This is my favorite quote from Richard Bach, the Metaphysician. Henry Ford, the Pragmatist, said, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t you’re right!”
I wouldn’t be pounding this concept so hard if I didn’t see the problems people create for themselves every day at work just because their thinking is skewed. So many many times each day I hear a co-worker bemoan some “fact” about his or her reality that just isn’t “true”. I put true in quotations because Truth (with a big T) is very definitely subjective. If you are accepting something as True, then it is. The obverse is also true. If my colleagues would say, “I am not satisfied with the way this project is progressing, and I am discussing alternatives with the other folks in my group” then I would smile and nod. But that is not what they say.
They say, “Mary ruined the project with her stupid idea” or “Management was unreasonable when they demanded this be done on a deadline” or better yet, “Everyone is putting me down and not letting me do my work”. I love that one. Do you see the drift? If something is not going well, it is someone else’s fault.
Do these folks honestly believe in their heart-of-hearts that they are infallible? Do they really think that if they had complete and total control of the project it would turn out perfectly and on time? I don’t think so. I think they are making all that noise so when the criticism comes, it is aimed at someone else. Deflection to protect their egos.
An how is the ego damaged by failure? Are You what people think of You? or are You something else?
A great many people define themselves by what others think of them, and how do they know? Unless they are reading minds, they are guessing. This makes for an unwieldy self-image. You are what you THINK others are THINKING about you. All comes back to what you think… again.
Our culture encourages this way of self-image because it sells a lot of products (from beauty products to self-help books!). Young people are nearly impossible to impress with any other way of thinking. To them it IS vitally important which table they sit at in the cafeteria.
I would say that no amount of public approval will completely satisfy an insecure Ego. The insecure will always focus on the one negative comment, as if anything less than complete agreement or complete adulation is unacceptable.
Impossible, therefore massive psychological misery.
You are NOT what others think of you. You are what you think of yourself. This is manageable. If you are dissatisfied with yourself, you can change the way you think of your Self. It is more difficult (and expensive) to change the way others think of you. Even then you cannot be sure.