For most of life my life I was ultra careful in giving my opinion about anything because I did not want to hurt peoples feelings and at the same time it was extremely important to me what my parents, friends, colleagues and the wider community that I was part thought of me and the things that I was doing. I avoided anything that would catch people’s eye and that could be criticised in any way. I was paralysed. I didn’t want to take any risks. I didn’t contribute to group discussions, didn’t tell jokes, I didn’t give my true opinions on any topics, I didn’t want to right anything or answer any questions. I was well read and had good insights to offer. People were deprived of my knowledge and understandings. Basically I was terrified of criticism. I tried to keep a low profile on every subject. I shunned any kind of publicity. I not know why I behaved in this way because my parents are very kind and tolerant people.
It took decades to gain the courage to give a simple talk, participate in a group discussion and put my work out there for people to look and perhaps gain some benefit. I was living a life so much below my real potential. It took nervous steps forward yet each step gave me huge benefits in my career, success and family life. In essence, caring too much about what other people think imprisoned me. I came to the realisation that you cannot please all of the people all of the time. The only things that I had control over was my own actions, thoughts an beliefs.
I gave a Christmas speech on “Nanotechnology to Nanomanufacturing” to Engineers Ireland and got a standing ovation and numerous compliments afterwards and a return invitation to come again and give another speech at another event. It felt amazing. It was a wonderful lecture. I gave the same speech to a group students at the University. They seemed bored and disinterested. I am sure my deliver in both cases was smooth and slick. Why did I get such contrasting responses? In hindsight the difference was in background, knowledge level and interest of the two audiences. The same talk and widely differing responses.
I was invited to the Nanotechnology conference in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to deliver a workshop on Nanotechnology. I decided assume zero knowledge about the subject and started from first principles. All speakers before me gave talks about the research. Listening to them I kept thinking “I’ve got it wrong again. You idiot,Waqar”. I could not turn the clock back. I had to deliver the talk that I had painstakingly prepared. I got up nervously thinking the audience will not appreciate the simplicity of my talk. I was expecting nasty remarks and plenty of feedback. I was shocked when people kept coming up to me to tell me how much they enjoyed my presentation and they had indeed gained valuable insights into nanotechnology. I had pitched the workshop perfectly for the audience. Every other highly regarded scientists had got it wrong. I decided to trust myself and my insights more than other people’s opinions. I would listen and use it as feedback for improvement and would not anyone’s opinion effect me emotionally. Living with this attitude gives the courage to try new things and disregards what other people think. I was the only person who is important when I am going to enter the arena. I should focus on the me that I can possibly be in the moment.
This attitude is encapsulated perfectly by a Theodore Roosevelt’s speech. “The Man in the Arena”
It is not the critic that counts; not the man who points how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who err, who comes short again and again,
because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, devotion; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly……
Get in the arena and give it your very best and
“Be independent of the good opinion of other people.” Abraham Harold Maslow
Don’t worry about getting approval from others. Be yourself. Give your unique gifts to the world and expect nothing in return and you gain self respect and appreciation from others in due course.
“People who want the most approval get the least and people who need approval the least get the most.” ~ Wayne Dyer