Thursday, 7 June 2012

What Are People Thinking about Me?



When I was a mother with two young children, I ignored all the sensible advice I read in the baby books. Each afternoon, as soon as my children were asleep, the thought that I should ‘take the opportunity to rest while the baby is asleep’ passed through my mind. And each afternoon, I dismissed that thought and set about cleaning up my house.

I picked up toys, washed dishes, plumped up the cushions, swept floors… just in case a visitor should happen to knock on the door.  I didn’t want anyone to see my mess. They might think I was an inadequate mother. Instead, I wanted everyone to think, “Wow! What a great mother Sue is! She has two small children and she can still keep her house clean and tidy and she even has fresh muffins just out of the oven. Isn’t she coping well?”

Of course, I became exhausted and grumpy and impatient because I never got enough rest. I was too tired to enjoy my beautiful children properly. But at least I was all prepared for those unexpected visitors… who almost never came.

What do people think of me? What do they think of my children, my house, my mothering skills… I wonder. And I let the power of other people’s thoughts about me shape my behaviour.

Other people’s thoughts? Are they really thinking what I imagine them to be thinking? Perhaps they aren’t thinking about me at all.

But still I waste energy worrying and I do things that don’t make me and my family happy. And I don’t feel at peace.

Why do I worry? Could it be I want everyone to think well of me? Is that necessary if I want to belong?

Except that was then and not now. Somewhere along the way, I gave up worrying. It was far too hard always thinking about what others were thinking about me.

I found out something important: I don't have to be perfect to belong... to be loved... to be accepted by those who matter. Why didn't I realise that before?

So I am just me, and other people’s opinions of me no longer rule my life. They are no longer more important than my family.

I am sure my family are very relieved!

 “… always thinking about what others are thinking about me…” That sounds as confused as the thoughts in my head. Does anyone understand what I mean?

I wonder what that cat is thinking.



15 comments:

  1. We probably wouldn't worry about what people think of us if we could know how seldom they do.

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    1. You are quite right! I must admit I hope the people who care about me, do think about me. I don't have to worry about what their actual thought are. I know they accept me. It is just nice to be remembered!

      And it was lovely of you to come and share my post!

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  2. Sararose is so wise for such a young girl - Leanne, you must be very proud:-)

    Sue,
    Yes, I think you hit the nail on the head - the people who matter accept without judging. They know we're not perfect and we make mistakes and they love us anyway. And, they put up with us being boring or going on and on and on... Usually about ourselves:-/ oops, I'm doing it, again!

    Love you! But, you knew that already!

    Another great post, Sue - thank you! xx

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    1. Vicky,

      I guess when we were young mothers just setting out, we were trying to find our feet and a new network of people to belong to. I really wanted to do everything right so I'd be accepted. It was hard in those days.

      Now I have family and good friends and am surrounded by love. I know I can be myself. I don't need to impress anyone. Yes, "the people who matter accept without judging."

      I don't think you're boring in the least! I love you too!

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  3. "I wonder what that cat is thinking."

    That cat looks very much like mine, same colour too. If it were my cat it would be thinking "What else can I do to make his life a little more difficult!"

    Sue, it really doesn't matter what others think of us. It is their problem not ours. I admit, at work I had difficulty about what others thought of me because it affected my career. People tend to pigeon-hole others by adjectives: "He's good ... he's lazy ... he's efficient" that sort of thing. And as reputation goes ahead of you what people think does matter when meeting business people for the first time.

    I was once told "I'm glad you're joining our team. We've heard so much about you!" That man must have either been lying or drunk!

    You were perhaps right to worry then Sue. We know the feeling well in our family. But people who matter love us anyway, regardless of who we are and how clean is our house.

    You are loved for who you are and the generosity and kindness you have shown your growing family. And your friends.

    Most important - God loves you.

    May He bless you always.

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    1. Victor,

      I added the cat for you! I thought you'd like him. We have a cat with a similar face. She stares at us as if she's unhappy with us and the world, but it's only a look. She has a magnificent contented purr.

      Although people probably don't think about us half as often as we may believe, there are occasions when we do end up being the subject of judgemental and critical thoughts. We only have to listen to what people say about each other. How can we assume we are exempt? But as you said,"it really doesn't matter what others think of us. It is their problem not ours." That is what I have learnt to accept.

      I think other people's opinions pale into insignificance when we are surrounded by love, both of family and friends, and of course, God's. Yes, what He thinks of us is what really matters. In those early days of mothering though, I didn't know God. My whole view of the world was very different to my view today.

      God bless you too!

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  4. Haha - I guess I took the baby book advice to heart - I was always willing to nap with a baby ;-) We do a mad, panicked cleaning before anyone comes over ;-) As to the cat, I put a pic up just for you! http://catholic-mommas.xanga.com/

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    1. Beate,

      You are very sensible! I eventually learnt to relax and enjoy my babies. After the first two, life became an unpredictable adventure and I only coped by carrying the little ones, feeding them frequently and sleeping with them.

      I love the photo of your cat. Thank you for posting it for me!

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    2. Well, it's nice to be thought sensible as opposed to lazy ;-) You are a dear friend!

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  5. Sue - Right there with you! It's funny to me how, the longer I'm actually a mom, the less I seem to care about all the outside opinions. Maybe we just get more comfortable in our abilities as we go along? Or maybe I'm finally outgrowing all the negative beliefs. Whatever the case, I've been able to stop judging myself so much on THINGS - the state of the house, the car, the yard - and focus on who I am as a PERSON. It makes things so much less complicated!

    -A.

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    1. Angela,

      Maybe it's a new mum thing. We are so busy learning how to be a mother and anxious about doing it right. We also have a new circle of friends we want to belong to. As new mothers we probably lacked confidence too. Yes, we get more comfortable with our abilities as time goes on!

      We find it hard when others judge us, but you make such a good point. We tend to judge ourselves too.

      Thank you for your comment!

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  6. I'm still working on it! I still get caught up in the 'oh, what would people think?' mentality. It is taking me a long time to simply let go and enjoy my life, and just 'be me'.

    But I am getting there..... I'll never forget the day I admitted on a message board that I've read the Harry Potter books - they treated it like I'd just had a 'coming out' - it was quite bizzare!

    I'll get there yet.... :)

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    1. Linda,

      Sometimes I think I am the only person struggling with such issues. I imagine everyone else saying, "Of course I don't have that problem. What's wrong with you?" So I am really glad you shared your thoughts!

      I remember years ago, we'd watch a movie or read a book and then my children would go off and tell their friends about it. They'd come back and say such things as "Gertie's mother won't let her read this book. She says it's not suitable," and I'd feel a terrible mother. What did everyone think of me letting my children read such a book? In the end I got afraid to admit to anything.

      You said, "they treated it like I'd just had a 'coming out'" Isn't it funny how sometimes people's reactions are totally different to what we expect?? Why do we worry so much? I guess we just want to be accepted and maybe more importantly, we want our children to be accepted.

      "I'll get there yet...." I think we all have our moments where we wonder and worry... we'll all get there one day!

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  7. Sue,
    Our house was always a mess right after Michaela was born. I used to frantically rush around before we had company because I couldn't keep up from the lack of sleep and the Myasthenia Gravis. I hated it when people popped in unexpectedly. I was sure they thought I was a slob :) I try not to "read" people's minds anymore...lol. I figure if people have negative thoughts about me it's their problem not mine.

    I think everyone wants to be liked and accepted. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and everyone wants and should be treated with love and
    kindness.

    God bless!

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    1. Mary,

      I once heard a useful bit of advice for new mothers: Put the vacuum cleaner near the front door in full view. If anyone comes to visit unexpectedly, just say you were about to clean the carpet. If the visitor is a good friend she just might offer to do the job herself. That's what we really needed. Good friends who understood and didn't judge us on the appearance of our homes, but rather helped us out.

      I totally agree with you, Mary: "We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and everyone wants and should be treated with love and kindness."

      God bless!

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