Most of us feel the pressures of other people’s expectations of us. Even when we say that we don’t care, I can say that with quite a lot of certainty, that there was probably at least some point in your life where these expectations weighed heavily on your heart.
We know that we shouldn’t care what other people think of us, but it is very often difficult not to care, especially when you are talking about friends and family members.
In my opinion, it makes sense that the temptation to care what others think of us is far more prevalent in those of us who suffer from mental health issues because we are the ones who have something to worry about. We are the ones who are constantly, so carefully policing our behaviours. We are the ones who are desperately attempt to be “normal”.
When you don’t have to worry about what the things that are coming out of your mouth and you are able to go through life without monitoring your behaviours, it is much easier to live a “care free” existence without being under the microscope of the rest of society.
I fall into these traps of worrying what others will think very frequently. I would say that this bad habit is very often the fuel behind most of my endeavours. I want people to see what I am capable of.
I want them to see that I am more than my illness.
All of the people in my family and some of my friends that know me best are aware of how I have spent the majority of the last 15 years existing.. specifically the last 8yrs. I hate that. I wish that I was able to live behind veil that only revealed me on my goods days, even though they are often few and far between.
When I take on a new project, I think about how specific people will see me differently if only I am able to finally be successful in my undertaking. I imagine that I will be taken more seriously. I imagine that I will be received as an equal. People will listen to me a little more closely. I feel like maybe I will be a little more important if I could get one of my projects to fly. I feel like maybe I will be something other than just mentally ill if I am able to achieve my goals.
I don’t think that this is a healthy way of thinking about things. In fact, if you know anything about CBT, this style of thinking consists of many classic examples of ‘thought traps’. Specifically, mind reading, all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, downplaying positives, and emotional reasoning.
As you can tell from that list, being caught up in other people’s attitudes towards you and thoughts about you can be extremely negative.
So what are some things that you can do to avoid this type of worry?
For starters, rather than putting someone’s opinion of you above your opinion of yourself, try to consider the importance of their opinion as being somewhere along a continuum. If you can, measure the importance of that person’s opinion between 0% – 100%, instead of just all-or-nothing thinking at 100%, all the time.
Now try to thinking about times when you thought that the people who’s opinions you hold so dear may have been incorrect. Is there a chance that their opinions of you could be wrong now? If their opinions aren’t always correct, that just means that that other person is human and that they make mistakes.
Try to look for evidence that shows that the people you love and care about have a lower opinion of you. Is it possible that you don’t have the evidence to back up how you believe these people are thinking of you? Can you prove that they have a negative opinion of you?
Finally, you must absolutely not downplay the positives of your accomplishments because you think that they might not be ‘good enough’ for somebody else. If you are living with a mental illness, I hear you. I know that getting out of bed and brushing your teeth might be a challenge for you each and everyday. When you accomplish these tiny things in during the times when we are suffering, they are major achievements and you have to know that at the front of your brain that you did it!
On the days that you are well and you try to do something more for yourself and with your life, that is an incredible accomplishment. It doesn’t matter if you succeed or fail, because there is still success in every let down. You can learn where you may have made your mistakes. You will gradually see how you can do things differently in the future.
One of the most important things that I have learned in my life, time and time again, is that you must always keep trying. To some, it might seem like I am banging my head against a brick wall, but the truth is that I am doing things better and smarter each and every time I put forth the effort.
I hope that you will try. That in itself is a victory.