Don’t waste extra thought on people for whom you are extras
“If I do that, what will people think of me?” Such concern over the world’s opinion can sometimes protect us from unworthy actions but it can also impede us in worthy actions. This negative effect occurs especially when we wish to live spiritually in a materialistic culture.
That’s why to guide our decision-making concern about others’ perception alone is inadequate and undesirable; we also need an inner value system. And if this value system is based on scriptural truth, on the reality of our spiritual identity and the devotional purpose of our existence, then in our decision-making that value system should outweigh the world’s opinion. Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (13.11) declares indifference to worldly opinion (aratir jana samsadi) to be one of the twenty characteristics of knowledge.
Such indifference stems not from arrogance, but from awareness of the unpalatable but undeniable reality that we are usually extras in most people’s life-plans. They have their own dreams and schemes for enjoyment in which they are the heroes in the main show and we have some role as extras in a sideshow to provide some additional spice. If we give undue importance to the perceptions of people who don’t consider us to be of much importance, we end up feeling disheartened about pursuing that which what is supremely important for us –our devotional service to Krishna, the only pathway to lasting and fulfilling happiness.
If we become indifferent towards everyone, won’t that make us narcissistic?
No, because the Gita in the same list also includes (13.09) reverence for our mentors (acharyopasanam). For those esteemed guides who are concerned about our all-round welfare, we are not extras. By giving due importance to the inputs of such guides, we can grow safely and swiftly towards our full spiritual potential.