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  • Writer's pictureDanielle Georgiou

Creating our own cages: The impact of irrational thoughts and judgements

When I was younger, I was fortunate enough to be an avid reader. I still am- when I deliberately make the time, although these days it is more thought provoking factual, educational research or lived experience, trauma related, critical thinking material rather than losing myself in a fantasy world…perhaps I should reintroduce this type of reading time again, I know I could use some escapism!

During a kind, honest conversation, someone recently asked me what some of my favourite books were growing up or if I had a book that was special in my heart. Much like when someone asks me what my favourite songs are, my brain went into overload and like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, because there are just too many to narrow down, I came up with some of my more generic answers like Alice through the looking Glass. I was aware during this conversation that being open for this person was a big deal, as they are naturally quite guarded emotionally, so the fact that they shared and kindly lent me a book that was extremely special and emotive to them, meant the world to me. It was such an intimate and vulnerable offering, and since then I have been plagued trying to think of what book I could possibly hold in comparison to return the favour. On reflection, I am kicking myself for not mentioning one favourite book of mine by Maya Angelou, I Know why the Caged Bird Sings. This book introduced me to a range of emotions that at the time I couldn’t fully comprehend or appreciate how impactful the release of sensations I felt when I read it, would be. Or how it would surface the stirrings of a deeper level of understanding of contemplating other’s perspectives, understanding oppression and the gratitude I try to impart in my daily life. I have moulded my outlook on my personal life by a quote from the book “Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.”

I still am not sure why I found it so difficult to share this at the time, and now I fear that the time has passed for me to engage in that intimate moment of being open and raw. I guess partly it was through fear of judgement. Not because it is a bad choice of book by any means, and I think any body who has read it would agree, but because it unveiled a layer of me during a time when I felt lost and judged, which mirrored how I felt at the time that this personal conversation took place.

How many times do we wish to be able to speak freely and let go of our reservations to be able to release our inner most thoughts, memories, and visions for the future? To embark on fresh perspectives and adventures, experience new things, begin, or reconcile relationships? Then when the opportunity genuinely arises, we dilute what we want to actually say, become guarded with the information we share, or hold back from taking leaps of faith. Often this is not even a conscious choice, just a natural reaction to protect ourselves. We choose to hide aspects of ourselves to avoid a change of someone’s perspective of us, or rather the perspective we want them to engage with.

We have been unconsciously raised in societies where being judged and ridiculed is often a normal reaction to someone being individual, inquisitive, open, and honest. We are primed to try and find our place and role from a young age, eagerly or even pressured into trying to find a way to accept and fit ourselves in to whatever norm our community, cultures, ethnicities, gender, or sexuality expects us to be.

Evolving past expectations of others can lead to irrational fears and trap us in places of false idealisations of what our personal journey and life should look like, especially to others. Maybe as a result, we cocoon ourselves in comfort zones. We all get scared about things that may happen, but the fact is, if it hasn’t happened and we don’t know for certain it is going to happen-why do we let it have so much control over us? Why do we feed and grow thoughts of scenarios, like in a few decades time this bad thing may effect someone we care about, or we can’t do something that helps us be our authentic selves in case of…, or we won’t allow ourselves to be honest about our feelings, or communicate the way we truly desire, because we fear the opinions and judgement we may face. But often, the harshest judgement we encounter, is how we judge ourselves.

We may fear being perceived as inadequate, selfish, incompetent, foolish or insensitive. We worry if we are doing the right or wrong thing, about our impact on others around us, which is not necessarily a negative thing, especially when coming from a place of love or compassion-but when we grasp this reasoning as a dependency and allow it to be a barrier to creating, taking, and exploring opportunities-it becomes detrimental. We prevent ourselves from making impactful choices and opening our hearts to living our full potential in life. We may allow fear of abandonment, rejection, and loss of materialistic priorities to cause us unnecessary distress. Holding onto control of how not to be judged is exhausting. As Maya Angelou once said, “There’s no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you”. Being unable to embrace our authentic voice, passions, and feelings, may leave us feeling unfulfilled and wounded, which then masquerades into egotistical behaviours of stubbornness and pride.

I wonder how many connections people have lost due to irrational internal fears. How much love could have been shared if people felt safer about being honest? How much joy could be spread? What realisations to understanding pivotal long-term success of personal growth, finding peace and balance in our lives could be made? Why do we allow ourselves to be haunted, traumatised, and sometimes even grieve, by what feels like memories, that haven’t even been made yet?

Consciously or not, we often create our own cages, our own individual restrictions and prevent ourselves from fully partaking in loving connections and living our life as a blessing, to it’s full potential. Perhaps we should reframe what judgement looks like to us, remind ourselves to minimise irrational fears and release ourselves from our cages to “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you”.

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