If you don't get everything you want, think of the things you don't get that you don't want. ~Oscar Wilde
Z and I went to dinner yesterday as we do on a pretty regular basis (thanks again for the salad Z, my treat next time don’t forget). Because of all his travels and my own summertime activities, we actually hadn’t had a meal together for about a month, so we had a lot to catch up on. Z and I generally talk about writing and school and ...you know, life in general. I tell him what I think he should do and he tells me what he thinks I should do and we generally ignore each other’s advice and do pretty much what we were going to do anyway - but at least we talked it over with someone.
As part of our conversation yesterday (mostly in reference to an earlier conversation I had with another friend), I asked him if he worried about what people thought of him…or to put it more generically should any of us care what people think of us? If I remember the conversation correctly, I think we established that Z is pretty much a narcissistic basket case (;-), but let's talk about me. I’ve been thinking about it – do I care what people think of me - and I think the answer is an ambiguous no and at the same time yes.
We can worry about what people think about us in a lot of different areas. Physically (too fat, too thin, to tall, to short, big nose, frizzy hair etc.); Intellectually (smart, not smart, funny or un). I like to think I’ve made my peace with most of that at my ripe old age of forty-something. And with the exception of a few random high school reunions and visits to the gym, I don’t worry too much about that stuff anymore.
But there are other areas too.
Z gave me a kind of wishy-washy sort of compliment as an answer to my question referring mostly to my professional life. He reminded me that it does matter to me what people think if I am in charge of something. I guess I have to admit that I’ve earned a certain reputation for…I don’t know exactly what word to put there…doing things in a particularly “Mel-like” fashion. But then he also had to admit that even though it was important to me that I did a good job, he didn’t think I did it to try to be the most popular girl in the room. He used our Expedition Red Rock program as an example. Over 7 years I put a lot of work into organizing our annual trip down to the desert with 50 elementary kids – and got better at it over the years (we all did). But while we were down there it certainly wasn’t my intention, job, or even desire to be the most popular teacher in the crowd – which is a darn good thing because that was usually Z’s job -and why we were a good team. But it mattered to me to be prepared and that the trip went smoothly and that we had all our "Red Rock" ducks in a row so to speak. So on a professional level I have to admit that I do care what people think of me.
But then the other conversation I had yesterday was catching up with someone that I hadn’t really talked to for a long time. So, I had a few years of history to catch her up on and man, I gotta tell you that that last few years or so are just not a part of my life that I enjoy going over with people. It’s just been a little Days Of Our Lives/As The World Turns compared to the totally traditional unremarkable Leave It To Beaver personal life that I would have chosen for myself. But while I don’t really enjoy rehashing it , I don’t think I avoid the topic because I worry about what people will think of me. I think I avoid it because it just takes so much explanation and emotion –gaaaah! As a society though we tend to keep score a lot and have certain levels and milestones that it seems we are supposed to have achieved by a certain age. It’s easy to feel judged when some of those milestones were blown away by the winds of change.
I’m going to have to give this some more thought I think – check my own inner honesty meter and really consider if my self esteem is humming along at a healthy level. I suppose if I have to ask, it probably isn’t – but maybe the fact that I’m asking the question is a good sign.