Conquer fears: feeling misjudged

What's the opinions of others to you, that you are anxious they're in your favor?
Knowing what other people think of you and your actions, how they perceive your behavior, can be important feedback. There are, however, differences in the way people express such feedback. The most helpful sort is descriptive: when people simply describe what they see you doing, and what the effects are, you can match this with your goals and your own sense of the situation. Unfortunately, that's not the prevalent sort of response we normally encounter. More often, people are judgmental. When they express their judgments of good and bad (however muddled, for what people think is good, or bad, most often lacks refinement and reflection), it's often rather hurting than helping. Especially those who are themselves timid and insecure tend towards dismissive, sweepingly negative statements; of course they often don't notice how much attitudes of that sort reflect on themselves rather than on what they're talking about. Yet, for all that, weak and foolish attitudes are contagious, and an echo of their insecurity will fall back on you, luring you into taking their judgments as valid measurement of the worth and value in your actions. Thus instead of ignoring the judgmental portion of their responses, you become afraid of it, and anxious to please those with the loudest voice and with the most judgmental style of responding to you. But that means to please exactly those who deserve it least: it's not for the judgments of others that we live our lives. Instead, you need to figure out how to distinguish descriptive from judgmental feedback behavior; try to learn from the former and practice keeping a healthy reserve against the latter.
(Also, in this line of thought there's something to learn for your own responses towards others: try to avoid judgment, be perceptive, descriptive and reflective. There's a time for criticism, and for claims about value, good and bad, and right and wrong. But it's appropriate less often than you might think, especially in everyday life.)
It's not just negative judgment that one should be skeptical about; there is also a danger in praise, including that praise which is often triggered by excellence. Since excellence of character is what we're trying to achieve in leading our lives, we might be tempted to take praise from others as a mark of achievement of that goal. That would be misguided. Not only can you be excellent without it being acknowledged, or even noticed; recognition may follow only later on; you also might be seen as excellent without actually being so — and thus from praise you can never infer you're making good progress. (Consider also how high the chances are that those who praise and call you excellent in truth are bad judges of excellence, being neither excellent themselves nor used to having it around them.)
It's a weakness, this anxiousness to appear excellent in the eyes of others. Be prepared to be excellent without anyone taking notice of it! Such anxiousness is always wrong: if you have excellence in some matter, you already have the more choiceworthy thing. Recognition may follow, or maybe it won't. But even if it does, it's secondary. It's even worse if you don't actually have the excellence in question: then it amounts to willing deception. You are deceiving both yourself and others if you go for the appearance of an excellence only.
As long as you can find so many faults just by looking at yourself, you have no business believing yourself excellent from someone else's saying so. The latter shouldn't be a goal for you at all. Take care.
Copyright © 2007-2012 by Leif Frenzel. All rights reserved.