Many years ago I recall Wayne Dyer sharing a story about a university class he attended discussing the nature of self-actualized people.
Self-actualized being an adjective describing someone who had advanced quite a ways up the spiritual ladder, so-to-speak.
The professor gave the class a single-question midterm posing this challenge: "A self-actualized person arrives at a dinner party at which everyone is dressed in formal attire. He is wearing jeans, a T-shirt, sneakers, and a baseball cap. What does he do?"
All the students answered along the lines of him not being bothered by it, easily brushing it off. He would simply enjoy the party, dismissing any notions of going home and changing into something more appropriate.
To which the professor announced they had all failed the exam.
The correct answer was, "He wouldn't notice."
The self-actualized person does not see the variances and judgments of form. As Abraham Maslow noted, such a person is "independent of the good opinion of others."
Independent of the good opinion of others!
Now contrast that with how much thought and energy we exert hoping to win the approval and avoid the scorn of people whose opinions we care about.
Think about how awful we feel when we believe we've let others down. Or when we've embarrassed ourselves or brought shame upon us or our family.
We care greatly!
Because it reflects a deep-seated insecurity that is within all of us.
In truth, we don't feel worthy. We don't feel adequate. And thus we seek to fill that perceived lack by catering to the good opinion of others.
This self-reproach stems from the belief we've separated from our source and broken away from all that is worthy. Hence, in our dealings with others, we seek meager scraps of praise to help dispel the feelings of inadequacy.
But that need not be. As we read in A Course in Miracles
[It is] only the fear of the ego that induces you to regard yourself as unworthy (W-pI.64.3)
All pain, all sadness, all distress - in fact, all our feelings of discomfort - come from a belief in the ego thought system. And undoing that belief is the pathway to peace.
Observing our choice for the ego, with gentleness and without judgment, restores our heart to holiness. We're enveloped in serenity, independent of the good opinion of others.
Join me in Thursday's class where we'll dig into practices for experiencing such a tranquil state of mind. I look forward to seeing you then.