, popularity, and accomplishments. And we do – or have done – the same to others. As a result we feel that we have to jump through hoops in order to be “worth” something, to be accepted by ourselves or others. We accomplish things so we can say, “See? Now you have to like me, because I meet your arbitrary standards.” And guess what. Those people who “like” us only because we perform certain feats or look a particular way are not our real friends. To them we are just a form of entertainment. They don’t really like us because they don’t even know us – all they know is what we’ve accomplished or what our physical shell looks like.
Kids made fun of us in school, and we might hope that they would grow out of it, but some people don’t. Many of us criticize, ridicule, and reject others based on our own judgments of them. Why? Because we fear that we are flawed or worthless, and in our twisted world we believe that if we can look down on others, it will make us look better by comparison. “Well, I might be unaccomplished/poor/unattractive/boring/unpopular, but look at how much worse that other person is.” Only someone with low self-esteem feels the need to judge others. We’ve all done it.
If we believe that we are nothing more than tiny, limited, needy beings trying to survive in a hostile universe, then that sets a very negative, fearful tone. Until we find and accept our real selves, our sense of well-being will be at the mercy of worldly events, and therefore always in jeopardy. This is what causes the nagging fear that we live with.
We were not created in order to live fearful, miserable lives and then die, because what would be the point? If we feel as though we’re under constant threat, and our life is just an unpleasant series of obligations that we perform in order to “make ends meet” or appease others, then we are choosing slavery.
“But if I don’t make ends meet or impress others, I’ll get sick or hungry, or not be popular,” we think. Maybe. But we already get sick or hungry on occasion, and not everyone likes us, despite our work and social efforts, so why stress and strain? Plus, experiences such as illness, hunger, and social rejection are just that: experiences, not the totality of who we are. Do not confuse experience with being. We can feel great with limited material comforts and social contacts. Plenty of people live happy, peaceful lives without grocery stores, medicine, tons of friends, shopping malls, cell phones, fancy clothing, electricity or plumbing. Well-being comes more from our thoughts and beliefs than from our living situation.
So, to end the cycle of fear, powerlessness, worthlessness, obligation, and striving for approval, we need to stop subscribing to the collective belief system that we must “perform”. We are fine just the way we are. If someone will like us only if they get a particular performance out of us, then we must end that toxic relationship; quality of friends and lovers is much better than quantity. If we hate our job but do it because it pays the bills, we should get another one that we enjoy more, even if it means a pay cut; peace of mind is much better than a big house. If we don’t look like those ad models, then we must stop comparing ourselves to genetic freaks; our genes cannot change, so why beat ourselves up over it? Peace and well-being are always available, right here, right now. All we need in order to get them is to realize and accept who we really are.