I would like you to try this thought experiment.
You go to a company party and the host, a senior executive, mis-pronounces your name when he introduces you to nearby guests. Later, he asks you how you are enjoying the affair and, this time, he does not even remember your name and addresses you as someone else.
You are talking to someone when he abruptly leaves you with no apology to join a circle around the company CEO.
You join a group where the conversation is animated and there is an awkward silence when you do so. The talking resumes but it is now stilted. You try to tell a joke and when you come to the punchline someone else delivers it for you and says, “We heard that one before.”
How do you feel?
Pretty crummy, right?
The important question is why you feel crummy!
Do you admire the senior executive who did not bother to know or remember who you were? Probably not.
Does it really matter if your joke was well received? No, it does not.
Do you have a mental model that, being seen in such settings and having appropriate respect shown to you is important for your success? Perhaps. But have you consciously investigated whether this model works for you? Probably not.
You have let a bunch of people, who you do not particularly care for and may even dislike, determine how you feel.
Why would you do a daft thing like that?
We go through life wanting to be stroked. We want to be told we matter. We want to be assured that we are unique and wonderful. We want our jokes to be laughed at, our presence to be acknowledged, our contributions to be applauded.
Time to remember that:
The glories of our blood and state
Are shadows, not substantial things;
There is no armour against Fate;
Death lays his icy hand on kings:
Sceptre and Crown
Must tumble down,
And in the dust be equal made
With the poor crookèd scythe and spade.
– James Shirley
There is a joke about a young man who, in his twenties was bothered by what others thought of him. In his forties he no longer cared what others thought of him. In his sixties he realized that others did not think of him.
The trick is to drop the monstrous ego that you have been feeding all your life.
When Alagammal, mother of Indian sage Ramana Maharshi, came to live with him, he undertook her spiritual coaching. She used to bemoan that he never acknowledged her while speaking kindly to the other ladies in the kitchen. He was frequently curt with her. When she lamented, he said, “All women are my mother.”
There was a subtle pride in her that she was the mother of this famous sage. And he rooted it out from her. And, in her final hours, he sat with his hand on her chest till she closed her eyes and merged with the infinite.
So, stop being somebody.
Be nobody. Don’t try to be more nobody than somebody else.
Don’t be like Yossarian who, in a group of average people, stood out as being more average than anybody else.
Watch your ego. Be aware of when it tells you that you are not being honored and squelch it right there. Just enjoy whatever you are doing wherever you are.