We are social creatures, so we all care about what others think to some extent. And it’s not always a bad thing. If we didn’t care all what others thought about us we’d be bad friends at our best or spending a lot of time in jail at worst.
But, like many people who struggle with their self-esteem, I care a LOT about what other people think about me. Like, way too much. I have always been really worried about offending other people, disappointing them, or even just saying something in a way that is misinterpreted. I’m super conflict averse and will hide my true feelings in order to please others, even when it means that I’m left feeling frustrated, resentful or just resigned to not getting what I want. It would be one thing if this didn’t cause me any problems, but because I put myself out there on social media, this has obviously held me back. I’m ashamed to say that I’ve shied away from talking about things that are important to me because they are controversial. Or I’ve posted something that gets challenged in some way causing me to remove it.
Clarifying my values and intentions and keeping them in mind has been really helpful for this. In my social media work, I’ve realized that the things I value most are teaching about and destigmatizing mental illness, being real and honest with people, helping people live better lives and using creativity and humor to do it.
The next step was probably even more important: noticing what is not on this list. Being sensitive to all possible concerns, getting more likes/followers/whatever, never offending anyone, responding to every critical comment or message, trying to win over people who hate psychiatrists, avoiding all possible mistakes, doing everything for everyone without taking a break, the list could go on and on.
In fact, in order to fully realize my values, I know that I’m going to have to embrace making some of these mistakes. Otherwise, I couldn't talk about antidepressants, even though I’ve read the research on their efficacy and seen them save lives (including my own), because I know that there are people who believe antidepressants are merely a money making tool pushed by big-pharma. How could I be real and honest with people without making mistakes and sometimes offending someone with my word choice? If I want to destigmatize mental illness, I need to talk about my own struggles, even though I know that medicine can be so hypocritical when it comes to these issues.
We can’t please everyone, and in fact, if we are pleasing everyone it’s only because we are holding ourselves back. If you aren’t making someone uncomfortable, then you aren’t having the impact you could be having on those who need your message.