Regardless of how we feel about our lives, there are always others that judge us. Sometimes the opinions of others will be neutral or positive, however, there are also times that everyone will be categorized or judged negatively. There will be times that others thoughts and opinions about me will be accurate, times when others’ judgements are misguided or wrong, and even times when I’m perceiving their thoughts with my own self-conscience. On the surface, I can say that others’ thoughts and opinions are just that, their thoughts and opinions. I may care what they think, but at the same time, it doesn’t (or shouldn’t) really matter deep down. People don’t completely understand each other. We’re only human. Just as I don’t know everything that someone else does, thinks, or believes - I have to remember that others’ don’t truly know me behind the scenes either. We all experience life differently, we all have our own journey of challenges and dreams, we all have our own personal character traits and personality, we all have a history that’s unique, all of which can influence how we not only view ourselves and loved ones, but strangers as well. Saying that, I know that I shouldn’t let others have the power to define who I am or make me doubt and question my worth. What should be most important is that I’m living up to my personal values and beliefs the best I can. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple to remember. In the moment, others’ thoughts about me can cause so many different emotions such as pride, joy, relief, guilt, sadness, anger, pity, frustration, hopelessness, and pain. Just like everyone has different roles in my life, their opinions of me also impact my life differently. My reaction may differ because of who they are, the situation it occurs within, or how I’m personally feeling at that time.
Family: The opinions or thoughts that my family have about me are very important. I need for them to understand some of what I’m going through, it’s helpful when they are familiar or concerned enough with my situation as they can help me manage life better (even if I try to revolt, deny, or refuse to listen to them.) However, I don’t want them overly concerned or worried about me. I try my best (though not always feasible or effective) to remain optimistic and “ok”. I know that I’m not completely responsible for how or what they think, but I do attempt to have a little control by limiting and downplaying how much I let them know. Their opinions can influence me quite a bit. When negative comments are made, either consciously or accidentally, it hurts a lot and admittedly decreases my mood and confidence. I don’t want to embarrass them with my issues and am not always open to hearing reminders of what I should or shouldn’t do or what I do or do not have (ex/ med equipment) regardless if their comments are true or false.
Current Healthcare Team: Similar to my family, my medical team’s thoughts/opinions are extremely important to me as well and carry a high level of importance. I feel responsible in making sure that my doctors, nurses, etc.. understand the reality of how I’m feeling, what is medically happening with my health, and at times the impact my health is having on my quality of life. I feel that it’s essential for us to have open communication and mutual respect in order to best meet my medical needs. However, for this to happen, I also try to be considerate in not wasting their time or abusing our lines of communication. I find that I feel the need to be careful and monitor how I explain things as I don’t want them to consider me a whiner or complainer, but do need them to “see” what’s happening so they have a better opportunity at helping improve my health, Sometimes I also feel the need to downplay the situation as either I “should” be able to handle more of this on my own or I want to avoid a response that I really don’t want to hear.
BOTH my family and my current health team have key roles in how I react to my life. Their words and actions can be encouraging, motivating, comforting, and grounding or they can be like daggers in my heart, disheartening, frustrating, or bone crushing. I prefer them to be realistic, understanding, and honest. I am alright with hopeful comments as long as they don’t go overboard with them or are not attempting to build false hope for themselves or me.
Some friends and/or familiar acquaintances are aware of my health issues and understand at least part of what I am dealing with. This category can include other (non-routine) health providers, past colleagues, friends from the past, or people met via online support groups. Personally, I want them to think positively and highly about me. I feel the need to “prove” why I’m unable to work, why I can’t participate in certain activities, attend some events, or why I need their help- but I also know that it’s impossible and takes too much energy or time. I want them to believe that I am strong and patient, that I’m optimistic and not a quitter. I attempt to stress my desire to live life, so they don’t think I’m just boring, lazy, or depressed. I have been finding myself trying to push away, distance, or ignore them, as avoidance is so much easier than dealing with how to communicate and present myself around the people in this category.
What about strangers and people I know that are unfamiliar with my health issues opinions of me?
I should not let the opinions of people in this category bother me too much, as I know that they don’t know anything about me and will likely never see me again. I try not to let strangers’ thoughts impact my actions or decisions. Genuine positive feedback from anyone, including people that I don’t know, is alright. Unfortunately, I’m not always successful with ignoring the negative comments, facial expressions, etc that I face. For example, riding on the scooter at the grocery store. Each time that I am honest with myself about needing to utilize a scooter while grocery shopping, I have to overcome my fear of how others will look at me. Sometimes, I try to make excuses of why I shouldn’t ride one, but my family (especially my daughters) encourage me. They tell me that I shouldn’t be worried about it, that they don’t care what others think and I shouldn’t either. I’ve learned that riding the scooter is necessary right now if I’m going to allow myself to help grocery shop as otherwise I get too winded, tired, or lightheaded. For the most part, people don’t pay me any mind - at least not in a visual way. However, there’s always one or two that give me dirty looks, like I’m being disrespectful, lazy, etc and the looks and attitudes that they give are very hurtful. The judgements remain with me for the remainder of the grocery trip and usually the rest of the day. Additionally, they make me more apprehensive about using a scooter the next time. I try to psych myself, prepare myself ahead of time, with what I will say if someone looks negatively at me while using the scooter - however, in the moment I usually grow silent (too chicken I guess) and choose not to say anything. I feel as though I should be strong enough to educate them on invisible illnesses and why I am in need of the scooter - but it’s hard to justify myself when I’m already self conscious about riding the scooter. Riding the scooter is essential for helping me feel useful once again within my family, but it worries me that someone else may need it even more than I do, which decreases my confidence in doing what’s in the best interest of my health.
In short, be kind, be nice, and be supportive. Don't judge others as no one knows what it's like to walk in the other one's life. If they are like me, they are already judging themselves and perceiving other's possible judgements at the harshest degree.
A proud mother, educator, Gastroparesis & GI Motility Disorder Advocate,
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