The people who judge you

We often imagine how people will react when we make decisions in life. Should I stay at my job? Start a risky new company? Even the most hardened individualist among us imagine the reaction of our parents, or friends, when we think about big decisions.

A life coach I recently listened to offered the idea that we carry with us the image of people we wanted to impress growing up. It’s probably your parents, but also others like your first boss, the cool kids from high school, or more mature friends of your siblings. Then when we decide on taking a new job, or doing a new project, we imagine how they would react. Will they be impressed? Will they call me a dweeb?

I think he’s right. We do carry around imagined panels of critics, made up from people who are maybe not even in our lives any longer. Perhaps setting limits for our lives based on people who are no longer around isn’t a good strategy?

The coach then proposed we write down an explicit list of people who’s opinion we still value, and the next time we have a decision to make, we can think of those people. Or even better, we can ask their opinions. Completely getting rid of the imaginary audience might be difficult, or even impossible. But switching them out for an audience that makes sense could be practical.

My own list turned out to be surprisingly short.