People often talk and write about freeing yourself from others’ opinions of you–usually referring to opinions inhabiting the negative part of the spectrum. However, that is not where this piece of advice ends. Recently, I have been going through some works by Anthony de Mello, S.J.–and unlike many of the spiritual and self-improvement books out there nowadays, his work was actually worth stopping and taking the time to think about. These kinds of books are too often too long-winded and fluffy so that you spend so much time reading book after book without getting the necessary impact. With de Mello’s book, Call to Love, I found myself meditating on his meditations! A topic in one of them was letting go of opinions and judgments on yourself–especially the positive ones.
When a judgment is placed on something, it puts that thing into a box and cuts off all its curves and all its edges (tribute to John Legend there–couldn’t help it). As mentioned in the Liposuction post, these judgments could never compare to the full reality of things. Let’s say you are a child going about your business and having fun with the things around you. You start talking to this other kid. After a while, this kid says, “You’re funny!” You are immensely pleased that you have gained the acceptance of your peer and have even impressed them with just being you. By allowing that to make you pleased, you have also subconsciously allowed yourself to gain a fear along with that. That fear is the fear we all naturally have of not being accepted or liked. From there, you fear that you may lose this person’s good opinion of you. And so, you do things that will keep the good opinion that was bestowed upon you. You become the funny one and everything you do is guided by being funny to keep other’s approval. You have trapped yourself and put yourself in a position where you are not free to be not funny, not free to not be entertaining others.
Unbeknownst to you, you fashioned your own bars of imprisonment. This is not meant to tell you not to feel pleased when you are complimented; rather, the goal is to be aware of this. In this awareness, you can make better judgments and live more authentically. You can realize that– yes, that person said you were funny. That is their opinion of you that is really just all about their own judgments and themselves. It really has nothing to do with you. You can feel that pride, but remind yourself that whatever they say about you or what you say about yourself could never fully describe who you were, are, and who you are becoming. Once you have realized that their opinion of you has nothing to do with you, you will be free.