I’ve been thinking about this post for a while. It can be difficult to make sense of anything when you over-think everything, let alone start to define the relationship between you and the rest of the world. If you’re anything like me, then you probably go about your life half acting as though you couldn’t care less what people think of you, whilst at the same time flicking through your own profile pictures trying to see yourself from the perspective of another. Or perhaps you stand up for what you believe in, always fighting your corner in an argument, whilst constantly ensuring that your makeup is flawless and you have nice clothes. Whether we like it or not, we do, and always will, care what people think, even if it’s to make sure that they think we don’t care…
Obviously, by asking whether it’s important to ‘make sense’ to everyone that isn’t you, I’m going one step further than attempting to understand how we do and should relate to others. I’m effectively asking whether it’s important for people to understand each other, whilst assessing the extent to which we fear the judgement of others. Mutual understanding is, by the way, incredibly important – In more ways than one. Whereas it seems obvious that individuals should strive to understand one another’s motives and emotions in order to live harmoniously, and better yet, in order to be friends, what often goes unnoticed is the extent to which someone else’s understanding of our character can expose it for what it really is, or contrast it to what it isn’t. In other words, other people often understand us better than we understand ourselves.
If I can remember anything from my degree, it’s the idea that nothing exists without its relationship to something else. Everything around us is intricately linked together. High only exists in comparison to low, rich in comparison to poor, cool in comparison to geek etc etc. We define ourselves in relation to everything else that isn’t us, that’s just the way it is. Not only is absolutely everything relational, but it’s subject to contextual interpretation as well. Our relationship with the world around us is forever evolving. And the most relational thing of all? Morality, of course. So it’s hardly surprising that the concept of ‘understanding’ should be so directly linked with that of ‘judgement’. The need to be understood is to satisfy our desire to be fairly judged.
If we ever feel we’ve been unfairly judged, we automatically question the extent to which the outside/judging world understands us. And then comes the big question: why do we care? The answer splits accordingly between why we care what strangers think of us, and why we care how the people we’re close with perceive us. Why do we care if we fall in front of a stranger? Because we’re proud, competitive and easily embarrassed. Why do we care if we fall, perhaps metaphorically, in front of a friend? Such an act involves a different kind of pride – the desire we have for our friends and family to be proud of us. When that is hindered, the relationship is hindered. If our relationships with the people we care about are hindered, we become hindered ourselves; we lose a part of ourselves. With Pride comes respect, and a friendship with no respect is a friendship without understanding. Only true friends understand us when we’ve forgotten how to understand ourselves. And for the same reason, only true friends, the friends that do understand, have the god given right to judge us.
Whereas it is important to make sense to the outside world in order to define yourself, that world only needs to encompass the people you care about, and the people who care about you. If you run around trying to make sure that you project the right kind of message or personality to everyone, you will never know how it feels to be yourself, and you will certainly never do anything for yourself. Remember that there’s a beauty in mystery. You don’t have to expose everything that you are to everyone around you. Save yourself for the people who matter. Also, try not to rebel for the wrong reasons. If you have to rebel, rebel for something you believe in, not because you feel that people don’t believe in you. One day they will, and you’ll have rebelled for no real reason. Rebellion without reason is just self-centred recklessness.
I’m beginning to appreciate why so many celebrities have mental break downs; the pressure of maintaining a specific social image and having to please more people than humanly possible must be unbearable. Just think of the burden of having your every move watched and judged, and the impossible situation of having so many people think they have the right to judge you. Very few people genuinely don’t care what people think of them. Even those who go against the grain are at the same time seeking approval by doing so.
On the other hand, If you don’t wish to make sense to the outside world, at least you get them talking. Plenty of people, myself included, enjoy shocking others from time to time. Not in a sinister way, just as a way of getting people thinking, or, better still, as a way of opening their minds up to new possibilities. After all, you can always meet misunderstanding and nonsense with a decent explanation.