How much energy do you exert on any given day worrying about what “they” will think? I had to get a vitamin IV drip hooked to my veins just to fret over my fatty cuticles and all the hurtful things “they” would say.
Only once my vitamin IV bag was as shrivelled as the ice cold veins their nectar coursed through did I realize that this acceptance-anxiety was atrophying my entire existence and things had to change.
To begin my journey of ridding myself of acceptance-anxiety, I took a shower. Well, not so much took a shower so much as let the bathroom steam up so that I could dramatically wipe the moisture off the mirror, making my hour-long session of staring at my reflection contemplatively all the more psychologically profound. Through the mist, my gaze met the vacant stare of The Nicessist where my reflection should have been and he demanded to know,
“Why do you care about what other people think?”
“Social conditioning? Life has been one big popularity contest since the nurse tossed me in a room with all the other newborns and we all vied for the attention of bored maternity ward patrons as they appraised our cuteness for amusement. And you know what? I want to win that popularity contest! Is that so wrong?”
“No one wins the popularity contest that is life,” The Nicessist said. “If there is such a thing as a winner, it’s drawing the biggest crowd to see you get fed to worms. Doesn’t sound like much of a prize to me. We are all here for such a limited amount of time, we barely have time to accept who we are. Why get in the way of appreciating the miracle that is life worrying about that which you cannot control?”
“But I do control what people think of me. My actions, words, etc. is how people form an opinion of me. Why, if anyone were to see me talking to you right now, they’d all think I’m crazy! I’m getting lightheaded…”
“You can have the best intentions, or you can do something ridiculous: It doesn’t matter. You do not control the way people will respond, just as they do not control the way you respond to them.”
“Well that’s a relief to know no one’s controlling me…”
“The truth is, everyone’s too wrapped up in their own shit to ever really form a strong opinion of you. It may start unfavourable, but you can win it back in time. Maybe. Whatever you do or say to earn the acceptance you crave will almost instantly be jettisoned from their memory and replaced by a memory of their own self-gratification. You are merely a footnote. Are you really going to worry about footnotes?”
“Are we talking Chicago style citations or…”
“This is a life-long mission, not an instant transformation that happens overnight, so please be kind and forgive yourself if you fall back into the cycle of worrying about what other people think. If you find yourself feeling attached to their opinions of you, just remember that they, like you, are walking a long journey of internal healing and growth, and that their attitudes are unique and personal to them…and all they really care about is their own journey, ultimately.”
And with that the mirror was ensnared by the fog again. When my hand wiped away the sweat, I saw myself. And I didn’t give a damn about what the man in the mirror thought.
The Nicessist is a divine being that imparts zen wisdom onto Shaq MacNeil whenever his mind betrays him with anxieties, depressions, questions, etc. Nicessisms is a column where author Shaq shares the wisdom he’s been given on how to handle psychological stress from this ephemeral spirit so that you too, dear reader, may reap the benefits of a calmer, stabler mind.