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April 5, 2015 / Karen R Adams

what others think

fearof looking stupidHands up, out there, everyone who has spent time worrying about what others think – about how they look, what they do, what they have.  Yeah, I thought it would be most of you.  Me, too.

It’s not a bad thing, is it?.  After all, we have to live with others, right?  What we do or say affects the people we live and work with.  If I decided I was going to pack in my business and live out of my car, giving acupuncture for free, I imagine my kids would have stuff to say about that.  (Lots of stuff.)  The conversations would be based on their love for me, and their fear that a life like that would be unsafe and unhealthy.  I believe a part of them would also be a little proud of a mom who gave up in order to give, who tries to live her bliss and her dreams.

Whether they admitted it or not, though, a part of them would be thinking: ‘She’s going to become a bag lady.  At some point I’m going to have to rescue her, which would strain my already overcrowded life.  I mean, living out of her car?  Not making any money??  Is she crazy?  What would the neighbors think?

Before I become a traveling acupuncturist, then, I have to seriously think about what they might think.   Even though they are grown women with busy, fulfilling lives, I’m still their mom.  What they think matters to me – their opinions of me, their worries for me, their judgment of me.

So perhaps we can agree that paying attention to what others think is a good idea.  Right?  We can say that the opinions of others provide useful information for making our decisions.  And maybe it’s also a good idea to keep an eye out for the unspoken opinions: the eye rolls, the body tension when someone disapproves, stuff like that.  If we see that, we might just maybe change our plans a bit.  That’s ok, right?  Because we care about them, we love them, we value their thoughts.

Tricky, though.  If I really, really want to live out of my car, etc, if it’s a dream of mine to become a wandering healer, that might create a conflict between us.  I might see those eye rolls and start to worry about what they think.  I might even skip the checking in and just make my own story that they think I’m crazy, or they might be uncomfortable being with me.  And my grandchildren!  They’re reaching the age of being mortified by a granny who isn’t like their friends’ grannies.  That would be painful to all of us.  Then there’s my community.  I’ve worked long and hard to be a respected, valued member… what would they think?  That I lost all my money?  That I failed to make my business a success?  That I’ve lost my mind, and need an intervention?

I might get defiant.  What do they know about my life?  What right do they have to tell me what to do?  It’s my life, I can do what I want with it.  If I want to live out of my car, accept handouts instead of pay, that’s nobody’s business but mine.  I’m the one who has the right to choose that kind of life.

In either case, I’m not just evaluating what others think, I’m seeking out their opinions and I’m worrying at it.   If this is a big decision, I’m spending way too much time chewing over what others think.  This can become a chronic condition, and then I begin to spend too much time worrying at what they think about my shoes.  Or how I walk.  Are my pants too short?  What about my shirt, is it the right shirt?  What will they think if they see me snoring behind my steering wheel?  Will they like me, those strangers who casually see me from their cars and who will probably never see me again?  If I go just a little bit farther with my worrying, I’ll give up my dream of living out of my car, dispensing acupuncture.  I won’t be able to do anything because I fear what they think.

Can you feel this?  The anxiety rising, the shoulder-hunching.  The flashbacks to being a teenager, when you are terrified to step out of the pack because of what your peers would think.  Taking action that wasn’t necessarily well thought out because you thought they’d disapprove.  Actually, that stage lasted for an embarrassingly long time for me, and as a consequence, I was unhappy way into adulthood.  And depressed, crowded, twitchy.  Occasionally explosive.  Definitely afraid.  Yuck.

Here’s what I try to live now: I do what I want when I’m clear that what I want makes me happy.   I believe those who love me want me to be happy, too.  If they raise concerns, I will always listen, because I love them.  I may change my plans… or I may not.  If what they offer adds to the adventure, well, that’s great then.  If they are asking me to do things that I’m not fully on board with, probably not.  If I really listen, because I love them, I’m creative enough to adjust.

I’m not talking about just listening to my daughters, by the way.  There are lots of people in my life who have opinions about what I do, and who are happy to share them.  I’ll listen.  That’s a great way to get new ideas, after all.  And I’m trying to never again worry over what they say or think, or feel guilty because I’m not being the person that I think they think I should be.  Or that they tell me I should be.  It is my life, my darlings, and I take full responsibility for it.  But that’s another post…


another meKaren is an acupuncturist in Greenfield, MA.  She has a Facebook page where she likes to philosophize, comment on and pass on the things she’s learned (which practically makes her an old fart, she thinks with chagrin).  You can visit her on Facebook, or on her website:  If you’d like to speak with her, use the form below.  She promises to get back to you – and expects she will really, really enjoy meeting you.



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