Worrying about what other people think of you is a faucet you can turn off anytime.
This comes from a conversation I had with a teacher trainee this week in relation to two of the Yamas (guidelines for social conduct), Brahmacharya and Asteya (energy management, non-stealing). In discussing this, I noticed that I had a LOT of thoughts.
Part of my strong response is due to how much energy I have spent in worry. Worrying about the past or the future, worrying out my family, friends, and students, worrying about outcomes, and perhaps the worst use of energy of all, worrying what others think of me.
Why does wasting energy with worry matter?
Yoga is all about making conscious choices. Conscious choices take energy, so at the heart of yoga is learning to cultivate energy and then managing our use of that energy. You could think about bringing in energy from a well or water tank – a storehouse you fill with movement, meditation, breathwork, play, art, love, learning etc. You could think about spending energy through a faucet, pouring out water into those areas that you want to nourish and sustain.
Worrying about what others think of you is like a faucet that drips all day.
That’s a tap you can turn off anytime.
When you worry about what other people think of things you’ve said, your actions, your motivations etc., without asking them, this drains your energy reserves, and leaves less energy for making conscious choices.
This doesn’t mean that reflecting on your actions isn’t a useful practice towards greater self-knowledge. But maybe that practice can be about what you think of you, not what others think.
Of course, if you think you have erred, it’s on you to try to correct any misunderstanding or apologize for any harm.
I guess my question is, why not assume that people are receiving your words and actions in the way you intended them?
And, if that’s not the case, isn’t it kind of on them to tell you? If they don’t, isn’t that about their communication practices?
How much energy do you want to put towards wondering what someone else thinks – which is entirely in your imagination and entirely out of your control – unless they tell you they are upset/confused/unhappy?
We can’t change other people’s behaviour, but we can learn to make more conscious choices about our own behaviour. We can communicate and act more mindfully, but we can’t control how others will interpret our actions or words. So, why worry about it?
For this week, I’ll be using this faucet visualization in my practice and my life. And maybe this will lead me to thinking about other ‘dripping taps’ that I might think about turning off…
(note: worry and anxiety are not quite the same thing. Anxiety is a mental health condition. Worry is a thinking process. If what you call worrying is preventing you from living life in a way that you wish, getting help from a professional counsellor can really help)