The Insecure's Guide to Life7:30 AM
If you are...
- terrified of what other people think of you
- constantly nagging people if you did okay after they've told you five times that you were great
- afraid to introduce yourself to someone because you're afraid you'll look dumb
- worried about doing new things
- undecided over whether you like yourself or not
- sweating over whether so-and-so doesn't like you because of that slight inflection of tone or that minute twitch of an eye he gave last Sunday
...in short, if you seem to have trouble keeping your ego inflated, this guide is for you. "Ego inflated?" you may ask. "Have you turned postmodern humanist?" No, but if you have trouble keeping your ego inflated then you're as proud as the person who has no problem puffing himself up. See, there are two kinds of pride: one that destroys you and one that destroys others. The latter is just plain old look-at-me-ism - blunt, proud and unadulterated. The former is introverted self-absorption that cannot look outside of itself and reach out to others nor can it look up to God for worth and salvation. It's marked by depression, gloom, anxiety and a raw feeling of failure. It demands constant verbal praise a la the Hallelujah Chorus.
In the name of morality, that's wrong.
But if you're really concerned about making yourself look good - if you're really bothered by what others think - if you really feel the need to impress others - then this guide is for you. You can hardly wait to read on, so I will cut the introduction short and proceed.
First of all, complaining is the shortest way to lose someone's attention. Think about it for a moment. When someone walks around moaning about their stuffy nose and aching feet and miserable day, are you inclined to pay special attention to them, shower them with love and get wrapped around their pinky finger? Is that inclination doubled by repeated affirmations of such misery?
I'm guessing no. It took me a long time to realize that nobody is particularly interested in the minor aches and pains of life - emotional or physical - and that people pay more attention to me when I'm happy and uncomplaining.
The same goes for tears. I used to think that the harder I cried, the more sympathy I would gain. It doesn't work. When I'm bawling like a baby, people may give me nervous and/or annoyed glances, but it doesn't result in hugs and what's-the-matters. Putting on a show is the quickest way to lose an audience.
People aren't interested in drama, period. We get this idea that a surefire way to attention is engaging people's sympathy and emotions. We think hard at the end of a good week to come up with a real zinger of a problem to tell our best friend, accompanied with appropriate sighs and puppy-eyed looks. Now, it's true that if you're as surrounded as I am by sweet people, they will give you polite attention and a decent amount of worry...but oddly enough, they don't seem to stick around very long. A better way? Be perpetually happy and cheerful (not in extent but in consistency) and then, when something truly mournful comes along, people will be anxious to dry your tears and cater to your needs...because that's what you did for them.
Another necessity: redefine humility. Humility is a most attractive quality - believe me, that's why I'm often left by myself. But it cannot be forced. That's the tricky part of it. When I tell someone he did a good job, he puts on his humility and humbly admits that no, it wasn't that spectacular and I repeat that yes, in fact, it was, and (very humbly) he insists the opposite and by the time I turn on my heel and walk off, I'm thinking only of his stubborn pride. Not his humility. "Humility," to quote Jasmine Baucham, "is not thinking less of yourself; it's thinking of yourself - less."
And bottom line, everybody hates self-consciousness. It's almost impossible to engage a self-conscious person in conversation, to get them to open up. It's an insult to the engager's friendliness: Why do you treat them as unfriendly and unopen and insincere by refusing to open up and be yourself? Self-consciousness is not a good attention-grabber, despite what our beating heart says.
(Neither is being loud and obnoxious and riotous and ostentatious...people are forever complimenting me on the things I didn't work on or plan and never paying attention to the things I slave over.)
The best way to gain friends and get attention? Just forget about the whole matter. Laugh as loud as you like, mess up as much as you want, ask forgiveness liberally. People don't think poorly of someone who doesn't think poorly of themselves. I'm not talking about being conceited; I'm talking about being humble and confident.
For instance. When you see someone onstage who is stiff, nervous and apparently very aware that his lines are ridiculous and the whole thing is baloney, what do you think of him? "Well, good for him for recognizing how absurd the whole thing is"? Or more like, "Poor guy"? The whole thing could be avoided if he'd just throw himself into his role - we'd be laughing so hard to think anything but what a terrific actor he is.
Or perhaps a speaker stumbles over a quotation. Who do we think best of - the one who freezes and stutters and stammers, terrified, or the one who laughs it off with a "Sorry about that - what I meant to say..."? Which aggravates the mistake - obsession or indifference?
Or which is worse - a photograph of an un-photogenic person painfully blushing and smiling and crumpling up into a little ball from nervousness? Or a rather ridiculous photo of someone who isn't trying to look totally amazing?
The motto we must live by is who cares? I don't mean that carelessly - pardon the pun. I mean to say, who really does care and who do we want to care? Fact is, people aren't as obsessed about you as you think they are - they're too busy worrying about other things to remember all your faults. So don't care about what they don't care. And identify who you do want to care - your heavenly Father, your family, your closest friends - and don't worry if spiteful people hate you and think you ridiculous. Laugh it off. Move on. People don't remember things you don't or care about things you don't care about.
You don't have to care what other people think. You choose to. So choose wisely. Then you'll get all the attention in the world.