When we are in the company of people with whom we have rapport and share common interests we feel we belong. Belonging is one of primordial human needs which has evolved from the basic principles of survival. Defending against life-threatening dangers was our ancestors’ foremost task. A collective offered more safety than an individual could muster on their own. While as a species we have arguably come a long way since the prehistoric times, I believe that we still interact with one another very much along the same lines as our ancestors did. Dangers in our lives today however are less life-threatening than we fear them to be life-threatening. Despite the fact that most of our fears never materialise they appear very real to us. We act on them in our interactions with other people. We often see others as sources of these imagined fears. Public speaking, honesty, sharing of opinions, behavioural expectations, character judgements, and personal impressions, to name a few, have to be in the top list of fears we experience. And these are all related one way or another to our contacts with others. The impressions we leave on one another all have potential to cause alarm in our minds. And although the vast majority of these alarms never turn bad for us, the fact that we frequently dwell on what he, she or they might be thinking about us in itself can be alarming. A lot of times this kind of thinking is habitual.
We gauge other people’s responses and compare ourselves to them all the time. It is a form of positive vetting. According to Collins English Dictionary positive vetting is the checking of a person’s background, political affiliation, etc, to assess their suitability for a position that may involve national security. Each of us constantly engages in a form of positive vetting as well. We evaluate what others think, say, and do to assess their suitability to be in our company. Or are they safe or harmful for us, friend or foe, acquaintance or an “avoidance”. People who have our trust we call friends. Others we feel circumspect about. We choose what to share and how much to let them in on what we really think. Lastly, there are those who we do not yet know, the potentials, strangers on the street, or strangers in our workplaces, or strangers in our families.
This process of constant checking of where others stand in relation to us is a huge impost on our capacity to think freely and live abundantly. Have you ever felt drained of energy although you were not engaged in any strenuous physical activity? Then there is the constant checking of our own words, thoughts, and actions by ourselves. Have you ever caught yourself criticising yourself? When was the last time you looked yourself in the mirror and said, “I love you”? What’s the first thought that came to your mind when you read the last sentence about saying that you loved yourself? Whatever it is that is a conditioned response.
Do we need to be positively vetted to be who we are? Do we need to positively vet others to accept them as they are? I firmly believe the answer is no. Yes, we need to make decisions and choose who to associate with, where to belong to, where we feel safe, and comfortable.
But if life is a destination made up of experiences which ultimately shape us into who we become as part of this journey, what would it really take for us to say that we have lived a wonderful life?
I believe that now is the best time to stop vetting ourselves and others. Not tomorrow or next year. By all means do not restrict artificially what you might think and feel. But let go of what makes you feel stressed or worried. How to do that? Start by asking yourself as many times as you can every day how you feel. Feel acceptance for whatever comes into being as part of your life. Set goals and make plans, but take detours and alternatives as they come, love and forgive, but recognise loveless relationships and acknowledge your grievances, express your anger and hurt, but keep hold of neither, share openly without judging or expecting to be judged.
Unlike a job with a government or a high security firm, we are all already self-employed when it comes to our lives. We are already all the potential we can be. We have all been vetted worthy of the belief that a life on earth is a gift. Choose to make the most of this gift now by being who you are. And I believe that is a positive start.