We Aren't Always What We Want Them to Think We Are


Who here isn't affected by what other people think of us?

Sure, we all know those rare few, the brassy ball-busters among us who convincingly claim 'not to give a damn' about what anybody else thinks. But isn't that a rather reactionary stance, based upon rejecting the possible rejector before he rejects us? (Those who care so fundamentally about not caring, in a sense, care just as much. Instead of catering to the other's perceived favor, they go out of their way not to cater. Same difference.) In the end, what someone else thinks matters… as inspiration for resistance or rebellion, if nothing else.

We do give a damn. It's rather obvious, isn't it?

We want them to like us, or respect us, or think we're smart or sexy or strong, a skilled artist or a conscientious parent. When they don't (or we speculate they don't), we wonder what we've done wrong. We make behavioral adjustments, minute or major, to better fit what they would want from us (or what we presume they'd want). Or we remain as we were, internalizing a sense of impropriety or inadequacy all the while. Or else we give a resounding 'fuck off' and search for folks who won't challenge our status quo—directly, indirectly, or in our imagination.

It's largely a good thing that we care how others perceive us, since we don't live hermit-style, with a beard and a pipe, sequestered solitarily inside vacuum-packed pods. For the most part, we live socially… with the implicit ground rule that, because other people are around, we can't simply do whatever we want. Others' comfort is a consideration. We must make concessions and compromises to get along. We must adapt to function in relationship to them.

Of course, we can go too far with it. (Anybody who's donned a totally out-of-character outfit or adopted an uninteresting interest, just to impress an object of amorous desire, can attest to that fact.) There's the reasonable level of give-and-take… and then there's giving up of yourself. Of your Self, capital 'S'.

To lose your Self is to do whatever it takes to play to what someone else wants—at the expense of what you know is true for you. (For those more vengeful-minded, it is also to play to what someone doesn't want, just to get to them.) If we do this for long enough, we might even stop asking ourselves what's true for us… effectively divorcing ourselves from our instincts. All that matters, after all, is their opinion.

For the majority of us, life is led somewhere in the middle: as an ongoing negotiation between following our personal truth and modifying it to align with somebody else's. Astrologically speaking, this is the proverbial balancing act between Mars and Venus. Mars signifies how we assert our individual will, and Venus stands for how we relate to theirs.

Typically, Venus inspires us to concede total independence, in order to connect with others. Venus symbolizes what we value in the world, and in other individuals. And consequently, it also represents how we go about attracting these valued qualities and individuals to us. When we follow Venusian impulses, we hang back in receptive mode, alluring and enthralling, and subtly tinker with our actions so they'll suit our potential suitor, whether it's the man of our dreams or our favorite pal, a fuzzy green sweater or that objet d'art most dear to our heart.

At certain moments, though, we realize we've strayed too far. By ceding, we've lapsed out of integrity with ourselves. We've focused on relationships with the outer world, to the detriment of what we value inside. And in this moment of clarity, we prepare ourselves to make the necessary corrections—to tell those involved what we really want, no matter if it matches us with what they want or not. The connection may deepen, crumble or change in some other way. In any case, we line ourselves up more closely with our internal values… with or without keeping the other people.

As Venus continues through her current retrograde phase (through Feb 3), we're in one of those 'correction' moments, during which our interpersonal bonds shift to better reflect our inner affinities. Astrologers often describe retrograde planets as more inwardly focused, so it follows that Venus retrograde is a time to attend to inward influences. Where normally we'd follow another's lead, now we're prone to insist upon our autonomy of consciousness—we know what we've chosen to value, and are less susceptible to being swayed.

Of course, Venus retrograde also plays out the shadow side of such autonomy. Unless we diligently focus on it, we'll find it harder to hear what they're telling us. (An 'inward focus' will do that!) Even as she discloses her emotional unavailability, we still insist she'll come around… after she discovers how great we are. Even as our best friend infers we look fat in those jeans, we buy them anyway… because we figure they'll look better with a different belt. We're so focused on what we like now, we resist paying attention to whether it's a good match for us. Thus, the prototypical warnings against impulsive purchases and dramatic elopements while Venus is retrograde.

Ultimately, people in our lives come and go like clothes cycling in and out of fashion. What fits for a season or two may later start to look ridiculous. Yet some items are timeless classics you'll never get rid of. You can only know which is which by knowing yourself first… and valuating everything (and everyone) else with that knowledge in mind.

Even in a relationship, your need to be true to yourself—to your Self, capital 'S'—always comes first.