Finding Freedom in Forgetfulness

iddle school dances gave me massive heartaches. Not of the romantic variety, but the kind that freeze your feelings and leave you wishing you could somehow hide inside your own skin. These social situations, and others like them, sent me into myself, to the neglect of everyone around me. The solution, surprisingly enough, is looking out instead of looking in.

If you can relate, and I know many can, to that tense feeling of navigating awkward situations where you feel like a consummate outsider, you might find comfort in knowing you’re not alone. Furthermore, you might take solace in the fact that you think of yourself far more than anyone else does. That’s part of the problem, isn’t it?

C.S. Lewis hit the nail on the head when he said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” Not only is it a humble and good thing to think of ourselves less, it helps us get a better perspective on reality. It’s unlikely anyone else is obsessing over us the way we are. Sorry to burst your bubble.

When we think of ourself less, we can better participate in the real world. As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You wouldn’t worry what other people think of you if you knew how seldom they do.” Self-obsession blinds us to the reality that there’s a whole lot more going on out there.

Christian recording artist Matt Hammitt recently said on Twitter, “You wouldn’t believe how much of that stuff you believe about yourself and others started in your own head. The imagination isn’t always a kid-friendly playground.” He’s right. That’s why we need to get out of the echo-chamber of our head. So, welcome back to the world.

When we turn our eyes off ourselves, we are able to see people around us who need help too, where we’re reminded we’re not the only one with struggles. We have to turn our anxiety inside out. It can make us more empathetic towards the feelings of others.

As the Apostle Paul said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves” (Phil 2:3). While this may not solve every insecurity, looking out to how we can serve others is often the first step towards finding freedom from the paralysis of self-centeredness. There’s a freedom in self-forgetfulness.