“What are they thinking about me?
The question goes through your mind again and again, sometimes in the forefront and sometime as a nagging whisper in the back of your thoughts.
“What are they saying about me?”
“Do they like me?” …
The insecurity of others opinions returns to rock our security again.
This is my second blog post on the subject of insecurity and how many of our insecurities come from both comparing ourselves to others and listening to and speculating about others opinions of us.
I know in my own life these are the two main issues that can leave me feeling like I want to hide under a rock, shut myself away from the world and never come out.
It’s these two issues that can end up consuming our thoughts, feed our anxieties and stop us in our tracks.
Even people who act like and say “I don’t care what other people think about me,” whilst holding on to their mastered, controlled and perhaps hardened exterior, cannot deny that it does reach, touch & affect them at times.
“What’s going on in their thoughts?”
There are a few ways in which we are affected by what others think and say about us:
Firstly, when people openly talk about us, either to our faces, or indirectly on forums like social media.
Secondly the usual gossipy ‘behind our backs’ opinions. (which women are of course very prone to).
Then finally, although sometimes less discernible; through our own speculation about what others might be thinking and saying about us.
I think it’s the final one that is more damaging than it first appears, because our speculation means that we try and read people by the way they act towards us. This actually opens us up to potential misunderstandings because we read actions as related to us, even though they may just be related to someone having a bad day, their mind being on on other things or even due to that persons own insecurities.
How many friendships and relationships have broken down due to these type of misunderstandings?
This speculation is one of the greatest challenges I have to overcome in my own thought life.
It constantly nags at me trying to pull me in to an insecure way of thinking.
It attacks my confidence.
It attempts to stop me being myself and doing what I am built to do.
It feeds my fears.
It paralyses my purpose.
It tries to shipwreck my relationships with others.
It questions my identity and challenges the core of who I am.
It whispers in my ear….
“What are they thinking about you?”
“Do they really like you?”
“Maybe they find you annoying.”
“Maybe they pretend to like you but then talk about you behind your back”
“Maybe they don’t like what you say and do.”
“Maybe you offended them (even though you might not know why).”
“Maybe, Maybe, Maybe….”
Tell me that those thoughts are not enough to make you want to hide away under a rock, out of sight and not face anyone.
People can be nasty and we know it!
We have all experienced it and have all done it. Especially if we are having a bad day or two, and if we have had a bad week – oh dear!
It’s all around us;
It’s enough to make anyone cynical & even fearful of others.
It’s not surprising that we feel insecure.
So how do we battle through the insecurity and find more freedom in our thoughts?
As I have already said I still don’t find this easy myself. I daily take on the challenge to reign in my insecure thoughts. Some days it’s easier than others. But I have found some keys to freedom and they really help.
The best way I have learnt to overcome my own insecurities about what others are thinking about me is by choosing to relate to other people with GRACE. Now grace is one of those words we often either relate to girls names, meal time prayers or religion. But grace is actually an amazing concept. Grace basically means something described as ‘unmerited favour’. In the context of relationships I would put it like this: it’s not relating to others in response to what they think, say, act or what you get back.
It’s choosing to treat people well regardless.
In the context of faith; it’s loving people whether or not they deserve it.
And yes…. it’s a radical concept!
How is that even possible you might ask?
Well I only find it possible because I know that’s how I am treated. I know that God loves me regardless of what I do. He does not love me because of how good I am (that wouldn’t get me very far anyway because I miss the mark all the time). He loves me by grace and to understand that is so freeing. I no longer have to try and get everything right to get God to love me. He just does and nothing can change that unconditional love.
So from the security of knowing I am loved unconditionally by someone unchanging, I have found I can choose to offer it out to others.
“When we know we are loved we find it easy to love other people”. – John Sentamu
I can build relationships with others from a secure place. I do not need the other person to like, love or think highly of me to feel secure in myself, because I know that my security ultimately comes from God.
When you have to try and work out whether or not someone deserves your love or friendship you start down a confusing and rocky path. The outlook is changeable because one day they do and the next they don’t, which is why so many people have turbulent relationships.
It’s a stressful process!
If you no longer have to go through that process and you choose to approach all your relationships and those around you with grace; you decide to love others regardless.
And it is so freeing!
The challenge is that it takes a lot of humility. Which is why we have the battle in our minds & thoughts. We get angry, hurt and offended and our anger can often be rooted in our pride. We shut people out because we fear them getting close and hurting us. We get offended because the other person said or did something that we didn’t like. So we retaliate with criticism and even hate.
Humility on the other hand says:
I am going to choose to love this person regardless of what I get back.
It puts the other person first.
It chooses to try and understand rather than misunderstand.
I gives people the benefit of the doubt.
It realises everyone makes mistakes
It knows that everyone is fighting their own battles.
It does not stereotype, but sees everyone as worthy of love.
It reaches out.
It is constant.
It is never fake.
“Behind all strife you find ego. Humility always promotes peace”. – Jarrod Cooper
This doesn’t mean I want to spend and invest my time with people who have taken a dislike to me or want to hurt me.
That wouldn’t be healthy.
But it does mean that I can reach out a hand of kindness and friendship to others, regardless of how they respond. And if they choose not to like me that is up to them – you can only build a relationship when two people both want to invest in it.
So if this is the case, I have to let it go, I do not need to hate them or get them back for their dislike of me. It does not need to eat away at me until bitterness takes hold of my heart and I end up taking my anger out on everyone else, including those who love me.
Instead, I can rest in the security that I am loved. With a perfect love from the author of love. A love that is consistent, unfailing, stable and unconditional.
That security always overrides the insecurity that come from others opinions.
Yes I still may have to face and overcome the hurt, the pain and embrace my vulnerability and fragility.
But when those insecure thoughts knock at the door to my mind and attempt pull me in, I can retreat to that secure place:
A place that is constant.
Where I know who I am.
A place of safety.
A place of love.
Where I am again built up.
Where encouragement gives me the courage to get back up.
To face the world around me.
Not to be rocked back and forth by the opinions of others.
A place where I realise that others opinions are just that – opinions; that often say more about them than me. Where I can stop being tossed about by the waves of speculation and instead be secure and anchored in the fact that other peoples opinions should never define me or stop me from being the person I really am.
The person that is truly me.
“Lead the life that will make you kind & friendly to everyone about you and you will be surprised what a happy life you will live”. – Charles Schwab