There’s a terrific line from an old TV series called ABsolutelyFABulous (affectionately known as “AbFab” ) that I absolutely adore.
It’s not a series normally known for insightful and inspirational words. AbFab is the modern adventures of two hysterically funny, well-to-do, aging-hippy women who are not going gently into middle-age. They’ve managed to remain ignorant, self-absorbed and silly even as the ’70’s and ’80’s have passed them by.
But in this particular episode, the main character Edina scolds her extremely shy and self-conscious daughter Saffron for being so fearful of taking risks. Never mind that in this episode, Edine is wickedly manipulating Saffie into doing something for ulterior motives. The statement is still so powerful, so true, it still makes me gasp.
She tells Saffie, “You have made yourself a prisoner of other people’s eyes.”
Some of us–many of us!–are so worried about what other people will think of us, it paralyzes us.
It keeps us from taking risks, or from trying new things. We shut down and shut ourselves off from new situations, new opportunities, new venues.
We’re so afraid we’ll look ridiculous or stupid, we literally imprison ourselves, as Edwina said.
My second favorite expression is, “You won’t worry so much about what other people think of you, if you knew how little they think about you at all!” As one of my martial arts instructors said recently, “No one’s looking at you messin’ up. They’re too busy freakin’ about how they’re messin’ up!” Which is also probably true.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about other eyes watching us.
The right kind of eyes.
One kind is the eyes of a good teacher.
My climbing inspiration, Lin, an older woman who is remarkably fit and incredibly enthusiastic about climbing, watches us newbies go up a wall. “Beautiful climb!” she calls up from below. “You are amazing!”
You can actually feel your heart glow when she says that.
There are the “right eyes” of the constructively critical teacher. I think my current martial arts instructor falls into that category. You can relax your guard, knowing the faults they point out are nothing they haven’t seen before. Their feedback will set you on a better course.
Another set of “right eyes” are the ones I spoke of yesterday, in THE BUDDY SYSTEM, the eyes that can give you a fresh viewpoint.
The “right eyes” I’m thinking of today are the eyes of people following in your footsteps.
These are the people who desperately want you to be successful–so they can be successful.
Like wanting you to be a successful artist. I know there are people who want me to make it because I feel that way about other artists myself.
Recently, someone commented on how much more I could be doing to get more fit.
At first, I took it as criticism–implying I wasn’t really trying now. I felt indignant–“I’m doing what I can!” “You don’t understand how hard it is right now!” “You don’t know how much everything hurts!! My foot, my other foot, my hamstrings, my sciatica, my neck bumps, my shoulders, my back…shall I go on??”
But then I realized these are often people much younger than I am. They are often people who are incredibly fit themselves.
Now, maybe they want to believe that getting older, and getting injured, couldn’t possibly happen to them.
But I’d like to think they simply might also want to believe that if I can find a way to stay active in spite of my setbacks and injuries, then someday they can persevere, too.
In other words, I can be a good example of hope.
I’m thinking that myself with the older people who join us climbing. There are people in their sixties, seventies, even their eighties, who are still climbing. And not just climbing, but climbing with strength and skill.
They amaze me. They inspire me.
Not just because they lay that myth to rest, that as we age we get weaker and less able, and therefore are helpless. They prove just how able they are every time they get up that really difficult wall that much younger, stronger climbers still struggle with.
It’s also because they show how much we can accomplish if we persevere.
They have aches and pains and injuries and setbacks, too. But they find a way to keep going.
Their lives–and mine–are so much richer for it.
I want to remember those eyes on me, the next time I work out.