How a loved one sees us, is something that affects the self-worth of each one of us. Every mother wants her child to see her as the best mom in the world. Every dad wants his children to see him as their superhero. Our friends, our siblings, co-workers and even our jogging buddies, there are a lot of people around us, whose opinion about us matters a lot to us. We care what they think about us, and I guess this is something that comes naturally to us. But then, should we solely depend on how others see us, to establish our self-worth? How we see ourselves, isn’t that something that should matter too?
For a lot of us, this lesson in life often comes from harsh heartbreaks, or very late in life, with the experience of constantly failing to appease other people and change their opinion about us. Although I am one of the lucky ones who got this golden lesson in my early twenties. A friend of mine actually approached me asking what were the three things that I would like to change about him, to make him a better version of himself. After much thought, I gave him my answer and inspired by his zeal for self-improvement, I posed the same question to one of my closest friends.
What are the three things that he would want me to change about me, I asked him. “What a rubbish question. I am your friend because I like you the way you are. If I want to change you, then can I even call myself your friend? Besides, if you want to change anything about yourself, then you should do that because you feel the need to do so, and not those around you,” he retorted. I will forever be grateful for this very important lesson that my friend taught me.
Although I must admit that there were times in my life even after that conversation when I would see myself from others’ perspective. What would so and so think if I said this? Wore this dress? Spoke in a certain way? Read a certain type of books? Wrote a certain type of article? We, humans, have short memories and every now and then we tend to forget life’s valuable lessons, only to re-learn them again.
And it is we the women who are prone to seeing ourselves through other people’s gaze. How does my husband see me? What does my child think of me? Do my colleagues think I am loud-mouthed? Does my neighbour feel I am not a good housekeeper? Does my cousin sneer at my dressing skills behind my back?
Where does our own happiness and satisfaction rank, when we seek answers to these questions? Why is it rooted in changing other people’s opinion about us? How can we give precedence to another person’s opinion about us, over that of our own?
The reason for this could be our upbringing. For most women even today, their identity is rooted in the existence of another person in their life. We are moms, wives, sisters, daughters and these are the filters that we use to see ourselves. While most women are breaking away from dependency on other people in their life, to validate their existence, we are still lagging a bit when it comes to embracing our individual identity head-on. For most of us what people around us have to say about us matters, and that affects a lot of decisions that we make.
This could not only harm our self-worth, but force us to make decisions that we may end up regretting later in life. Embracing motherhood, getting married to the “right guy” at the “right time”, pursuing a career in a certain stream, dressing a certain way, living a certain way, just because we want to appease someone’s gaze, these things break away chips from our individual identity, carving us into a person that others may approve of. But does this change always bring us happiness? And even if it does, where does this chipping stop?
Women need to learn to give more importance to their own opinion about themselves. It is impossible to not be bothered at all by what others think of you, but, when you put your own thoughts up ahead in that ledger, the final outcome of your self-worth will definitely be different, and it will leave you feeling liberated in your own skin.
Image credit: YouTube screenshot
The views expressed are the author’s own.