whose in control of your life
For the majority of us, it’s other people – society, colleagues, friends, family or our religious community. We learned this way of operating when we were very young, of course. We were brainwashed. We discovered that feeling important and feeling accepted was a nice experience and so we learned to do everything we could to make other people like us. We didn’t want to be singled out by the crowd for being different because this wasn’t such a nice feeling. We learned this way of being so well that, as adults, we continue – mostly through mutual peer pressure – to keep each other in check. Like sheep without any need for a sheepdog, we keep each other in line.
“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” – Oscar Wilde
It works both ways. First, we are afraid of disapproval. Am I dressed right? Will people laugh at my accent? Will I look stupid? Will I make a mistake? When we feel that others think badly of us, it makes us feel bad and so we try to avoid this.
Second, we all want to feel important and so we crave the positive attention of others. This is one of our basic needs, according to Dale Carnegie, author of the multi-million best seller, How to Win Friends and Influence People. And so when people stroke our ego and tell us how wonderful we are, it makes us feel good. We crave this good feeling like a drug – we are addicted to it and seek it out wherever we can.
We are so desperate for the approval of others that we live unhappy and limited lives, denying huge swathes of ourselves and failing to do the things we really want to do because we’re worried about what other people will think. Just as drug addicts and alcoholics live impoverished lives to keep getting their fix, so we impoverish our own existence to get our own constant fix of approval.
The drug is so addictive that most people will not give it up – they