Recently, I read where someone said as long as we fear what people think of us, we are owned by them. I think that is true.
I think — most of my life anyway — I’ve been plagued by worry about what others might think about me. Whether it was my folks when I was growing up, people I’ve worked for over the years, congregations I’ve served throughout the ministry years, audiences I’ve played and sang for, or even people who read the words I write.
“What if I’m not good enough?” I would ask myself. “What if they don’t like me?”
Sometimes it bothered me to the point of making myself sick over the thought.
Much of what I have done in my life, be it hobby or vocation, has been somewhat public in nature. That might have added to the worry. Frankly, I have just always felt sort of “not good enough.” I remember my mom telling me that her grandpa, whose name was also Bob, told her if she named me Bob I would never amount to anything. Maybe that stuck with me. All I know is I have spent years thinking (fretting would probably be a better word) about what others thought about me.
Now that I’m older I have come to a realization — an epiphany really — that I have let what others think about me enslave me, almost to the point of exhaustion, or even depression. So, I am trying to turn over a new leaf. Better late than never, as they say.
I’m not sure what that might look like. It may manifest itself in so many ways. I just don’t know. So be warned, I might appear to be a little more non-caring, or a little rude, or a little stand-offish, or even a bit more protective of my own time, thoughts, and likes or dislikes.
Don’t take it personally. Just realize I am trying to own myself — to be who I am without the constant worry about what others might think. I truly believe that only when we no longer need or seek approval from outside of ourselves can we truly find ourselves, know ourselves, and own who we are.
Randy Stonehill wrote a song many years ago that I have always loved. The name was “Old Clothes.” It seems to be making more and more sense these days. One of the lines says “I’m packing up my old clothes, and my old and foolish ways — they just don’t seem to fit me anymore.”
I like that — especially the line about my old and foolish ways. Packing those old clothes away is not an easy task. But at least it’s a start.