It’s human to worry what other people think of you. When we get sober, a lot of us worry people will judge us—that they’ll think we’re a “stick in the mud” or that we’ll be branded as an “alcoholic” or “addict” forever.
It Isn’t All Or Nothing
It’s easy to say “don’t care what other people think of you,” but much harder to practice. Recovery has given me a sense of internal self-worth and strength that I was never able to find in active addiction; this helps me rely less on external validation for self-worth, but that doesn’t mean I never care what others think. I believe the work isn’t about never caring, but coming to a place where you don’t base your worth on—or make important decisions because of—others’ opinions.
Learning About Your Sober Self
Figuring out who you are in recovery and what your values are can help you rely less on others for validation; when you know who you are, you don’t need others’ opinions to tell you. Getting to know ourselves sober can take time, especially if we spent many years in active addiction. We’ve shared some tips for doing so here. I’ve also found the values worksheet from SMART Recovery—a support group for people with substance or behavioral addictions—helpful for clarifying core values.
Caring About the People Who Matter
Sometimes it’s not about not caring at all what others think, but caring in a healthier way. For instance, I know that I want to be seen as a good friend, partner, sibling, etc. to the people in my life. I want those I’m close with to feel appreciated and supported.
In a way, that’s caring what people think, but it’s about trying to grow my relationships and be good to the people in my life. What would be unhealthy for me is wondering what acquaintances think of my social media posts or worrying what x friend of a friend thinks of my choices. Also, it leads to suffering when I assume I know what even those closest to me are thinking without their telling me.
“Mind reading” is a cognitive distortion where people assume they know what others are thinking about them, typically skewed negatively. Things like meditation and therapy have helped me notice when I’m engaging in that type of thinking so that I can shift my focus.
If you care what others think, that doesn’t mean you’re not enlightened enough or far enough along in recovery. Most people have moments of worrying what other people are thinking, and social media can sometimes encourage those feelings. The important thing is that you focus on your own recovery, and that you’re building an internal sense of worth. Your value is inherent, not tied to what anyone else thinks of you.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is help and hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for mental health disorders and addiction in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help you figure out who you are without substances and build a life in recovery. To learn more, call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.