Sticks and Stones

"You care about what people think about you. I know you care," my friend told me. Not said. But told.

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I was making fun of her friend who hates my guts. She seems to have a level of Asperger's syndrome. If you're a fan of The Big Bang Theory, the character Sheldon Cooper suffers from it. He's socially awkward and has a hard time reading people.

I said, "Your friend definitely cares about what people think of her."

"No. She just hates you."

"She told you not to invite me to a networking event. That means she cares."

My friend thought for a moment. "She doesn't want to be associated with you among business people."

Smiling, I nod. "She cares."

Then my friend went on a calm tirade, telling me that I care about what people think about me. She assured me over and over that I did.

No. In general, I don't.

I have an acquaintance at the gym. One day, she was telling me about a guy who was hitting on her. And she shucked him off because she was not interested.

"Don't you feel good when a guy hits on you?" I asked.

She shrugged. "I know I look good." She does. "But I feel safe with you."

"I’m not menacing to you?"

"Well, if you're gay, then I'm safe. You won't hurt me."

I was like…

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"Yea. If you're gay, that's OK. I'm safe."

I wasn't sure why she jumped from feeling good about herself to assuming I was gay. I wanted to get back to my workout and didn't want to put forth the effort to tell her that I wasn't.

Many people initially think I'm a woman because I have long hair. I don't correct them. Their mistaken assumption won't make my penis fall off. At least, that hasn't happened.

And that's the crux of it all. What people think about you changes nothing about you. Taking offense only gives it power.

If I took offense to my gym friend, and berated her, then there's some part of me that feels insecure about my own sexuality. Or that somehow my image doesn't fulfill what I think a manly man should look like. And that's ridiculous because trying to prove to someone else that I'm not gay or that I'm manly doesn't make me any more or less of those things.

What's important is what we think of ourselves.

Let's slow down here. There are moments where I think I'm a loser for whatever reason. Maybe I'm comparing myself to someone, and I feel like crap because I'm not as successful as that person. In that moment that I feel like a loser, I'm not really a loser. It's just a feeling caused by that thought. That's it.

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However, if I continue down that road of thinking I'm a loser, then what may happen is that my actions may change. Maybe I’ll stop going to the gym. Or that I’ll get fired from my job because I don't try as hard. And my perception of reality may change. For example, I'll become angry at people because I think they're treating me like a loser. I may treat others badly as a result. All of this can lead me down the road of being and acting like a loser, which can make me angrier…it's a loop.

The moment I let go of the thought that I'm a loser, my mind will clear itself up, and my emotional state will return to peace.

Letting go is always the difficult part. I used to think that letting go meant stuffing my emotions down. That doesn't work. Imagine a heavy thought that you're carrying around in the physical form of a twenty pound weight. Now, try stuffing that weight down your pants. You might not see that weight, but it’s still weighing you down. Trust me. It ain't easy walking around with twenty pounds in your pants. I'm Asian. I know.

Letting go of a thought is like letting go of that twenty pound weight in that it doesn't weigh you down anymore. You're literally free of it. That doesn't mean you won't pick up it up again. So be aware.

You'll know when you've released yourself of that heavy thought because you don't feel it's affects on you anymore. If you merely stuffed that thought down, then you'll feel it somewhere in the back of your mind.

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We're all masters at letting go of thought because we do this every day. There have been studies that suggest that we have 60,000 thoughts a day. Holding onto each one would crush us, causing a mental breakdown. Most people don't have mental breakdowns because as each thought comes, it goes.

What tends to happen is that we focus on the thoughts that "matter" to us. If I was insecure about my sexuality, and my gym friend comes and suggests that I'm gay, then my mind will go into a whirlpool of thoughts about what she said. But I know what I like, so I have no need to confirm or deny my heterosexuality. I just want to get back to my workout.

Back to my friend who assured me that I care about what people think about me.

Generally, I don't. There are times when I do. If I'm on a date with a lady that I really like, then my ego likes to step in front of me and analyze everything that she does and says. That means I'm not listening to and engaging with my date, which likely is putting her off.

My friend is probably projecting her need for peoples' approval onto me. I know her well enough that she does put a lot of value into other people's opinion of her, so it's difficult for her to imagine how I do not.

Everybody projects at some level. If I'm watching a video of someone hiking the trail to Angels Landing, I freak out. I see a picture of a person sitting on the edge of a cliff, I freak out. Me freaking out is irrational because the threat of falling isn't present to me. I'm just watching a video or looking at a picture. But I'm projecting my deep fear of heights.

Hopefully, it's obvious at this point that reality is projected by our minds. That one person can be in misery, while the next person is experiencing orgasmic joy. And that thought is the main ingredient of our experience. This gives us a lot of power. That peace and happiness are not determined by others or by our circumstances. How peaceful we are in our minds determines that.