As I was out for a walk the other day, I realized the word “should” was appearing in every thought. “I should really be further along in my career. I should really get the house clean. I should get all the weeds out of our flower beds.“
The “should” statements were quickly followed by judgments- “I’m lazy. I’m not doing anything right.”
Realizing what I was saying to myself, I switched into observation mode. When I can become an observer of my thoughts and see how my emotions attune to those thoughts, I can stop the dance of self-destruction and get back on the path of understanding myself.
As observer, I witnessed the color of what I was saying to myself. “How helpful are these thoughts,” I asked myself. “Should” thoughts are rarely if ever helpful, I confirmed. Then I asked, “from where are these thoughts coming?” In other words, are these thoughts fueled by a story I’m telling myself?
As I replayed my thoughts, I could see how they reflect the way I want the world to see me- a successful person who has it all together.
Suddenly, a phrase popped into my consciousness: Stop seeing yourself through the eyes of others.
“Is that what I’m doing,” I asked. As I reflected on my recent thoughts and how they were being formed in my consciousness, I discovered that every time I made a “should” statement, it was coming from a place of wanting to look good to other people. Why do I want to have a successful career? Because if I am successful, then people will respect me. Why do I need my house to be clean? Well, besides purposes of hygiene, a clean house represents a lack of chaos. I want people to see me as calm and collected. Same for all those weeds. I want people to see a beautifully landscaped yard as they walk by.
Oh, hello ego.
Ego is an aspect of ourselves that gets a bad rap, often for good reason. Acting primarily from ego can make us seem self-centered, rigid, and selfish. Spending too much time in ego also separates us from our souls or our authentic selves. I know I am STUCK in my ego when my actions are fueled primarily by what other people will think of me.
Of course, seeing yourself through the eyes of others CAN be a good thing. We can get powerful feedback that way. We can see how our words or actions are coming across to others, whether we intend for that or not. For example, I tend to be very quiet when first meeting someone because I want to give them space to be themselves. However, I’ve learned that I can seem stand-offish in doing so.
In my case, more often than not, seeing myself through the eyes of others prevents me from being authentically me. It can turn me into a people pleaser, and yes, being a people pleaser is incredibly egotistical! On the surface, pleasing others can seem selfless and kind. But going deeper, we can see that it is manipulative.
Put another way, how would you feel if the only reason anyone did anything with/for you was to make you happy? Everything they said was calculated to produce a specific positive response from you. That wouldn’t make me feel very good at all. I want people to be genuine with me! I want our relationship to be based on authenticity. When I am not being authentic, how much authenticity exists in the relationship?
What percentage of your time do you spend seeing yourself through the eyes of others? How authentic are you remaining in your relationships as you do that? What happens when you look at yourself through your own fresh eyes?
In this episode of Growing in Uncertainty, I talk about my ego, authenticity, and how I am working to use my own eyes for seeing myself.
Remember that it’s okay to be STUCK, but you don’t have to stay there!