During a discussion with a group of children about comparison, one of the students said, “When I am good at something, others come and talk to me about it. When someone who is better at the same thing joins the class, they go and talk to them, and I feel left alone. The attention I got was gone and that leaves me sad.”

For the rest of the conversation we proceeded to discuss our need to feel good within and how the lack of it makes us behave in different ways. This experience is as true of adults as it is of children, and this has been written about previously. Insecurity runs very deep within us. The fear of ‘being nothing’ is a primal driving force. It may not be an exaggeration to say that the human society we see around us is essentially a manifestation of this deep inner insecurity in various forms.

We could ask if an expectation that is planted by someone outside different from one’s own desire to be noticed? An expectation from a parent may be justified as ‘being for my own good’— it provides motivation to work harder towards a goal—but it also sets the child on a path of seeking validation, which often feels inadequate if and when it comes, setting in place the need for further validation, perhaps from another person.

When does an external expectation become an internal pressure? Does that pressure then have a life of its own even when the original expectation is removed? As an adult, I feel pressured to respond to various pulls and pushes—children, parents, work, my own desires and fears and minutiae of all kinds. Meeting each of these in an attempt to please all feels futile. Yet, things need to be attended to and one’s energy seems limited.

Pressure feels real, it is a physical sensation within one’s brain. There is a squeezing or a throbbing. But pressure is merely the result of a thought. Or a series of relentless thoughts that begin to have a life of their own. It is curious that something as fleeting as thought can have such an impact. Perhaps the impact is most when thoughts are not allowed to be just fleeting.

Our inner spaces affect our outer spaces and disturbances on the outside are sometimes pointers to imbalances inside us. Tending to our own inner spaces then becomes our responsibility. It might be our most significant contribution to the world around us.