When you look at the world, you see the world.
You have a new experience of the world each day, constantly formulating and reformulating perspectives and opinions, moving through highs and lows, the range of human emotion. When you look at the world, you know that you are interacting with a living, breathing, moving thing. There is no one static way to see what exists, it is always in flux. It is always evolving.
But when you look at yourself, you see the sum of how others have reacted to you. Your view of yourself is archaic, it’s rooted in the past, it’s grounded by fear, and therefore, the way you see yourself is almost never quite accurate.
Every single micro-rejection you have ever experienced has been logged in your subconscious. The same goes for every instance of rejection you have witnessed in the world around you. It’s not just how people have responded to you alone, but how you have seen them respond to others — how they have sized up and evaluated every piece of another human being — this also creates the way you see yourself.
You interpret not how much others love you, but how much fault they could find within you if they were really looking.
What you don’t know is that you’re the only one looking.
You’re smart. You know what people like and offer their attention to. You know what gets validated and what gets swooned over. You know how to style your hair and what brands to wear. You know what type of food to eat and what phrases to say. You know what music to listen to and what stories to post. You know what to say you were doing on the weekend. You know how to hold up the guise.
What you don’t know is that you could be the most perfectly acceptable human being on the planet, and you still won’t necessarily be at peace.
Every time you build your life for someone else’s eyes is a moment you take one more step away from yourself. You’re no longer moving from your intuition, your desire, your truth. You are building a life that exists for the consumption of an invisible audience that was never really watching you in the first place. We are, after all, mostly just thinking about ourselves.
You interpret your life experiences not by how you truly feel about them, but how others would feel about them. Or, more accurately, how you imagine others would feel about them — because you don’t actually know.
What happens is that you arrive at a place where you have everything together on the outside, but you’re emotionally bankrupt on the inside. You have everything you asked for, but it wasn’t anything you really wanted.
When you have spent your entire life trying to groom every detail of your existence for the sake of being more accepted, recognizing how empty you are will be terrifying. It will be terrifying because you will know that you have to make change, and you will know that change has to be rooted in what you want and who you are.
You have to come back home to yourself.
Your body has to become your first home, your sacred space.
Your life has to stop being a series of vignettes for other people’s viewing, and an experience for you to feel.
Your relationships have to stop being a game of worth-earning, and start becoming the experience of simply showing up and sharing presence, time and time again.
You have to start asking hard questions, real questions.
What makes you come alive?
What makes you forget about other people’s opinions altogether?
What makes you feel most like yourself?
Why are you so afraid to choose what you know is true?
For all of the mental gymnastics you’ve done over the years, for all of the grooming and watering down, for all of the desperate attempts to try to be more subtle, more likable, more attractive, you probably don’t feel more accepted.
You probably don’t feel more loved.
This is because you haven’t let yourself be loved. You haven’t let your true self out to be loved. You haven’t been able to foster real connection because that requires vulnerability, and that requires you to lay down the mask.
All of the effort we put forth to earn our self-worth through other people is always futile. It never works, no matter how beautiful or impressive we may be.
The love we are trying to earn is always just our own.
So we must begin by doing the first subversive thing, which is to wonder who we might be if nobody else was looking. The next is to ask what brings us free-flowing joy when nobody else is around. Then we have to start putting the pieces together, the pieces of our souls, the pieces that we broke off and hid away because, of course, they weren’t enough.
Those pieces are the keys to the future you want.
Those pieces are the dreams you forgot you gave up on.
Those pieces are the person you are when you wake up, before the world tells you who to be.
Those pieces are what you have to come home to.
You have to stop trying to earn self-worth from someone else’s eyes, because you can’t do it. It’s an illusion. It’s a way to yolk your own love from inside of you. It’s a way to feel comfortable and certain about something. It’s a way to ultimately run so far away from yourself that many people don’t ever come back.
It’s not about actually earning acceptance, because the truth is that no matter who you are or what you do, you’ll be loved by some, rejected by some, that’s going to be the story no matter what. The part that you control is who you come home to at the end of the day. The part that you get to write is who you get to be, what parts of yourself you allow to be seen.
And maybe, just maybe, what parts of yourself get to be actually, truly, authentically, deeply loved.