Fear of What People Will Think

I just got back from my trip to Thailand.   Thailand is an interesting place, filled with interesting people.

Rather than talk about the trip, I wanted to talk about fear.  I have many fears.  Some I’m sure I don’t even know about.

One fear I do know about now is the fear of what people think of me.  I’m not sure when this fear came about, but it dictates the way I live my life to a great extent.

I can safely attribute my current self to this fear of what other people will think of me.  I dress a certain way, act a certain way, all because of this underlying fear.

I want to identify this fear.  What is it exactly?  Specifically it is the fear that people will think good or bad of me.  This sounds crazy, but at one point in my life, I actually feared that people would think good of me.

The fear of someone having positive thoughts towards me, come from the following thought pattern.  If they think positively of me, they will come to depend on me.  If they come to depend on me, there is a chance that I will let them down in the future.  Which in turn will lead them to think poorly of me.  Thankfully, through books and friends, I learnt to let go of this part of the fear, and just live life to the best I can.  As Benjamin Franklin wrote:

Hide not your talents, they for use were made.  What’s a sundial in the shade?

Ultimately the underlaying fear is that people will thinking negatively of me.

The question is why does this even matter?  Let’s play out a scenario currently going on in my life.  I have to move a bunch of furniture from my old apartment to the new one.  Unfortunately, due to various reasons, I am unable to book the elevator for either apartment.  Waiting to get this done as soon as possible I will find someway to move these large items.  Which means I’ll be hogging up lobby and elevator space for the people of both apartments.  This in turn will lead me to be viewed poorly by these people.  Who will in turn hold a negative impression of me.  I image at some later point in my life, there is a time I will need these people, and because of this event they will not be there for me.  For example there is a fire in the building, and they don’t warn me because I’m so ghetto.

Of course that last bit about the fire would basically never happen.  If these people are so petty as to not help someone in a moment of need, I do not care for them as people let alone what they think.

As I typed up this silly scenario, I realized it was actually very hard to come up with a negative outcome due to someone’s thoughts of me.  Maybe I won’t get promoted, or they won’t give me that contract because of what they saw.  Again these are unlikely, as most people can barely remember what they ate for breakfast let alone the actions of strangers that don’t truly affect them for long.

I believe I adopted this fear during my childhood, growing up near the projects in downtown Toronto.

My parents were the first generation to immigrate to Canada, and had little to their name.  They grew up on farms and far less “civilized” than that of downtown Toronto.  Often, they would find old discarded furniture, building supplies, cloths, what was considered garbage from the apartment complexes and houses nearby, and cart them back home.  My dad in particular was very crafty and could make any old thing into something useful for the family with glue and paint.  Often I was recruited by him to help wheel the latest treasures back to the house.  This resulted in me parading through the neighbourhood pushing trash or what appeared to be trash back and forth.  I recall many a time, that I would see schoolmates just playing in their yards, or biking around wondering what I was up to.  I felt ashamed.  But in reality I don’t recall ever hearing them say anything.  It just felt to me that there was no need to doing the pushing of this trash, and angry that I couldn’t be more like my school mates, enjoying a fun time.

As I write I realize that my school mates were not likely giving much thought to what I was doing.  Even if they had thoughts about how poor I was or thought of ways to exclude me from their activities.  These are the thoughts and actions of pre-teenagers.  Why the hell do they even matter?  Even now when I see a few people hand trucking large items, I don’t find myself thinking lowly of them.  Instead I do find myself feeling both pity and respect that they are doing what they need to do to get by, instead of sitting at a corner waiting for an handout.

The only time I can recall being ghetto and feeling very uncomfortable was at a dinner date I had with Winnie’s friends well into my twenties.  We were all dinning at a particularly expensive restaurant.  I personally felt it was out of the budget of all those attending to be enjoying the meal, and ordered for us conservatively.  This was fortunately became at the end of the night when the bill came, the couple next to me ordered way more than they could afford, the girl of the pair began to flush red and say how embarrassed she was as we were trying to figure out how to split the bill.  It was actually a trivial matter, but I see now that her pride was at stake.  Eventually it was settled and we went on our ways.

The young lady however managed to express that hot emotion of mine outwardly.  Which I believe helped me confirm that the world was also ashamed of poverty, and that of others negative feeling.

However, lets to further and try to break down what happened.  Firstly, the couple put themselves into this situation.  Similarly to my elevator moving story, I myself am to blame for the situation.  I could easily defer the moving date in my case, to a time where the bookings would align as there is no firm moving date.  The couple could have easily ordered within their budget, but they choose not to, either to show off, celebrate or simply carelessness, I will never know for sure.  Secondly, even though we are not able to avoid the situation to appear lowly in the eyes of others, what’s the big deal?  In the case of the elevator, absolute worst case is the “neighbours” follow me to my suite and report me to the condo board and get me fined.  This is highly unlikely because everyone has to move stuff, and very few people are that anal.  Even if there was one person so anal, it’s unlikely everyone involved in the chain of events, such as the property management, the condo board, are will to waste their time over something so minor.   In the case of the overly large bill, they couple could have simply asked someone at the table to help chip in.  I would have gladly helped if they asked, but instead one of them decides to get all worked up.  If they had asked for money, the worst case  that could have happened is that I may not dine with them again if I sense they were not going to return my loan.  Instead their over reaction, lead me to definitely not dine with them again, because of the awful feeling they left me.

This leads me to the feelings that surface when I consider what people will think.  Often when I try to manoeuvre away from being under the judging eyes of strangers, I ended up like that girl from the dinner.  I end up causing the people close to me grief.  In turn, really causing what I fear will happen, to actually happen.  The real fear of people not wanting to help or associate with me.

The lesson here is, as the apostle Paul wrote:

Be careful for nothing.


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