How do I stop caring what other people think? For recovering addicts, this question is especially important. While we know that addiction is not a moral failing, and that our recovery is an incredible achievement, it is nonetheless tough to feel good about ourselves around other people.
There is a famous saying that states that “those who matter don’t care, and those who care don’t matter.” It is cliched but always pertinent. The people who deserve you will make an effort to understand you, so stop caring what anyone else thinks.
It’s easier said than done. In a world in which everyone is vying for the attention of millions of people around the world, it’s impossible to simply stop caring what other people think. The good news is that there are practical steps you can take to tune out what other people might be saying or thinking.
One of the most effective steps you can take to stop caring what other people think is by examining your own assumptions. When you assume that someone is judging you because of your addiction, you are also judging them. You are assuming that they are being unkind to you, and are unaware of the complexities of human nature.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt is one great way of flipping the narrative. But you can take it further with empathy.
If you have reason to believe that the person is judging you, instead of trying to stop caring about what they think, try and put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself why they might be susceptible to small-minded thoughts, and what in their life may have led them to make unkind assumptions.
Just by doing this exercise, you are making yourself more aware that it doesn’t matter what they think about you. On the contrary, those thoughts are more detrimental to them than they are to you.
Another step you can take to stop caring about what other people think of you is to be open with them. Instead of obsessing about the narrative they may or may not be creating in their minds, actually talk about it.
In doing so, you achieve a couple of things. For one, you get to reshape the narrative. Some people simply do not have the background or context to understand where addiction comes from.
For another, you will find that most people are generally decent. They might have misguided opinions about addiction, but they will be willing to listen and learn. Furthermore, they will almost always appreciate your willingness to be vulnerable with them. It is a leap many people are not willing to take, and a sign that you trust them.
Curate your environment
Unfortunately, no matter what you do, there will be some who are openly critical and unkind about your experience. Even if you know that these people are coming from a place of small-mindedness, it can still hurt.
Sometimes, the best thing you can do is to curate your environment. If you have relatives on Facebook with archaic opinions about addiction, unfollow them. If the outlet you get your news from shows regular ignorance and a quickness to judge substance abusers, find another, more reliable source.
But most importantly, anyone who consistently makes you feel inadequate because of your past, even after you’ve had open conversations with them, is not worth your time. Some of these people may be in your life no matter what, but you can limit the time you give them.
You will need to be steadfast in your appreciation of the complexities of addiction and your own achievements. It is not easy to stop caring what other people think, but as long as you remember that their assumptions are flawed, you can maintain your self-esteem and self-love.