Most people are interested in what other people think not because access to that information will provide useful tips on how to maximise one's service to God but because of the interpretation that is given to other people's views.
I've looked at this habit in myself, and the insane conceptual system is this:
- My worth as a human being is variable and fluctuates over time.
- I need to find out what my worth is.
- I must scan my world for other people who I will choose to be barometers of my worth.
- I must analyse what they say and do to infer what their assessment of my worth is.
- This is because other people do actually assess my worth, and what they say and do is only ever to express to me what their assessment of my worth is.
- It is therefore reasonable and valid to make these inferences.
- Even the slightest hint, such as tone of voice, a failure to return a phone call, or slight ill temper are deliberate attempts by the other person to convey my worth.
- I must gather these data, make these inferences, and in the absence of evidence speculate to produce a composite assessment of my worth based on what I believe other people think I'm worth.
- If people do say they think well of me, their assessment should be discounted.
- It is clearly wiser to assume that Susan hates me, because of the way her face twitched when I was talking to her, than to believe Peter when he says I'm a jolly good chap.
- I then take time out of my day to think about these assessments, and feel very bad indeed.
- I then adjust my behaviour to try to manipulate other people into assessing me more highly.
- If this does not work, I complain to third parties about my low self-esteem, particularly those who will nod with sympathy and suggest I sit with my feelings, in order to honour them.
- I then hire a therapist, and pay several thousand pounds to try to work out why I do all of the above.
This was my pattern. People's precise pattern varies, but you get the general idea.
Here's the truth:
- I am of infinite worth because I exist.
- My worth cannot fluctuate over time.
- It is established for eternity.
- It need never be assesed.
- Other people are not in a position to assess my worth subjectively.
- Even if they were so positioned, people generally do not formally assess each other's worth, except fleetingly in the form of an angry mental inburst (the internal version of an outburst).
- In such cases, it's not really an assessment; it's an attack, and there's a difference.
- Even if they do perform an assessment, it's insane to infer what that assessment is based on what someone happens to be saying or doing right now, as though what they are saying and doing is informed only by their assessment of me rather than being a function of all sorts of other things.
In other words, what other people say and do, and behind that what they think, is of zero relevance in determining what my worth as a human being. If the two are connected in my mind, something has short-circuited, and I'm simply mistaken, the same way as I would be mistaken if I think that the moon changes shape and shrinks because a moon cow is eating it.
The antidote is to spot and correct the faulty thinking whenever it occurs, and the best way to embed that is to teach it to others.