February 13, 2024

One Thing that Holds us back from Feeling Truly Free to be Ourselves.


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I’d already given up staring at myself in the bathroom mirror except when it feels absolutely necessary; partly because I don’t much like what I see as I get older, but mainly because I don’t want to become preoccupied with how I look.

Most of the time, I’m happy walking around without caring a toss about my appearance. I always used to think this was one (unfair) advantage of being a man, although lately more men are becoming hung up about their looks, a state of mind encouraged by people who have something to gain from making us feel inadequate, selling us a product or a subscription to their channel and so on.

I think I’ve been fairly successful in not worrying what my face looks like.

In any case, none of us can really know how we look to others. Even photos only capture a momentary, often selective, glimpse of us, which may have little resemblance to how we appear when we’re animated by conversation or something which excites or interests us. Those of us who’ve spent any time on a dating site know how large the gap can be between a profile picture we’ve been attracted to, and the person who walks through the door on the first date which follows!

However, I’ve realised that I still carry around a kind of “inner mirror,” which reflects how I imagine other people are judging me. This feels even harder to let go of, but it seems equally important. I know it’s still just my idea rather than anything real, and it’s holding me back from feeling truly free to just be myself.

To see this in action, just watch young children at play. They don’t care what they look like, and they’re not thinking about what they should or shouldn’t do or feel; it’s we adults who weigh them down with all those thoughts as they get older. They are just being spontaneously themselves, and although it can lead to unintended hurt or accidents, by and large it looks like a wonderful way to be.

So this is how I’m trying to live now: in the moment and not worrying what other people may think of me. It’s a work in progress.

I am finding that as I become less concerned with attracting approval and fearing criticism, I’m also becoming a lot less judgmental. Needing to be admired is rooted in a low self-esteem, and as I become more accepting of myself and let go of the feeling that I’m a failure and should have done more (an idea planted in me at an early age), I’m much more accepting of others too.

When I was a young musician, I wanted more than anything to be famous and recognised, but now I realise how much freer I am as a relative nonentity, not trapped by my “persona” (which is what fame is all about anyway, not the real person behind it) or having to act a part to live up to other people’s expectations.

I do have a couple of friends who are quite well known and “successful,” but that definitely doesn’t make them any happier. In fact, they seem to be mostly worried about why they aren’t more famous. It seems that if you really need it, like money, recognition seems to be one of those things that no matter how much you have, it’s never enough.

So don’t imagine that there is greener grass in a field of recognition and achievement that you need more of. If your life is full of kindness and love shared with friends and family, you really do have everything you need to be perfectly happy.

And imagining that there is something better out there is a tragically misplaced idea that you’d be sensible to just forget. Right now!


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