By Rev. Marla Sanderson
At breakfast recently, I was thinking about a subject for my next article. A man at the next table stood up, and his t-shirt said “Bad Choices Make Great Stories.”
There’s my article … isn’t life great?
I’m not sure how many actual bad choices I’ve made in my life, but I’ve certainly had my share of awkward experiences. Ever do something stupid? Make a mistake? Do something you regret? Did you ever put your “all” into something and have it fizzle right out there where “everyone” could see it?
When Gregg and I first started doing workshops on unconditional love, it seemed like we learned a lot of our lessons in public. It was embarrassing and awkward, but a useful part of learning to love ourselves unconditionally. That, by the way, is the first step in loving others that way too.
One of the first things we did to promote our workshops was a presentation for a group of cranky older singles. I wasn’t used to speaking before an audience and it terrified me. I was so nervous about it, we decided I would simply introduce Gregg, say a few words about what we planned to do, and he’d handle the rest.
The minute I began to speak, people started shifting their chairs around and calling out that they couldn’t hear me. I tried speaking louder but they just yelled louder and made more noise. Some even got up and left the room. Blinded by my fear, I looked around and found no help.
Then I saw it. Right in front of me, attached to the front of the podium—just what I needed—a microphone. I leaned forward and asked, “Can you hear me now?” Problem was, there was no microphone—just an empty stand. It was obvious I didn’t know anything about public speaking, and the whole room reflected my embarrassment.
But that’s only part of the story. Gregg’s plan was to lead the people in some get-acquainted exercises. It seemed like a reasonable thing for a group of singles, right? Not these singles! They were crabby and uncooperative, and before the whole thing was done, Gregg was being heckled.
When it was all over, we learned from the heckler that he was a defrocked psychologist who resented our place as leaders of the group. He was sorry. I wanted to die.
Gregg, being the person he is, always bounces right back. I wanted to crawl under the covers and never come out.
It’s pretty boring under the covers, so after a while, I had to venture out. The shadow of humiliation followed me for a few days. But, to my surprise, friends and acquaintances greeted me just like they always did. Didn’t they know? Didn’t everyone know?
No, they didn’t know. And what’s more, they didn’t care. But I’ll come back to that in a minute. After a few of these bouts of shame, I discovered that I’d been carrying around an idea that everyone knew of my every blunder.
The imaginary scenario usually played out like this. I’d make a mistake or choose badly and everyone would tell everyone else about it. The whole world soon knew my every mistake—in great detail—and they were either laughing or pitying me.
As I look back at it, this ugly situation makes a great story. Even better than that, when the worst that could possibly happen has already happened, there’s not much to fear. I’ve never been nervous speaking in public since!
Without thinking too hard about it, I can imagine several ways this belief came into being for me. Was it my first day of kindergarten when the teacher announced to the class that I was cutting the construction paper the wrong way? Maybe it was living through junior high and high school. Or … maybe it was bigger than any of that …
Thanks to movies, TV, and all the other media, most of us alive today have been “brought up” to believe we’re not OK unless we buy this product, behave this way, and have the approval and acceptance of everyone.
In other words, it’s our job to please everyone else, and when we don’t, there must be something wrong with us. So we spend our lives saying and doing what others expect of us rather than pursuing our own dreams or telling the real truth, or making ourselves happy.
So, why don’t others know or care about your foibles and failures?
This thing called “living” is a 24-hour experience for each of us, and the programming I mentioned is universal. Those other people don’t have time to care about every detail of your life. While you’re busy trying to please them, they’re busy trying to please everyone else. The good news is that you’re just not as important to them as you think you are.
Stop looking over your shoulder to see who’s watching and judging you. It’s nobody but you anyway. Start telling yourself you’re OK even if __ and even when __.
Learn to laugh at yourself because you’re an absolute riot! Long after the hurt or embarrassment has passed, you’ll have a great story to tell.
Rev. Marla Sanderson has been a student of spiritual practice for more than 35 years. She began as Assistant Director of The Next Step, a psychic and spiritual community in a New Mexico ghost town. She’s been a workshop leader, teacher, practitioner, and minister of Living Love, and the Science of Mind. She recently founded the New Thought Global Network, a virtual “church” that offers inspiration anytime, from anywhere. The site showcases many powerful Science of Mind and New Thought speakers and writers, and intends to expand these teachings to the world. Check it out at www.newthoughtglobal.org.