As an adult I am exhorted to live without consideration of the opinion of others. I’m to feel sure of my decisions, confident in my path and able to pat myself on the back in lieu of all of those egomaniacal desires for personal and public approval. All well and good, I suppose.
Yet I observe (in myself and others) a visible, visceral reaction to disapproval. As a child, perhaps living in the pall of constant disapproval is more crippling that physical abuse (although this is arguably the extreme manifestion of disapproval).
I don’t think this damage ends in childhood, however. I’m thinking that subtle and continual disapproval is a habit to dish out and creates a toxic environment in which to live. I’m not talking about big sweeping statements like, “You’re ugly and your mother dresses you funny.” I’m thinking of the subtle little ways in which I convey that something is just not quite right according to the wisdom of Yours Truly.
It’s easy for me to assume the privilege of deciding the rights and wrongs of what someone else is doing. And my judgments can be subtle but are always discernible: the slightly pursed lips; the tightened jaw; the hesitation before response; the cutting question; or even the faint praise. It’s interesting, too, how many times I catch my mental judgment of an action that has nothing to do with me. “You’re not going to have lunch?” “Hmm…is that what you said?” “You didn’t shower before you came?”
Well, I know that last one is ridiculous, but you get the point, don’t you?
I wish I could take back every one of those questions when my opinion had not been asked. Especially those times when the decision was already made and irretrievable. I want to relieve every moment of pain I caused and redirect every path of negative thought that I opened for my friends and family. Let alone the wasted energy in my own life.
I don’t think of myself as a negative influence. But I am a know-it-all and feel that everyone’s entitled to my opinion. That attitude has caused me to re-live some conversations in my head…taking many valuable hours of my life. Those hours are getting more precious as my remaining time seems a bit more finite.
So I’m not going to waste any more time or thought on the past. But I am now aware and working toward change.
Habit (I think so), but breakable.
My solution is not in hiding my disapproval, but in listening, watching, living with the people I love with an open heart and mind. It’s being understanding rather than superior. (Yes, I think disapproval involves feeling superior!)
Since everything reminds me of a song, I’m thinking “Shower the people you love with love, show them the way that you feel…” * What a concept. Shower the people I love with approval.
I’ll take some of that, too. (Sorry, Deepak and Dyer!)