This relative of mine, had migrated to A 2 decades earlier, and was in India for a short trip. He was in town, and gave me a call, and invited me over to his hotel to meet him for tea. I said sure and was looking forward to catching up.
He is about 20 years older than me, and had clearly changed quite a bit.Specifically, he was shooting from the hip about once every 30 seconds. I found this mildly irritating and amusing, until he finally picked on me :) He made a reference to a product that had recently been launched in A. I didn't know about that product. He then made a reference to some specific aspect of Halloween that I wasn't familiar with. He then proceeded to announce 'You are smart, but you should be smarter' !
I was taken aback by this judgement. My mind went into overdrive.. 'What right did he have to judge me based on my familiarity with what was happening in A? I'm gonna show him that I'm smarter than he thinks I am. Doesn't he know my academic credentials, or the awards I've won? Surely, if I put my mind to it, I would be able to recollect something about A that he himself wouldn't be aware of. Or I could dazzle him with brilliance on a topic of my choice that I would fortuitously introduce into the conversation'.
All this mind chatter lasted 5 seconds.
Finally, common sense prevailed, and with as much non-chalance as I could muster at the moment, I repled with 'Maybe.'
Later that night, I felt anger for having been judged.
But It wasn't until a few years later, that I thought about this episode more deeply, and some hidden dynamics came into light. What bothered me was that I had briefly considered 'proving' my worth to this near-stranger that I hadn't met in 10 years. Even though I was angry with him for having judged me, I had wanted his approval as regards my smartness. What an irony.The Anger and need for approval coexisting. And if I were to manipulate the conversation to 'make' him change his mind about me, and win his approval, the fact still remained that I would be attempting to 'control' his opinion about me rather than just being myself. Yes. It dawned upon me that operating from a place of 'need for approval' was in fact controlling behaviour.
When we get into the mode of 'proving' ourselves to people that don't really matter, we are directly playing into their hands by getting into a game in which they have set the rules, and they take on the role of a referee. Needless to say, the dynamic automatically places them in a relative position of authority.
Fastforward now. I just dont care what strangers think about me, especially if they are shooting from the hip :) I welcome constructive feedback from people whose judgement and opinion I value. The rest haven't earned the right to get me to value their input deeply enough for me to feel anger.
In what areas of life do you find the need to prove yourself to others ? What is that which if others thought of you would put you more at ease with yourself? What is it that you do to shape what others think of you ? And what validation are you looking for and what is possibly the underlying anger that is causing you to behave this way?