I’ve been thinking about how we deal with the increased visibility that often accompanies personal expansion. When we change, and especially when that entails ‘branching out’ in some way, we open ourselves up to judgment and criticism. The prospect of that can be more than a little off-putting.
I know that for me, I have to want something quite badly before I take the leap into visibility. Having always felt keenly aware of when I am being projected upon, the mere anticipation of that summons all of my self-doubt and sense of deficiency.
So what do we do when life is calling on us to participate more than inertia and fear want us to hide?
A belief that many of us hold deep down is that others prefer it when we’re failing, screwing up, or humiliating ourselves. It is possible to argue that belief is based on a grounded assessment of the human condition. Have you ever used the event of others’ success to make yourself feel bad? I know that I have.
The most effective way that I have found to deal with this belief is to celebrate when others succeed. It’s a little counter-intuitive perhaps, but it’s effective. Try it and see.
We also need to investigate the thoughts that our particular egos generate on the eve of greater visibility. They might be a combination of some or all of these delights: “I don’t deserve success”, “this is too selfish”, “I’ll fail at this”, “they’ll see I’m defective”, “they’ll see I’m incompetent”, “I haven’t got what it takes”, “they won’t like me”, “I’ll get blindsided” and “I don’t matter enough to do this.” We want to coax those out into the fore, gently challenging them.
And then there is the task of just swallowing the bitter pill that some people don’t, and won’t, like or accept our choices or self-expression. This requires a sort of letting go, specifically a letting go of control (fallacy that we ever had it) over the impressions we make on others. How to go about this?
We can try asking ourselves why other peoples’ opinions are so foundational to our sense of self. What’s really behind that? We can root our sense of self elsewhere (lol, I made that sound so easy, didn’t I?) Beyond that, it’s the usual work of surfing the waves of discomfort and taking refuge where we can. For me, my places of refuge are my spiritual practices, my values, and innate goodness and sincerity.
What about post-visibility? How do we handle the feelings of vulnerability or the scathing attacks of the Inner Critic?
I think with a lot of mindfulness. And the commitments to stop checking for perfection, and listen and look instead for what we can acknowledge about ourselves. Even if it was just the act of getting through it alive.
Is there anything you’d be doing, or doing differently if you trusted yourself to handle increased visibility? What might you do?