Reading this title, you’d be forgiven for thinking that I’m just being mean. I promise I’m not. Anxiety and depression are commonly described as selfish illnesses: not ‘selfish’ in the classic sense of eating all the good Celebrations before anyone else has a chance but more that, in your mind, everything comes back to you. You become very aware of yourself and how others may perceive you, constantly worrying about what people think of you and second-guessing what they think and say. I’ve been there, sitting in a coffee shop thinking that everyone else must be staring at me and judging my hair, my clothes, my make-up, my choice of coffee, my company (or lack of).
The reality is this: no one cares. When you think that everyone’s staring at you, they’re probably not. It’s unlikely that the teenagers who just passed you in the street are laughing at you, they probably saw something funny on their phones. It’s also unlikely that people are judging you whilst drinking coffee, but I can totally relate to that feeling.
It’s important to remember that while you’re the centre of your own life, you could be just a face in the crowd to other people. I don’t mean this in a “you’re on your own through this” kind of way but just to get a perspective of how little people notice about how you dress, how you speak, if you’re wearing make-up, if you’ve brushed your hair, what car you drive and the millions of other things that may not bother you on your less fragile days. People who are involved in your life will notice changes in you, they’ll notice if you’re wearing something different but noticing it and judging you based on it are two very different things.
If you do something good, the people close to you will notice and will care; the same thing applies if you’re struggling or seem to be acting differently. Being noticed and being judged/cared about are two very separate things and you need to teach your mind to recognise these differences. Those close to you will care for you but are unlikely to judge you.
Think about the last time you went out somewhere. It could be the supermarket, to a shopping mall, to the cinema. How many people did you notice? How many people did you think “their hair looks different”, “their clothes are terrible”, “I can’t believe they’d come here on their own”? Were you judging every person that walked past you? Can you even picture any one of those people? I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say that very few you said yes to any of those and that’s because it rarely happens! Even if people are making judgments based on their snapshots of you, does it matter? Don’t feel like you have to put any weight on their opinion of you.
If you only take one thing away, let it be this: your life centres around you but not everyone else’s will. Try not to let your other people’s potential thoughts or opinions hold you down.