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A man looks around himself suspiciously, he is wearing a face mask and holding an inhaler and nebulizer. He's standing in a protective bubble but all around it are judgmental eyes

Do You Worry About What Others Think?

Imagine this scenario: you are in a store, wearing a mask to stay safe. Suddenly, you start coughing, sneezing, and wheezing.

The need to catch your breath forces a pause in the middle of an aisle, and you can't help but feel the weight of others' stares and judgments.

Silently, people appear to be looking at you as if saying:

"You must have COVID."
"Why are you wearing a mask?"

Feeling judged by others

Living with a chronic lung disease often means making lifestyle changes to keep your lungs happy. You wear masks, don oxygen, and carry concentrators or tanks.

You may even do your shopping with a motorized shopping cart. It feels as if the general perception is that others are staring, passing judgment.

"Can you get out of the way? I need to get through the aisle."

"You look fine! Why are you riding in that motorized cart? You should save that for people who need it."

The scope of this type of judgment extends beyond the COPD community. I've encountered similar comments within the asthma community.

I've had lengthy discussions with others on this topic. So, if you think you are being judged unfairly, you are surely not alone.

Self-care and social interactions

As someone with asthma, I don't typically require a shopping cart or a nasal cannula. I also don't have to carry a backpack with an oxygen concentrator.

Nevertheless, there are moments when I start coughing, feel short of breath, and reach for my inhaler. In the past, I've experienced that distinct feeling of others staring at me, passing judgment. I truly understand what it's like.

While I still have my moments, I've learned not to worry as much about what others think. Listening to podcasts and reading books on this subject played a crucial role in this shift.

I recall reading a book where a quote stuck with me (I'm paraphrasing here): "Sometimes it feels like all eyes are on us, making us nervous, anxious, and maybe even angry.We need to realize that thinking this way assumes others are well-adjusted. The truth is, it's likely the other way around – those people are probably more concerned about what you think of them."

Quotes like this guide me in public places. I prioritize my needs without worrying about others.

A part of me now recognizes that, chances are, no one is judging me. In fact, they might even be proud of me for taking care of myself.

Easier said than done! Right?

Confidently navigating social perceptions

While it's tempting to declare we won't worry about what others think, it's a natural inclination. So, there are a couple of actions we can take.

We can go about our business, do what we need to survive, and try not to worry about others. Alternatively, especially with family and friends, we can take the time to educate them about our conditions.

Now imagine this scenario: you are in a store, and suddenly, you start coughing. Feeling the need to catch your breath, you pause in the middle of the aisle and reach for your inhaler.

At that moment, you feel a sense of confidence. If anyone is looking at you, it's not with glares of judgment but rather with expressions of empathy and concern.

The understanding that those around you may be offering support rather than criticism is a reassuring feeling. It's a reminder that, in moments of vulnerability, the human connection can often be one of compassion and understanding.

If anyone happens to be staring and passing judgment, well, that's more about them than it is about you. Their missed opportunity for empathy and understanding is a reflection of their own perspective, not a measure of their worth or the validity of their experience.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The COPD.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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