I know that I’m not alone in saying that I spend a lot of time wondering what people think about me. It’s something we’ve come to dismiss as being unimportant, or vain, but all of that isn’t necessarily true. We should absolutely think about what other’s think, the problem is just realizing that we don’t have to think about what all others think of us.
I try not to give a shit what someone I met once and had no meaningful interaction with thinks about me. I don’t care if they think I’m handsome or ugly— to an extent I hope they didn’t think I was a jerk, but I don’t spend any real time on it.
The people who I wonder about, are my parents and my wife (although in both cases I think they’re pretty honest with me). I wonder what my son thinks, because he doesn’t talk yet, and if I am to believe the expressions on his face, he likes me about seventy five percent of the time—but not when I have to give him medicine, or if I’m slow getting his bottle. I wonder about the people like my friends, because I know that there have been times when I’ve been an absolute piece of shit to them, same with exes (and my parents and wife).
I’m bi-polar, so there is a decent amount of time, where I seem to fall into a pit of despair about my past. It’s not necessarily healthy, because I remember individual times I made my mother and sister cry from like twenty years ago, things that I know they don’t think about. When I’m in that mind state, I amplify everything.
When I’m not on the down-swing, I am aware that there is almost zero likelihood that anyone thinks as much as I do about the little shitty things I did five, ten, or twenty years ago to them, but in those moments of darkness I can’t help but focus on them.
I’ve had a lot of people in my life, and doctors and others who have told me that this isn’t healthy, that I shouldn’t concern myself with any of this the way I do. I’m not sure that they’re right. I think what is unhealthy, perhaps, is the fact that everyone else doesn’t obsess over their mistakes the way that I do. There are some mistakes that I’ve made multiple times, but there are a lot of shitty things that I haven’t done again, because I feel so awful inside about the first time I did them.
Also, because of how utterly disgusted I get with myself, I tend to only hurt people multiple times when it feels unavoidable. If something that is fundamentally me, or otherwise unavoidable to continue living, and hurts someone else’s feelings, I do what I have to do. Now, I don’t mean for that to sound cut-throat. I’ll give you an example, a lot of times people argue that homosexuality is detrimental to society, to children, or whatever, and there aren’t really any good examples given, but it is obvious that being gay has hurt many parents feelings. This is a case of, a person having to do what is fundamentally them. It’s not their fault if someone has an irrational reaction. In my life, I don’t think I’ve dealt with anything as important as that, but there are many miniature versions of that you have to deal with in life. You cannot dive into guilt and self-loathing over these issues.
What I’m talking about is, when you get drunk and tell someone they suck at life, or you end a relationship poorly due to a fear of just facing up to ending it correctly, or if you feel relief, or happiness at someone else’s downfall. None of these are good for you—and I’ve done them all— and it’s important to not be able to shrug off your own bad behavior. We need to begin to hold ourselves accountable when we’re assholes.