I was on the phone today with a friend who is making some decisions in his life. He knows what he wants, he knows how to get where he wants to go, and he’s got a plan. The one thing that is holding him back is the worry and fear he has for what “they” will think. Will “they” think he’s being silly pursuing this dream? Will “they” still be his friends? Will “they” disapprove and think badly of him?
“They” have a lot to say and “they” can rule your life if you let them.
Who are “they”, though?
“They” are voices you hear in your head that are, in fact, all the worries, fears, criticism and negativity you’ve ever encountered, both from yourself and from others in your life, that has stuck with you. “They” are the thoughts and ideas that keep you living small.
I had a run with what “they” thought recently myself and I was glad to experience it again so I could banish it from my mindset. I got a speeding ticket in town the other day. I was trying to play an audible book on my iPhone and I wasn’t paying attention. After I got the ticket, I drove away and realized I was feeling a surprising sense of shame about the ticket.
So I examined my thoughts, as Byron Katie would advise, and I realized that I was thinking about what “they” would think. As in, “they” will think badly of me because I got this ticket. I shook off the belief by going through the exercises below, pulled another part of my power into my own solar plexus [having unknowingly left this little bit external to me for too long], and continued on my way, stronger for the experience. I was actually happy I got the ticket. How else would I have known I thought that?
If you realize that you care too much about what “they” think, here are some tips I’ve used to overcome the feeling that I’ve just failed to live up to some unknown rule:
#1.- Ask yourself who “they” are. Sometimes the voice of what “they” would think is actually something I would imagine my mother, my friend, my sister, my partner, or some specific person in my life would say to me if they were with me physically in the moment. It can help to know you’re channeling your mom’s voice from 20 years ago, for example.
And once you know who they are, you can actually have a conversation with that person [in your head] and let them know that they no longer have the power to control your actions. And ask yourself if “they” would really want you to live your life in small and unhappy ways based on something they said but that you interpreted differently than what they said. And if the answer is no, then you can wrap yourself in the feeling that really, “they” want you to be your best. And if the answer is yes, they do want you to live small, then it’s time for you to do some work on being OK with disappointing people and removing the power they have over you. You’ll have to do that at some point any way. So why not now?
#2. Ask yourself why what “they” think is more important that what you think. This one may seem obvious but what it really does is get at your need for approval, your deep fears of rejection or not being good enough, and your sense of personal power [or lack thereof]. The answer to the question about why what “they” think is more important than what you think is a true sign post to what’s going own with you and your power center.
#3. Feel where the power of worrying about what “they” think is. You can almost feel that when you worry about what “they” think -or a specific person in your life- you’ve given your power away. Your power over the situation is external to you and that’s why you feel so shaky about going against what “they” will think. Once you’ve gone through the thought exercise of points 1 and 2 above, imagine absorbing the power that had been outside of you right into your third chakra, your solar plexus, and owning the decision on how you’ll proceed. With this act of pulling your power into you, you’ll feel surprisingly more powerful and grounded than you had. It can be a bit of a rush!