“I can’t move to Croatia. Everybody will think I am nuts.”
“I can’t get eloped. Everybody will kill me.”
“I can’t exhibit my artwork. No one will like it.”
“I can’t wear that. Everybody will think I am fat.”
“I can only weigh 100 pounds, so everybody will like me and think I am pretty.”
Ever have thoughts like this? Me too.
Here is why:
Martha Beck refers to this ‘generalized other’ as your Everybody. I like that better, so I will use it. (Thanks Martha--I hope you don’t mind.)
Over time we have created an Everybody Committee (also Martha’s term) and that committee directs a lot of what we say and do. These directors fall into various categories:
- FAMILY: Most of us had families that only wanted the best for us. Unfortunately, their best and our best don’t always coincide, so some of us may have found ourselves in jobs, relationships, or other situations because of our Family Everybody.
- MEDIA: It’s hard to hide from the media. From what I see the media wants me to be taller than I am, a whole lot skinnier, and wearing much more make-up than I do (which is none). It’s unfortunate that many of us struggle to love our bodies and ourselves because of what the Media Everybody is saying about us.
- SCHOOL: Did anyone at your school ever say, “Do whatever you want to be happy.” Me neither. One very strong message I got was that I could only be “successful” if I achieved certain things. My School Everybody was all about A’s, the name of the university I attended, whether I graduated with honors, etc. All well in good, but also potentially suffocating.
- PEERS: The things that we do to fit in and belong. I just got invited to my 20 year high school reunion, and there was a part of me that thought, “Everybody will be impressed that I live in France.” Really? Am I still looking to gain approval from people that I haven’t see in 20 years?
- ORGANIZATIONS: Whether it be a religious organization, a political organization, a job, or even your child’s PTA, the culture and attitudes of said organization can have a huge effect on what we say and do.
So what do we do about it?
I am not saying that we should turn our back on all of these people and organizations (we would be pretty lonely if we did), but we can decide how much they influence us and in what way.
- Does your mother always criticize your political ideas, but has a great fashion sense? Talk fashion and not politics when you are together.
- Do you beat yourself up whenever you see a fashion magazine? Drop the subscription and don’t page through them at the doctor’s office.
- Do you have certain friends that always push you to drink? Hang out with them in the mornings for brunch, or in places where no drinking is allowed.
The great part about this whole Everybody Committee, is that we can hire and fire the committee members. We can have a committee for one thing, and a different committee for another. We get to pick and choose who it is that influences our thoughts and actions.
Who is your Everybody?
Where are they taking you? Are you happy where you are going?
Do you need to re-structure your Everybody Committee? How?
Don’t let Everybody run your life without your consent.