Without being completely aware of it, we are often looking to one another for some kind of social cue. A smile can send out the message that we are friendly or that we are happy. Laughter says that we are free of stress. A straight ahead stare sends the message that we are in no mood to interact. While this exchange of social signals can be helpful at times, it can also be deceptive. For example, we see someone not smiling and suddenly our brain can go down any number of paths: What’s their problem? What did I do wrong? Am I boring them?
Throw in behavior on top of subtle facial tweaks and we are really in for it. The causes of behavior multiplied by the infinite interpretations of that behavior equals emotional chaos. We feel so out of control when someone’s demeanor or behavior does not meet our expectations of them. It is exhausting trying to behave in a specific way that will elicit the kind of responses we crave. Toss in some manipulative tendencies and the water gets even murkier. Through frustrating trial and error, we learn that it is impossible to control, coerce or love someone enough into responding to us the way we would like them to.
And exactly what is the response we are looking for? Acceptance. Always. When you boil it down, it is always acceptance.
We are social creatures and therefore how we treat each other matters. But we cannot base our self-worth on the world’s reaction to us because these reactions are so inconsistent. A smile does not always mean safe. An avoided gaze does not always mean dismissal. We cannot spend our precious time here dissecting every interaction to ascertain our worth. We must believe in our worth at all times. We must know that we are acceptable as we are. When we truly know this, the need to have it validated by others in a specific way is weakened.
This kindness to ourselves then becomes a gift to those around us. The people around us are free to be who they are in the moment, as we no longer need them to contort themselves in ways that we think reflects well on us. Our children can be a bit unruly, a good friend can be sad, our coworkers can be preoccupied...when we fully love and accept ourselves, we no longer require others to spend precious time and energy trying to be who they think we need them to be. They can just be themselves. Relationships become easier because we have put down the unsolvable algorithm of what we need others to do in order to make us happy. We have found our happiness in our self-acceptance, as we are, in this very moment.