Tag Archives: rejection

Living By The Opinions of Others

DSC_0397“Conformity is a copout. It threatens self-awareness.” –Alexandra Robbins

Hello friend,

Most weeks after I write my letter to you, I forget about it immediately and move on. After a few days of allowing my mind to be free and open, I start to wonder about what I will write to you next. This week, however, has been different. As I was closing last week’s post, “How to Change and Still Be Yourself,” one of the thoughts that sprung from my fingers to the screen regarding fear of being judged by others was, “Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it?” It was one of those moments of writing when I said to myself, “Where did that sentence come from?” I didn’t think of it; it just came out. But when it hit me, it stuck. Really stuck. It resonated way down deep in me, touching a nerve that, apparently, needed some care and attention. All week long, I have returned to to this question.

I have questioned myself more than once as to whether I really got to the heart of the matter in last week’s post. It was about daring to break out of your comfort zone, and I talked about how I was trying to balance my desire to share my new business, which I really believe can help people, with my innate discomfort with selling anything. In the process of writing the letter, I became more certain that it was worth it to get past my discomfort in selling things because that is outweighed by the potential good I can share with others. The issue was supposed to be resolved with that realization.

So why has the topic lingered so much? It was that question about granting other people enormous power over my choices and actions without doing anything to earn that power. I have been thinking that maybe the crux of the issue is not that I am not a salesman; maybe my real comfort zone is when I don’t do anything that could draw criticism or rejection from my peers. This includes sales. I am thinking that the essence of why I don’t want to share a product and business that I believe in is that I am scared to be judged and rejected.

You are probably thinking, “Yeah yeah, we are all a little self-conscious and want our peers’ approval. It’s natural. Aren’t you used to that at your age?”   Well, yes and no. Of course, there has always been some desire for public approval (I was an actor, after all, and now I am a writer). But I have actually passed through periods where I believed I was somewhat free of my ego’s need for acceptance. When I was in my early twenties, I lived for a short time in New York City. The city was an animal like nothing I had ever experienced before. Everything—everything—was so big, so loud, so busy. And I didn’t know anybody. I was completely anonymous. I loved it! I have vivid memories of walking down the streets of Greenwich Village in the evening, singing out loud. Not to get anyone’s attention, but just because I felt like it. I felt so free to follow my whims because I was totally anonymous. No matter who I passed, I was quite sure I would never see them again. If they thought I was a lunatic for singing out loud as I walked, that didn’t bother me at all. Their opinions meant nothing to me. I could just as well have been walking alone in the desert. It was me and only me who I had to answer to. That freedom from caring about judgment gave me a free pass to be myself. It was a new Myself, though, one that I hadn’t known before, because I had always been around people that I knew and whom I had given permission to make me feel right or wrong, good or bad. But it was definitely me singing down that city street. The song in my heart was expressed. I was liberated.

Until I wasn’t. Gradually I slipped back into being too sensitive, too aware of what others might think of me. Maybe it was living in Hollywood, where everything is about the look, the image that people have of you. I suppose I succumbed to trying to be what I thought was the right way to look and act for the people in those circles. Eventually, though, I tired of that mindset. In my last several months in California, I took a deep dive into my spirituality and was heavily focused on its development. I was reading lots of books, and a genuine internal revolution was beginning that would come to shape my outlook on life for all of the years that have followed. I found myself achieving moments when I seemed to transcend this world, causing me to believe that I was becoming immune to the opinions of others. This week, as I was working on my late-night hobby, The Journal Project, I happened to arrive at an entry I made on September 1, 1997, about a month after I had left California. I was assessing the period of deep personal growth that I was in the midst of, and these were the phrases I used to describe my progress and position:

“It is a feeling of total peace within myself, as though there is no place I would rather be than my own skin. I have completely accepted who I am, and I am so very happy about the person who it is that I have accepted….I feel as though I have gradually but certainly taken a good look in the mirror and owned all of my attributes, some of which I am happy with and some of which need some work. But I have embraced them all and committed myself to become a positive force in this universe by trying to improve each attribute and use them to the best advantage of that universe. It is in embracing my total self that I am freed from self-doubt and freed from the opinions of others. In becoming free from the opinions of others, or perhaps because of it, I have allowed God to more fully become the true force guiding my life. I surrender myself to His will, and thereby make my life an extension of His hand. With this comes my release from the bondage of opinions. And with this release come a freedom that is so far beyond that which we speak of in our daily conversations. And it is as though I had no idea I wasn’t free until I was actually free.” 

Wow! Who was that guy? I envy him! How did he disappear? He definitely slipped back into being too concerned about what his family, coworkers, and Facebook friends think. And even though I try every day to be authentic and share myself honestly with the world around me, I know I fail at it. Every day. I don’t walk my neighborhood streets singing. I catch myself wondering what people will think of my wardrobe as I set my clothes out for the next day. I want a positive reputation. And clearly, as last week’s post reveals, I am worried about how people will think of me when I talk about my new business on Facebook. I am guilty!

And yet, I have my moments. I overcome it sometimes. I think I do it best for these Journal of You letters that I write to you. I made a little deal with myself during the first few posts I wrote that I would “follow the fear.” If a topic seemed uncomfortable to reveal my opinion about, I made myself address it. I made myself write about my weaknesses and insecurities. I made myself take on religion and politics. I shared about my family. I did this because I wanted Journal of You to be authentic, and I believed in its/my purpose. If the examples from my life and my opinions can get someone to start a journal and get to know themselves better, then exposing myself was well worth it. Maybe writing my Truth here will make me feel confident and more willing to share my opinions elsewhere and not be so sensitive to the opinions of others. The “real me” has appeared and disappeared too many times through the years. It is time to claim Myself again!

How about you? Whose opinions most dictate what you do and how you do it? Open your journal and expose yourself. Are you marching to the beat of your own drummer, or are you following someone else’s lead? In what areas of your life do you feel you are being most authentic, living your Truth? When you are in that mode, do you feel more or less sensitive to the opinions of others? What is it that allows you to be authentic despite your insecurities? Do you think you can carry that courage with you to other areas of your life? Has your sensitivity to the opinions of others remained pretty consistent throughout your life, or are you like me, having passed through periods of greater freedom and authenticity? When were you at your most free? How did you get there? Do you ever think you will get to the point where you literally do not care what anyone else thinks of you? How far down the road might that point be? Exactly which people are the ones you are allowing to oppress you (whether or not they know it or are intentionally doing so)? Is it your parents, family, friends, coworkers, Facebook friends, or society in general? I go back to my lingering questions from last week: Why do these people have so much power over you? Have they earned it? I know that in my life, I have given my power away too easily. The people I have given it to did not earn it at all. That realization is what eats at me. That is why those questions have lingered all week and will probably linger forever. How about you? Have you given your power away too easily? Has anyone earned it? What could someone do to truly earn your power? Leave me a reply and let me know: “Whose approval are you living for?” 

Life is short,

William

Shy, Humble, or Totally Afraid?

IMG_1811“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –Ambrose Redmoon

Hello friend,

I am an introvert. I never realized this critical fact while I was a child, or even as a young adult. I had friends. I socialized. To be shy seemed like a thing for “nerds” and the otherwise socially impaired. It never occurred to me that I might be shy or introverted. Never. As with everything else up through those years, I saw myself as having the characteristics that everyone else expected me to have. Shy was not one of those characteristics.

As I got into my twenties, found my voice, and struck out on my own, I started spending time alone for the first time in my life. Whether it was camping out in the mountains or navigating the anonymity of big city living, I came to know what it was like to keep mostly my own company. Before I knew it, I had grown to like being alone. It wasn’t long before I preferred it, even. Finally, I started demanding it. I roadtripped solo up the coast, hiked the mountains of Montana, and wandered for months across Europe, hardly speaking to anyone along the way.

I felt myself growing and thriving more than I ever had in my more social years. I loved solitude. I craved it. I also recognized that it was in solitude that my battery was recharged. It was in solitude that I built up my reserve to “act normal” in social situations, something I had never been aware of or had to work at before. In this realization, I was claiming my natural introversion.

Most of the jobs I have worked in my life have involved being “on” in public and speaking with groups big and small. I have had to teach, inspire, console, and take entrée orders. I laugh now about this with the realization of my introverted nature. I guess I needed all the alone time outside of work to charge my battery for the stage of work!

The other part about my past jobs—or at least the way I played them—is that in all of their social-ness, I rarely had to really put myself out there. I didn’t talk about myself much, because, whether it was educating someone who came to be educated or serving someone who came to be served, the unspoken expectation was that I should make it about the student/customer/person paying my rent. I find that people who do best in service industries have a way of making the client feel as though you are friends even as the focus is almost exclusively the client’s wants and needs. The service provider has to be present and empathetic to the client’s concerns and their story, but the client doesn’t need to reciprocate. For me, this worked into my personality just fine. Some of it played into my introversion, but there was more to it than that. I liked to think of it as me just being humble, neither requiring the spotlight nor thinking my feelings and my story to be worthy of the client’s time and attention. I didn’t want to impose upon them.

This is also why I was never a good salesman of my services. For many, many years, it was my job—in theory—to sell tennis lessons. I can honestly say that I don’t think I ever tried to sell anyone a lesson in all of those years. I figured that the benefits would speak for themselves and that I didn’t need to impose my will on anyone else. I especially didn’t like the idea of putting someone in the awkward position of having to say, “No, I don’t want your services.” I know that for most people, it is difficult to say no to a direct offer, and I never wanted to make anyone uncomfortable. So, in my combination of self-professed shyness and humility, I never sold my services or my story. I never asked anyone to believe in me or how my product could benefit them.

Fast-forward to now and the two businesses I have just jumped into: Life Coaching and skin care consulting. From one perspective, both are right up my alley. They fit with my mission of helping people to gain more confidence and lead more fulfilling lives. I get to work with people individually and get to make a positive impact on them. I get to make a difference. Perfect! Oh wait, I forgot to mention the other perspective. Both involve extensive networking and self-promotion. I have to ask people to take some time and listen to me. I have to share with them how my services and products can be of great benefit to them. I have to put them on that spot that I have spent my whole life NOT putting people on: The Are-You-Interested-In-Me? Spot. Ugh!!!

So of course, I am in a bit of a panic. Network marketing and self-promotion seem completely antithetical to all that I am. I have spent years justifying myself by clinging to, “I’m an introvert” and “I’m humble.” But, as the reality of these two self-chosen businesses settles in, I am beginning to feel those two comfortable, sympathetic sentiments be bowled over by what may be my greater truth: I am scared.   Scared to put myself out there. Scared to not do it well enough. Scared of making people feel awkward. But mostly, I am scared of rejection and failure. What if no one wants my help? What if they tell me I am not worth their time and money? What if my calling is something that no one answers to? What if I have to reset my dreams again? What if I am not as great as I believe I am? What if I have been fooling myself? What if…..?

I have had a lot of these thoughts in recent days as I try to gather the courage to announce myself. It is why Redmoon’s quote at the top resonates with me. In my strongest moments, I can see clearly that the difference I can make in someone’s life is worth acting on. Despite my introversion. Despite my humility. And, most importantly, despite my fear. Helping someone live the life of their dreams through my Life Coaching practice, or helping someone like what they see in the mirror for the first time through my skin care products—these things are more important than my fear. I am going to do my best to remember that and to be courageous. Will it still be awkward for me? Absolutely! Will I still need to go home at the end of the day and be alone to recharge? Sure. And will I still be afraid of rejection and failure? Almost certainly. But I am going to choose to follow that fear, to face it and conquer it, buoyed by a courage borne of a belief in a greater good. I am ready!

How about you? How willing are you to tell your story and share your importance? Open up your journal and do a little self-psychoanalysis. Where do you land on the introversion-extroversion or shy-outgoing spectrum? Has your position changed as you have aged or stayed pretty steady? Do you like to talk about yourself? When something new happens in your world, how willing are you to share it? Are you comfortable sharing it face-to-face and over the phone, or do you only share things in the relative anonymity of Facebook or other social media? How humble are you? How much of a part does that humility play in your willingness to tell your story or advertise your value? Is humility in this case just a cover for insecurity and fear? How about that fear? When you think about sharing your new ventures with people, to what degree does fear take you over? Beyond just sharing, how fearful are you of selling your skills or products to others? Is it more or less scary to sell to strangers? How much does fear paralyze you? I think that for most people, the answer is “A ton!” So, don’t be afraid to admit it. It’s your journal, so honesty is the only rule. Finally, what is important enough to you to face your fear and find the courage to act, to put yourself out there, to take the risk of rejection and failure? What in your life is worth it? Leave me a reply and let me know: What are you courageous enough to share?

Do something that scares you today,

William