The idea that others may comment negatively upon, or find something to criticise in, our actions can give rise to fear. This fear can effectively harass us to the point that we lose our vitality and give up our motivation. It paralyses our spirit to act. A speaker fumbles on the stage because he fears the opinions of his listeners. A cook doesn’t know which menu to choose because he fears the comments of his guests. A student doesn’t take up a favourite subject because he fears what his peers will think. Fear arising from assumptions on what people may possibly say or think becomes the hurdle that stops you embarking upon an action.
Of course, the counsel of the wise and experienced is always worth our consideration as it helps clarify what our course of action should be and is built upon life’s realities. By contrast, letting fear of other people’s opinions decide an action is something very different: it focuses on our ego and is built upon mental assumptions. Ego is nothing but our sense of separate identity. It weakens our ability to make clear decisions because these fears are thoughts that calculate the merits gained by our ego. It does not discriminate the value of the action. In fact fear is just an extension of our ego. When we experience fear, there is the subject who is the ‘fearer’ and there is the object of fear. The ego is the entity that plays the role of an agent of fear or the fearer. Fear resides in the subject which is the ego and not in the object of fear. A fear thought becomes effective only after it is identified with the ego in the sense of ‘I fear’.
If someone thinks you are a donkey will you start growing long ears and a tail? The perceptions that others entertain in their minds do not become your reality. You create your own reality. Enquire as to whether the thoughts about others’ opinions make any positive contribution to what you want to do. Your assumptions of what others may think of your performance or choice may or may not be true. Yet that should not be allowed to decide your course of action. Consider whether the action is required and act on that basis.