How to succeed in freeing oneself from the gaze of others?
Symptomatic of a lack of self-confidence, the fear of the gaze of others can be a real obstacle to personal development. Physical complexes, fear of asserting oneself or making certain life choices, the fear of being judged can have sometimes heavy consequences.
How can we stop being influenced by external judgments? Isn’t the famous look of others a reflection of the way we look at ourselves? Understanding the way others look at us and the fear it arouses is a first step towards greater freedom.
Value judgments, what are they really about?
The mirror effect
Don’t worry, everyone is judging. The human brain needs to categorize, to put labels on what surrounds it in order to picture the world and make sense of experiences.
This categorization does not happen by chance. For psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, “we perceive in others the thousand facets of ourselves”. In other words, what attracts our attention in them corresponds to what echoes in us. This is called the “mirror effect”.
When you make a judgment, you unconsciously put your finger on something that disturbs you at home and that you most often try to deny.
Thus, the mirror effect is an open door to self-knowledge. By becoming aware that you tend to project your system of values and beliefs onto others, you will realize that, most of the time, the intentions and opinions you lend them belong to you.
Our idea of what others think is in fact, very often, the projection of our unconscious thoughts.
Selective Exposure: Seeing What We Believe
In the 1950s, the American psycho-sociologist, Léon Festinger, brought to light the notion of selective exposure. This cognitive bias consists for the individual to seek at all costs information that confirms his own beliefs and ways of thinking.
It comes into action when a person is in a state of cognitive dissonance. It is a tension felt when an external element contradicts one’s own beliefs.
To escape this uncomfortable feeling, the individual will then unconsciously try to find a state of consonance by focusing on the information that goes in his direction, and avoid those that could reinforce his discomfort.
Making a value judgment then makes it possible to confirm one’s beliefs and to reassure oneself of their legitimacy.
The view of others: the origins of fear and its consequences
Understanding is a first step towards wellness. Once you have identified the root cause of your fear of others, you can tackle the problem at its roots and begin to do the work to get rid of it.
Environment and Education
Fear of the gaze of others often originates in the family environment. A child raised by parents who are shy or preoccupied with “what will people say” is likely to reproduce this pattern.
The unconscious has then recorded that the gaze of others is important. The person who has become an adult will therefore unconsciously act accordingly.
Self-esteem can also be damaged by an injury or trauma experienced during childhood. The unfortunate remark of a teacher, the mockery of other children on the playground can be as many factors that will lead the individual to unconsciously flee this trauma, and to act by avoiding reliving this suffering.
Emotional dependence and fear of rejection
On the other hand, a child raised by very authoritarian parents or with high demands for academic success, for example, may develop the belief that, in order to be loved, one must satisfy the demands of others.
For fear of rejection, the person who has become an adult risks entering into a mechanism of emotional dependence. They have not learned to trust themselves and, in order to feel loved, will do anything to obtain the approval of others, even if it means denying their own needs and values.
The image society
Omnipresence of images in the media and on social networks, cult of performance and productivity, we live in a society of images that constantly pushes us to compare ourselves. Not easy, in these conditions to accept oneself when one has an already fragile self-esteem.
Moreover, the tendency to expose one’s private life on social networks and the race for likes and followers are witnesses to the enormous power that we attribute to the regard of others. This constant search for the approval or even admiration of others is much more pronounced among younger people. It feeds the fear of not liking, and therefore unconsciously of not being liked.
The consequences of the fear of the gaze of others
This fear of judgment can have more or less serious consequences in the personal, professional and social spheres:
- Physical complexes
- Default” clothing style to avoid being noticed or rejected by the group
- Life choices that are out of step with one’s needs and values: staying in an uncomfortable love, work or family situation that does not satisfy one’s needs and values
- Not daring to assert oneself: difficulty speaking in public, saying no, etc.
- Behavior out of step with the true self (eccentricity, permanent derision, shyness, etc.).
They obviously depend on each person’s experience, but are symptomatic of a lack of self-esteem.
Self-esteem: how to reinforce it by changing the way we look at ourselves?
As we said it, the real problem is most often the glance that one carries to oneself.
It is obvious that one has no power on what the others think. On the other hand, we can modify the way we look at ourselves. And if it is benevolent, then there is no longer any need to dwell on the judgment of others. One can thus act freely, without worrying about it.
It is sometimes difficult work that requires great honesty towards oneself, but it is quite possible. Here are a few tips that can help you see things more clearly.
1. Become aware of the way you look at yourself
Do you find the look of others ruthless? But are you aware of the way you look at yourself?
When you goof up, fail or simply look in the mirror, what do you say to yourself? Take the test. You will see that, very often, you are not tender. Would you dare to talk like this to your worst enemy?
You will realize that most of the time, and even more so, if you lack self-confidence, the person who is the most uncompromising towards yourself is you.
To gain confidence, it is essential to be indulgent towards yourself. When you feel bad about yourself for this or that reason, imagine what you would say to your best friend or child in the same situation. It’s very effective.
Being kind to yourself and talking positively to each other helps improve self-esteem. When self-esteem is enhanced, other people’s opinions become less important and you can act with a free spirit.
2. Take stock of your desires and values
If you have always acted according to the way others look at you, perhaps you have never taken the time to ask yourself what really drives you. It is then essential to ask yourself about your true values. What are yours and not those of your parents or society? Ask yourself about your desires and what lives in you.
In fact, it comes down to asking: why am I doing this? Am I doing it for myself or to please others? This work of clarification helps you to gain self-confidence, because it allows you to realize what you really want and to act accordingly.
3. Acting imperfectly
Taking action is essential to integrate new behaviors and increase self-confidence. Of course, it’s not a matter of radically changing one’s life overnight or becoming totally eccentric.
The goal is not to become violent, but to introduce small changes in daily life, such as putting touches of color in one’s wardrobe, speaking in a small group, daring to say no and asserting oneself on small things in daily life. Gradually, it will become easier and easier and you will realize that nothing serious is happening.
Before taking action, you can always ask yourself the following questions: If so-and-so judges me, what will really happen? Is it really that bad? This will allow you to step back and act with a freer mind.
Freeing yourself from the fear of others’ eyes first requires a change in the way you look at yourself. To do this, taking action is necessary. So, where do you start?