Dear Beloved: Other People’s Eyes

Dear Beloved,

You are trying to live from a place of confidence and trust, but habits long-formed continue to get in your way. Some of these are ingrained in your way of being and your way of thinking that you do not even notice when they take hold of you. Yet despite their subtlety, despite the “naturalness” of such practices, their impact runs deep. It shapes the manner in which you think about and see yourself.

One of these habits is your tendency to see yourself through other people’s eyes. When you think about your past, your current situation, or a particular choice you have made, you often think of what others would say. Sometimes this manifests itself in visualization. You see the face of someone you know and you hear their voice responding, speaking some brutally honest judgement of your decisions. But other times, this projection of other people’s thoughts is not so explicit. Instead of actively imagining a situation, you think like the other person. In a strange sense, you seek to enter into their mind, to break into the stream of their thoughts and then to be pulled along by the current.

Most of the time you do not even realize you are doing this; it has become so insidious that you do not usually question its normalcy. But now that you have recognized what it is you are doing, you must reject it. You must stop everything– all thoughts, all thinking, all work- until this projection of the other person has faded from your consciousness.

What is so wrong about speculating on what other people would think? When you do so, you seek a determination of your value and a justification of your existence in life through others’ reactions to you. Thus you make a god out of other people. If their judgement becomes so all-consuming to you that it takes over and invades the privacy of your own thoughts, then you are giving them power that is not theirs. What’s more, you are stripping yourself of power that is yours, denying the innate dignity that thrives detached from worldly voices.

Most importantly, when you see yourself through other people’s eyes, you cannot see yourself through God’s eyes. These two visions of self are mutually exclusive, and you have experienced much inner conflict in oscillating between the two. It is time that you commit – that either you bind yourself to a true and full understanding of your selfhood, or dive into the unending search for approval and affirmation. You know, in that place of peace, which you would choose, but you are afraid to choose it.

Fear is your greatest foe, but it does not have any real power over you. Its only power is derived from what you give it, just as others hold an unhealthy power over you when you elevate their flawed and limited judgement to an authoritative position. By burying your identity in other people’s thoughts, you seek to assimilate your uniqueness. But this is not what God wants you to do. And it is certainly not the path to any happiness, peace or true freedom.

The truth is that You are the Beloved. You have a dignity that is your birthright and unique vocation and set of gifts that equip you to fulfill your unmatched and unrepeatable purpose. It is your insecurity over the idea that you could really be “useful” or “important” that makes it difficult for you to really appreciate your gifts or the gifts of others. When you encounter someone else’s good deed, kind words, skilled or competent work, or great success, you find yourself thinking, “Could  do that? Am I capable of similar goodness? Can I do anything that has comparable value? Am I worse than this other?” This sort of thinking points again to the ego and it limits your ability to love and enter into communion with others. However, if you can accept that you were created for a singular purpose, that you are not merely forgotten among the many, then you will not be afraid to celebrate the equal dignity and beautiful gifts of others. You will realize that their uniqueness does not take anything away from yours; in fact, one can help the other to grow and blossom in the fullness of self. 

This is tied to your tendency to think of yourself as other people would. It gives other people power over you, but it also denies them the potential to surprise you, to love you and to give good gifts. You fear judgment and expect judgement and so you do not leave any room for love. Instead you must come to terms with the fact that no ‘other’ will ever fully understand you and this is okay. Since God is the only one to whom you are fully known, understood and loved, it is only right that you should see yourself through His eyes and His only. If you draw your value from this well, you will also find your strength and life from there as well. This life and strength in who you are will give you the courage to reach out to others and to continue along your own path, not comparing yourself to those around you, but rejoicing over all displays of love and beauty, and trusting that you are loved and will always be led.