What Do They think?

Most of us are afraid of looking bad in front of others. We’re afraid that we’ll try something and fail. Often, we know that the failure itself is reversible but we worry that our image in the minds of others is not.


The fear of ‘looking bad’ keeps people in jobs they hate, relationships they dislike, and places they abhor. Solutions such as quitting, getting a divorce, or buying a plane ticket are all easily within reach, but they will all be avoided (sometimes for decades) in order to keep up appearances.


This fear is real. For many, it is entirely overpowering.


I felt this fear effect me as I considered traveling to Asia over one year ago. It would involve taking time out of University, and I was worried that my parents and school councilors would look down on me for my decision to leave.


I knew that I could always buy a ticket home. I could always go back to school. If I was mugged I could always get a new passport. No physical reasons held me back. All of them were mental stressors regarding how I looked in the eyes of others.


I worried about this for well over a year, and honestly, I still worry about it.


This evening, however, I had a discussion with my mother that changed my perspective on the situation.


I told her flat out that I was, yes, worried that I might fail. I might not make enough money to survive in Asia and my travels beyond. I might need to dip into my savings. I might need to return to school without having achieved my goal of earning enough location-independent income to travel the world forever.


I can honestly say I was surprised by her answer.


In her eyes, ‘failing’ to earn enough income to travel was no failure in her eyes. To her, the fact that I was taking the leap, believing in myself, and shooting for my dreams was good enough for her.


Even if I returned without earning a single dollar, she would be proud of me. She saw my adventure as an exciting experience, the outcome of which was of less importance than the journey itself.


At this time I had thought most people (including my mother) had simply considered this a negative, failure-prone experiment. I was surprised to hear that she was proud that she had raised me to be such a risk taker. I was positive that this was not the behavior she wanted to condone.


I was positive that, being my mother, she was worried constantly about the prospect of her son failing and looking terrible. In fact, these thoughts were not in her mind at all. They were only in mine.


Tonight, I wonder how many other people I made assumptions about. How many people did I fear I would look like a ‘failure’ in front of? How many of these people had never considered thinking of me as a failure?


Tonight has made me surer than ever that the thoughts of failure are nearly all centered in our own minds and nowhere else.


It’s a shame to think how much is put off and eventually forgotten due to these unfortunate, poisonous, and erroneous thoughts.