Have you ever thought, “I’d love to do x, but they’ll think I’ve gone crazy”. If so, you’re very normal, but this might not be serving you well.
First of all, who are “they”? Are “they” anybody that matters to you? Or are they just a nebulous, anonymous “they”, an imaginary Greek chorus, that maybe actually represents your own fears. Are you afraid to allow yourself this chance at fulfilment?
Second, is this fear reassuringly familiar to you? If you’ve always minded what other people think of you, then being fearful of their opinions has become part of your comfort zone.
Third, whose life is it anyway? Yours, or theirs?
So now you’ve got two layers of fear going on – fear of trying something new, plus fear of what people will think of you for attempting it. It’s natural to be apprehensive about a new endeavour – that is a healthy, creative tension that reassures you that you are pushing your boundaries and growing as a person.
But you don’t need that additional level of fear, the fear of others’ opinions. There is no upside to that one. Let it go.
What enabled me to let go of my fears of other people’s opinions (which used to bother me FAR too much) was that I found I was even more afraid of something else – I was horrified by the idea that I might reach the end of my life and look back and think, “oh dear, that wasn’t really what I wanted”. When I did that life changing exercise and wrote two versions of my own obituary, I realized that living my life according to what I thought other people expected was leading me down a pathway to disappointment. I had to let go of caring about what they thought, in order to allow myself to flourish.
Try asking yourself: what is the worst that can happen? Suppose that “they” do accuse you of being crazy – so what? This says more about them than it does about you. Maybe they are envious of your courage and boldness. Maybe they wish they had the guts to follow their dream. Maybe you’ve made them uncomfortable, because you’ve challenged their preconceptions about what is possible, and destroyed their excuses for living a life of mediocrity.
I’d like to suggest that much worse than putting a few noses out of joint would be to reach the end of your life and look back with regret, wishing for what might have been, if only you hadn’t minded so much about what other people thought. It’s YOUR life – live it!
I’ll finish with a quote from Marianne Williamson, who says it so beautifully:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”