Last night I walked out my front door into the falling snow to take my nightly gratitude walk. It’s become a tradition for me to walk up and down my little dead end street a few times right before I go to sleep. To me walking in the snow is magical, so I especially was happy to step outside last night.
However, as I was strolling up my sidewalk, I noticed a truck running right outside my door with its lights shining brightly down the street. I imagined whoever was in the truck was waiting for someone in a house close by. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious. I diverted my eyes as not to look at the driver but had no choice but to walk into the path of the truck’s bright lights.
I felt distracted by the presence of this person. “I bet this person thinks I’m crazy”, I thought, “walking after 10:00 at night in 20 degree weather…and without a hat.” I felt like I was being watched, judged, criticized. “What must this person be thinking of me right now?” I wondered. My usually calm and peaceful walk didn’t feel so calm and peaceful anymore.
Finally I realized that I was walking on a beautiful snowy night, and all I could focus on was what someone might be thinking of me. I took a deep breath, looked up at the snow coming down, and made an intention to be present in this moment, this precious snowflakes-in-my-eyelashes moment.
As I walked by the truck a second time, I had the confidence to look inside the cab. I decided that maybe I’d even smile at the driver as a sort of truce to my irritation at his presence at first. But when I looked inside the cab, it was empty.
My guess is that the driver started the truck to warm it up before he headed off for the night. I wasted several minutes of my gratitude walk anxious about being judged by a person who didn’t exist.
How often do we take away from the joy of the moment worrying about what others think of us, worrying that we will be judged or looked down on? I know I’ve wasted far too much time in my life making up stories about what people think of me. Why does it even matter to us? If someone really is judging me, doesn’t that say more about that person than it does about me?
How often do we make up stories that simply are not true? We often assume others are looking down on us when we really don’t have all the facts. Brene Brown, author of Rising Strong, says, “The most powerful stories may be the ones we tell ourselves, but beware-they’re usually fiction.” I learned that first hand.
Isn’t it funny that when we do make up these stories, they tend to be the worst-case scenarios? Why didn’t I make up a different kind of story? I could’ve thought, “I bet that person thinks I’m an intriguing mysterious person, walking in the snow at night, allowing snowflakes to cover my hair.”
The cab still would have been empty, but it would have made for a much better story. Maybe deep down we are so busy judging ourselves that we assume everyone else is doing the same.
So I’ve decided from now on I’m going to do one of two things. I’m either going to stay present in the moment and not worry about what others are thinking or I’m going to make up better stories, ones where I am appreciated, loved, and respected. Yes, that sounds a lot better to me.
There are only so many moments in my life when I get to walk in the snow, and I don’t want to miss a single snowflake.
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