“One of the symptoms of an approaching nervous breakdown is the belief that one’s work is terribly important.”
― Bertrand Russell
“Have courage to go your own way and fulfill the dreams that are unique and important to you.”
― Fennel Hudson
(Caveat: As I was working on this post, I arrived at the chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert’s new book Big Magic where she echoes the same sentiment. I wanted to pay homage to her fantastically inspiring book and acknowledge that this idea is shared by many folks in both the therapy and creative worlds).
I was at a conference led by psychologist Steven Hayes several years ago and he asked the audience if they knew the names of their great great grandparents. I did not know their names. The reason he asked that question was to remind us that we are all wonderfully and amazing insignificant. Eventually, your own family will not know your name. I found this insight freeing.
In my experience of professional listening, I can assure you that people are concerned with themselves over 99% of the time and with the rest of the world less than 1% of the time (if at all).
No one is really paying attention to me! This is fantastic.
This is not to say people do not care about me. I believe I am loved. I just do not think that I am particularly important. I think how much I am thought about increases within my sphere of influence (friends and family) but beyond that I am pretty sure I am not on the radar.
Why is realizing this important?
I often hear people say that they are scared to say or do things because of what people will think. What I am referring to are situations like: getting a different job, trying a new hobby, going on an adventure, moving across the world, and dating someone new. Basically, having the courage to live a life you love.
Are some people going to gossip about you? Absolutely. But, what I’ve learned about gossip is that it is mostly a means of connection for the people engaging in the gossip. This means that gossiping is much less about the person they are talking about and much more about having something to talk about. Please, go ahead and gossip about me if you feel so inclined.
I know that some people dislike or even disagree with this idea. In fact, I have received some harsh criticism when I have spoken on the topic. To clarify, I know I am important and loved in my sphere, but as you move out into the world filled with over 7 billion of people, I am just not important.
If you do find that you are obsessing over the lives of others much more than focusing on your own (which can happen with social media), I would guess that you are not living your own life to the fullest. It is probably time for you to try something new, fun, and exciting.
“To be happy, we must not be too concerned with others.”
― Albert Camus