Do you ever wonder what other people think of you? I used to be quite constantly consumed with this question back in high school and it continued to hop into my mind a fair amount in college. On my mission in Bulgaria, the question faded quite dramatically - it's quite a challenge to worry about what others think of you when you're so busy trying to help so many people with serious needs. Then, while I lived in DC and Boston after Bulgaria, I think I really came into my own and felt pretty comfortable with who I was. I felt good about myself and stopped worrying - and I think that made me a pretty cool person. And while being a pretty cool person and getting lots of good vibes from people around me, I further shed my worries about what people thought of me.
Then I got married and the identity shift involved in that threw me for a bit of a loop. Who was I now that I was intertwined with someone else? What did people think of US?
But before I could worry much about any of that, I became a mother and while working part time and having child after child, I was too busy dealing with 100 things at once to find a moment to ponder what other people thought of me. It was a busy, crazy time but being needed so much is a great cure for insecurity.
But now that I'm coming out of a very long period of functioning primarily in crisis mode, the question pops up in my mind again here and there. What do I look like to people? Do I look as frumpy as I often feel? Do people notice that a spend about 10 minutes on my hair and makeup (when I spend any time on it at all)? Do people notice my flabby post-twins tummy as much as I think they must? Do other people notice the wrinkles that seem to have quite suddenly appeared around my eyes? What do I seem like to people? What do I seem stressed out and overextended? Do I seem warm and kind or aloof and uninterested? Do people feel like they can relate to me or am the oddity that I often feel I am here in St George? (When it somehow comes out that I went to Harvard, I seem to be put quickly into the "different" or even "alien" category in many people's minds.) Do I seem like a good mother? Do people read this blog and think, "What in the world is she doing going to get a Christmas tree when she's got a sick child?" or "Why does she run websites and do all these things in the community instead of focusing more fully on her kids?" or "Why is she so selfishly focusing on her own family so much when she could be using her talents to help the larger world a lot more?"
I've always been quite introspective and I'm always taking stock of how I'm doing and what I could do better. It's helpful when there are outside influences offering feedback - performance reviews at work, friends and family who tell you what they think, etc. But in my current life as a mom, it's hard to find benchmarks or outside feedback. It's just me and the kids a lot of the time. I get called a "mean mom" sometimes and "the best mom in the world" occasionally. But how do I really look to the kids? Sometimes I get a glimpse of what they see when they look at me - and sometimes I like those glimpses, sometimes I don't. Sometimes I get a friend or neighbor thanking me for something or I feel the need to check myself based on some comment I've heard.
Does it matter what anyone else thinks? I was brought up with the quote: "See how the masses of men worry themselves into nameless graves while here and there, some great, unselfish soul forgets himself into immortality." So is the key to success in life wrapped up in willing yourself not to worry about what anyone else thinks? Or are the opinions of others helpful?
OK, rambling here, I know. Better stop thinking about thinking and go watch the "garage band show" Ashton just announced that he and the twins have put together downstairs.