What Other People Think

Thinker RodinRheumatoid Arthritis Guy has been spending a lot of time thinking about why he cares so much about what other people think. It’s easy to say that I don’t lead my life based on what other people think. But the truth of the matter is, that consideration of other people’s opinions is always exerting some influence – big or small – onto my words and my actions.

I have realized that when I encounter some of the most difficult moments in my life with rheumatoid arthritis, that I often become extra sensitive to the thoughts of others. It’s sort of silly, no? Just at a time when what I should be focusing most on is myself, I instead find myself worrying about something that is, and will always be, out of my control – other people’s thoughts.

Maybe this is one of my defense mechanisms. Instead of confronting my grave personal issues on hand, I zoom in on what is essentially nothing more than a triviality. (I guess it’s sort of like watching an episode of Entertainment Tonight instead of the BBC World News.)

As I look back at some of my recent posts, numerous examples of this misplaced concern jump out at me.

What are people going to think when they see me walking with crutches? What is he going to think if I don’t offer to carry a grocery bag? Might my rheumatologist think that I am exaggerating the level of pain that I am experiencing? What can she possibly be thinking – why can’t she show a little bit more understanding of what I am going through?

All of these thoughts have one thing in common: I am swapping out my problems for other people’s problems.

What is really bothering me, deep down, are my own thoughts. The sooner I come to terms with this, the healthier I will be.

Yes, I have experienced first hand the hurt that comes when I think someone has not demonstrated what I consider to be an acceptable level of understanding about what it is like to live with rheumatoid arthritis.

But if I stop to think about it, there have been many moments – usually during my worst flares – where I myself don’t even understand what is happening to me.

So might this be what is actually hurting me the most?

Sure, my mind might be able to explain the logistics of the inflammatory process that is wreaking havoc on my body. At the same time, though, my heart might be completely overwhelmed by the emotional struggle that results from the presence of chronic pain and from the losses in mobility.

To put it quite simply, I can be completely lost.

And in order to re-establish my balance, I have to put all of my thoughts and energy solely upon what I think. I can not afford to lose even a little bit of strength by worrying about what other people think.

This doesn’t mean that I will never take into consideration what other people think. I am a social animal, after all. But I now know that when I am facing a true crisis moment, I deserve nothing less than the opportunity to not worry about what other people think – and to instead focus on myself.

As I continue to think about why I care so much about what other people think, I begin to understand that this is perfectly reasonable at times. No one wants to be that rude, inconsiderate person.

Depending upon the situation, the scales between “my thoughts” and “their thoughts” might need to lean just a little more to my favor.

And when it comes to my physical and emotional health, I’ll be happy to tip the scales even a little more in my favor.

But, no matter how far the scales are tipped, I will always make an concerted effort to keep my ears open to true words of advice.

Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!

8 Comments
8 comments
  1. penny says:

    I can so much relate to what you write..carry on writing as it helps so many of us not to feel so alone.

  2. Daina says:

    Thanks for writing this! After having had JRA for 28 years (I’m 33), I have dealt with these feelings very often (actually NOT DEALT with them..). Thanks for putting it into words..

  3. kaurie says:

    My favorite is my handicap placard in my car. Depending on who’s with me, I have a set for my car, my ex’s car (he is disabled also), and swing tags, in case we go out with friends All those tags come in handy when booking a group cruise, by booking the handicap rooms, the checkin line is shorter.

  4. Kali says:

    That is definitely a hard part! I struggle with worrying about not contributing enough with my partner, about what other law students think of me, and heaven help me what my professors think of me.

    Fortunately, I have an incredibly supportive partner – he helps remind me that my health has to be our top priority, and what I can and can’t do around the house is a lot less important. The fact that the state pays for an attendant (right now, the boyfriend) to help around the house has helped me to accept that the limits on housework are not a big deal. Usually.

    ~Kali

  5. Michelle says:

    I can very much relate to this! I have had arthritis for most of my life and for most of that time, I wondered what people were thinking or saying about me. Some people are brave enough to say something to you, the majority of others are not. But I think that there comes a point where you realize that it doesn’t matter what people think about you. What matters is You. You can still be a caring person without worrying about how people perceive you.

    Hugs to all! Look forward to reading about more adventures:)

  6. raandme says:

    I understand completely! I always thought I was the type of person who could care less about what other people think. But the thought of other people seeing me and thinking Im weak is so difficult for me to deal with. And I have no idea why!

  7. RA Guy says:

    Yeah I don’t think we can truly get over what other people think completely, but life does seem more enjoyable when we place more emphasis on our thoughts at opposed to others…except when we get some really good advice from others (often, we turn a blind eye it seems…)

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