Friday, 8 April 2016

What People Think

For many years I prided myself on not caring too much about What People Think.

This is me. Take it or leave it.

But, when we quit drinking, we seem to spend an awful lot of time worrying about other people, which is why Alcoholics Anonymous is.... well, anonymous.

It's why we pretend to be on antibiotics, or beg to be the designated driver. It's why we spend hours on the internet hiding behind silly pseudonyms - like SoberMummy.

We worry that we'll be judged by our pasts: will they think I'm an 'alcoholic?' Will they assume I'm a terrible mother? Will they think I'm pathetic and weak, with no self control?

We worry that we'll be judged for our futures: will they think I'm boring? Will they think I'm judging them? Will they never invite me to a party again?

#1 is (very nearly) a teen. She's entering the maximum danger zone for fear of other people's thoughts.

Do you remember how awful it was, being a hormonally ravaged teenager, constantly second guessing, and reacting to, other people's judgements of you?

Now add Instagram, Facebook and all the other judge-me-and-my-life media into the mix.

How is she ever going to survive?

Recently she came home fretting about what one of the girls at school had said about her.

"Darling," I said, "You will never be happy if you worry too much about what people think of you."

*eye roll* from tween.

"Tell me something. Do you like her?"

"No!" She replies vehemently.

"Well then. Some people just don't get on. Nobody likes everybody. You've got lots of friends who really, really like you, just as you are. And you like them, just as they are. Don't fret about people who are nothing like you, and are never, ever going to be your best buddy."

"But," she says, "everybody wants to be popular."

"I'll let you into a secret," I said. "Who is the most popular girl in your class?"

"H," she replies.

"And who is the girl in your class who cares the least what other people think of her?"

She thinks for a moment, then says "H."

"It's not a co-incidence. You see, the less you worry about what other people think of you, the more they'll like you, and - more importantly - the happier you'll be. The only important question is do you like yourself?"

I was reminded of this conversation when the children and I drove to the country yesterday to see one of my oldest and best friends - K.

Our children all ran off to play, and we sat down, happily, to catch up on the months since we'd last met.

I started to tell her about my check up at the Breast Clinic and how worried I'd been.

She looked really uncomfortable. Shifty even.

"SM," she said, "I have to tell you something. I feel awful letting you tell me a story that I already know. You see, I've been reading your blog for the last three months."

(My fault. I'd told her that I'd raised a lot of money for The Haven breast cancer charity through a blog I'd been writing. That was enough information for her to hunt me down. Nosy cow. And I say that lovingly.)

I was totally stunned. I didn't know what to say. I sat there, waiting for the waves of panic to engulf me. For all those familiar worries to pipe up: will she think I'm a total lush/terrible mother/frightfully DULL?

And....nothing. Zip. I didn't care! If anything, it was a relief. (At least not until I realised that every anecdote I tried to tell over dinner she'd heard before).

And that, my friends, is progress.

Happy Friday to you all!

SM x


  1. I am realising that I used to think I didn't care, when really I did (no matter how much I fought it). But now,sober, I am finally starting to feel a sense of peace within myself. Which for a worrywart like me is priceless. Ok, not completely priceless but 2 hours of spiritual healing and reki has proved to be worth every penny and more. I am beginning to accept myself (the good, the bad and the hideously ugly drunk). So here's 3 cheers to progress!!! Baby steps ARE life changing. Keep up the good work everyone. LNM xxx

  2. I'm sure K is extremely proud of you. And H has a very wise and supportive Mum. Have a lovely weekend! Day 28 for me today. SO tired, a bit depressed, brain feels very busy, but not tempted by the wine witch.

  3. I care much too much what people think of me. Even on my blog, I scour the comments for signs of love/disapproval and worry worry worry. Your post today helps a lot. Day 7 over here. Day 7!!!!!! Annie x

  4. I feel a version of this. I had told no one of what I'd embarked begin with, one really wants to get some 'time' under their belt, right? But also....I KNEW what a big thing I was doing, and felt so good about, but for anyone else to appreciate what a major thing I was accomplishing, theyd have to have a sense of just how much I was drinking. And who wants to cop to that? Its kind of a weird circle.

    Since I was with my daughter on a warm getaway last week when I realized I'd just passed three months, I did tell her (After some debate w myself whether I wanted to). She asked 'why?' And I said somethng along the lines of, 'it was time' or 'a good thing to do'...something that seemed fairly non-commital to me. I've not yet mentioned it to my brother or sister, the people closest to me other than my kids - (tho not geographically; our sib relationship is all phone). But they are the two ppl who prob have the best sense of how much I was over-doing it. It's almost like it's become a fun secret to hold to myself...

    1. NW…Your last line really resonated with me! I was thinking today about how I would feel if I told anyone what I was doing. 6 people know…1 is my husband and 2 are my sons, 1 sister, 1 SIL and 1 friend. I like my little secret. It motivates me! Is that weird? Plus, I don't want anyone looking over their shoulder at me to see what's in my glass! I don't want to be judged! Also, like you, and SM, nobody really knew how much I drank. I don't know if they would understand me quitting!

  5. I have always worried what other people think of me, since I was a little girl. I hate it! I am trying to care less, but it takes a while to change a lifetime habit. I hope I get there. A x

  6. Yay, Annie! You and I started AF last week. I've made it 7 days, too. The first two days were the most difficult, so far. This time, quitting is different. I have support from this blog and a plan to combat cravings. As long as I eat something the minute I get home from work, the wine witch has no chance! After I get out of the habit of drinking wine, I'll need to temper the food indulgence. As for what people think of me... It's never been an issue for me. I beat myself up enough!

  7. Life is so much simpler lived "in truth." And I suspect growing up "in truth" would be quite wonderful!

  8. Kathy you are so right ! I get the feeling that many of us -maybe even most of us -sharing in this blog are middle aged women. We have children,partners, parents getting older and needing help, careers that get more difficult very year ( pension concerns anyone ?)..... simple is where I want to be. I suspect that I am not alone.

    1. No you are definitely not alone! I feel exactly like this as well!!!