Following on from my contemplations of the impact of our ego and pride on our ability to accept change in our lives, another trend appears to emerge from the same cycle. That trend relates to our need to be significant in the lives of those that influenced our lives at a point in time when our identity was still being formed. Significance takes many forms and is hardly limited to just being able to play a meaningful role in the life of another. That is the easy part. You either find that acceptance or you don’t. If you don’t, you feel rejected and betrayed and you choose to hold on to that as a defining moment, or you choose to let it go and move on.
The more difficult part is when we don’t play a meaningful role any longer in their lives, but still desire to be perceived more positively by them. This is significantly more damaging than the previous scenario of rejection because we pretty much set ourselves up for failure in the process. The less meaningful our role in someone’s life, the less likely we are to influence their perception of us. Worse still, it assumes that they still care about how they perceive us. In other words, we still assume that they notice or care about our development and progress in life.
Problem is, more often than not, they don’t. More often than not, they’ve moved on and we’re still stuck in a moment in time that has long since become insignificant for them. They’ve either made peace about it, or chances are it probably never meant as much to them as it did to us. And so we set out on that hamster wheel trying to turn it faster than we did the day before hoping that someone will notice the improved performance, while not realising that the sum total of their interest is really just whether or not the wheel is turning. But we assume that their interest must be more than that because of the gravity we placed on the influence they yielded in our lives. That’s a burden of responsibility on them that only exists in our minds and probably never even occurred to them.
So we have choices. Several choices. We could impose ourselves in their space, bare our souls, and hope they reciprocate and appreciate so that our struggle to please or impress them receives some validation. Or we could recognise that maybe the emphasis of that experience may have been exaggerated in our own minds because we had nothing more significant as an influence in our life at that time. Or, we could let go of it all and simply focus on progressing our development because it’s taking us in a direction that we consciously choose for ourselves, regardless of the past experiences that may have prompted us in that direction. Most don’t even consider the last option because of how fixated they are on meeting expectations that are formed only in their own minds.
Given how blatantly destructive this cycle can be, I’m compelled to believe that there must be something more that drives this behaviour. More than just the fulfilment of an aspiration rooted in a past relationship or past lifetime. I think that something more is related to our need to be recognised for what we achieve. It’s like the proverbial tree that falls in the forest. If no one is around to witness it, its fall from grace is meaningless. There is no regret or sympathy, or even a simple recollection of its moments of glory when it stood tall and provided shade and beauty. Fortunately for us trees are beautiful independent of our appreciation of them.
The same is true for people whose focus is internal rather than external. They are not driven by validation, but rather by contribution. Conviction to serve because it resonates with their principles, rather than desire to be celebrated because it resonates with their ego. I guess the point is, the more we need to be recognised for the struggle we’ve endured, even if that struggle is simply a figment of our own imagination, we will find reasons to emphasise the remnants of that struggle at every turn until someone validates the strength it took for us to rise above it in spite of the gravity of it. That validation becomes ever more significant to us when we allow ourselves to be defined by the events of our lives, rather than our contribution towards the lives of others.
Self-worth. It’s the one thing that drives us to do the most destructive things, mostly to ourselves before we do it to others. Those that fight the realisation of that low self-worth most fiercely are the ones that become more abrasive and abusive towards others around them. Those that succumb to it without feeling worthy of overcoming it recede and become mutes in the landscape of life. They are the placeholders among us. They are available to be solicited but do not themselves actively contribute. Their inclusion in such solicitation is what appeases their ego enough to give them reason to continue restraining their individual expression from fear of reducing their chances of being included. They are constrained in their thinking and focus their efforts on fulfilling expectations falsely believing that they are serving a greater good, while in reality are too afraid to serve independently.
When we go through life waiting for our struggles to be recognised, to be seen as the walking wounded, or the ones that survived, we become defined by that survival. We become survivors. Survivors don’t enjoy the sweetness of life. They simply enjoy the deferral of death.