In short, we have been telling ourselves some lies… We’ve been lying to ourselves about how much other people care.
I’m not saying they don’t care, but I think the reality is that in caring what other people think of us, all we’re revealing is our own obsession with ourselves. After all, to suggest that anyone would find us more relevant or important to their functioning than they find themselves is simply not based in reality.
The sad part is that we all pass through a stage in adolescence, where we are convinced that everyone else is thinking about how bad we look in that outfit, or has just finished talking about us to someone else when we walk into the room. The reality is that we simply think so highly of ourselves that we conceive others might care enough to do the same.
I’m not saying it to make us feel lonely, and I’m not suggesting that such a lie is either a good thing or a bad thing. I don’t think honestly owning up to the fact that each person is the center of his own universe is meant to have an emotional valence on it. Our brains are designed to be self-consciousness-centric. It’s wired in from an evolutionary background. It’s not a good or a bad thing, merely the byproduct of an adaptive strategy wherein the guy who generally cared more about himself was likelier to survive a little longer.
I think Richard Dawkins argues this point in The Selfish Gene, which isn’t what I’m getting at.
I’m trying to liberate us. Maybe that’s my own self-obsession coming through, thinking that I have such power. But the reality is that the minute you realize that every other person in the room is much more concerned with their own feelings, thoughts and experiences, we have the power to simply be ourselves. More than likely, the things we do will matter most to us, of anyone, and that gives us an opportunity to embrace ourselves exactly as we are. Likely no one else is paying anywhere near as much attention to us as we are.
Cut loose from the idea that the conception of others is in any way relevant to the conception we have of ourselves. I’m saying the impossible, but putting it in our minds is a step toward happiness, one that’s a lot more honest about the reality of the world in which we live. (I always told people in therapy: I’m not hear to make you positive as a means to happiness. I’m here to make you realistic. If things are happy, be happy, if they aren’t, be sad. It’s all valid as long as it’s realistic.)