They have become strong enough to be independent of the good opinion of other people, or even of their affection. The honors, the status, the rewards, the popularity, the prestige, and the love they can bestow must have become less important than self-development and inner growth. (Abraham Maslow)
Letting go of the “good opinion of others” isn’t always easy or practical–but it is essential. Teaching children (and “inner children”) how to sort, filter, and evaluate the feedback they receive from the world and how to rely upon and trust their deep inner knowing is one of the most liberating, powerful, and altruistic gifts we can ever give.
While it is important to become one’s own person and find one’s way in the world–relying more upon our own thoughts and feelings about the situations we find ourselves in–it can be very difficult to let go of what others think, feel, or want. This is especially true if these people are in positions of power, influence, affection or esteem. Real and perceived dependence and other vested interests abound. Reliability, predictability, expectations, and other patterns of relationship emerge and even the wisest, most “centered” and “detached” of souls may fall into the interpersonal dynamics of power and control. It is virtually inescapable.
While the adage that your name–your reputation–will always go further than you do in this world, it is also true, as the Tao Te Ching so wisely states, that if you try to please others you become their prisoner. This type of learned helplessness is one of the most painful, debilitating and life-limiting conditions ever. Our name or reputation should be based on an authenticity and truth that extends far beyond political correctness and people-pleasing–the shallow frozen artifice of press releases and photo-ops that obfuscate a deeper, richer, and more satisfying living reality.
Like all things, there is a happy and reasonable balance. While it is essential to look outward with enhanced and enlightened awareness and take in all the positive and negative feedback the world so glibly offers, it is especially necessary to look deeply inward for full understanding and more evolutionary guidance.
Given the wisdom of the adage that “life is not meant to be a struggle,” it is usually wise to “go with the flow” and work with the energy around us, absorbing, utilizing and redirecting as necessary. However, it is as wise to practice acceptance (not stubbing one’s toes by kicking against reality) as it is to stand in strong, serene, or even hostile, life-preserving opposition. Each circumstance is different and a myriad of choices are available. While many are labelled “expected,” “probable,” or “traditional,” few are ever clearly marked “right.”
We are each on our own journey, our own path in life. No matter how well intended our family, friends, teachers, and sages are, they are not there with us in every moment of every day throughout our lives. Despite the best intentions and the warmest of hearts, they have no crystal ball to read our future or really know what is best. The biggest gift we can give ourselves and our children is the ability to grow in self-awareness, understanding, courage, flexibility, and resilience–to know that “reality” is so much more than what we perceive with five (or six) senses and that the richest learning usually occurs while taking risks and makings “mistakes.”
Although I often reminisce fondly and miss some amazing people who I will always love as members of my life-long “family of friends,” I have often had to let go of their “good opinion” when it has limited who I am as an independent thinking, feeling, and ever-changing human being. Given the dynamics of human nature and the age-old interplay of self-interest and control issues that may define human relationships, it is difficult to let go with the trust and well wishes that only true love affords.
It is important to pick one’s inspirational mentors, role models, and heroes carefully. While my childhood heroes will always have a special place in my heart and in my life, it is essential that I stay open to those who I meet in life and literature who continue to inspire and teach. Young or old, rich or poor, formally educated or not, they are usually the most unassuming everyday heroes who seem mostly unaware of the good opinion of others. They are too busy living their truth with a purity of passion and purpose that touches me and others so very deeply.
As cliché as it its many tired expressions have become, ( the greatest testament of truth!) there is great wisdom and wonder in the following sentiment expressed so vividly by ee cummings: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
Battling on, with love,