Expectations, You, and The World


Emmanuel wasn't the only person who made me feel bad the first time I entered PHY701 class. There was a particular hijabi who kept staring at me, her raised eyebrows heavy with the question: "Who is this one?" 

My mind - adept at interpreting strange and unfriendly stares - clocked the nearest exit in my defense. My legs, however, betrayed me; and for a brief moment, I just stood on a spot, wondering which way to go. That was the moment I figured everyone was watching. 

By the time I finally got the courage to move, self-consciousness had already set in, and my eyes had lowered in submission to my own inadequacies: I was a latecomer, a Masters student whom everyone thinks doesn't know what he's got himself into.

That was about three months ago.

If it was just this, maybe I wouldn't have come up with this writ. But three days ago, Emmanuel asked if I had just resumed. The same Emmanuel who shot me a beady glare on my first day in class; one with whom I have shared countless eye contacts. His question picked me up carelessly and dumped me somewhere between what I saw happened and what actually happened. I was certain he had seen me that very day. But what I wasn't sure of was if he REALLY saw me.

This episode just made me wonder again why people think that the world revolves around them, why we question our own somebodiness based on wrong perceptions or some preconceived notions.

How many times have we assumed people are watching us and become self-conscious? How many times have we felt we are entitled to something that we are not? What about those times that we just interpret everything that happens to us in a personal way?

These traits are born of a psychological problem, my friend; a biased worldview, and one in which everyone is all too familiar. 

Or maybe we are not that familiar. Because traits associated with this worldview disguise themselves in attires of everyday emotions. They blend with being human. And most of the time we feel like they are totally normal. They are not.

We basically need to understand that people have their own lives to live. "A lot" is going on with everyone that they may not necessarily think about us for more than a few minutes. This is not to say that people (especially those closest to us) don't care about us. But holding an egocentric worldview and believing that people are always about us is where the problem lies in this dynamic. 

Many a time, we deprive ourselves of social and emotional freedom because we are constrained by the illusion of how people may react. We hold on tightly to the belief that it's all about us, so much so that we totally miss out on trying new things. Things that are necessary for our own personal growth. We are stuck in our comfort zones because we don't want to walk up that stage to give that speech, or perform some spoken word poetry, or explore the fun that comes with teaching. We don't want to try a new dribble skill because we don't want to fail in front of people we think are constantly watching us. We think we are in the spotlight when we are not.

By implication, being shy largely depends on this interpretation that people care a great deal about what we say or do. Perhaps we think they are going to analyze our actions for the rest of the day or week, when in reality that's not the case. Psychologists may conclude that we are being egotistical (that is, people are constantly watching us because we think we are special). And while that may be true, this kind of ego comes from a place of fear. The fear that we may not measure up to people's expectations.

When we are stuck in this old mindset that the world revolves around us, it is very easy to misinterpret people or take criticism in a personal way. We get some criticism and we are like: "So, I'm a bad person." Or something like that, when it may just be the other person being human and having a bad day or week.

Moreover, criticism is not always about us. It might be a way for the other person or party to release pent up anger, frustration or jealousy. Or a way to reinforce that his/her viewpoint or belief is the right one. He/She may even have a bad habit of getting others involved emotionally in order to start an argument, or fight, or to get attention.

Most of the time, this criticism comes from people who believe the world revolves around them. They tend to hold negative thoughts about you if you stop "being at their service" when they don't even know what is going on in your own life. And it takes someone who hold the same belief to "overreact" to this criticism.

Now that I think about it, it actually takes a lot of hardwork to uphold this belief. Then isn't it funny how we live by making our own lives unnecessarily difficult?

In all honesty, people actually watch us (the same way we watch other people). They analyze our actions sometimes, but that is not what they are all about. Be yourself, be human, and enjoy the limited time you have to spend with others. 

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