The Freedom of Indifference

Posted by Kristin Beale in Life After Paralysis on October 20, 2021 # Lifestyle

We worry about what other people think entirely too much. Our culture is inundated with political correctness, people tiptoeing around their feelings, and over-inclusivity. You get the picture. It’s exhausting.

Today’s atmosphere of Cancel Culture has trained us to be overly conscious of the feelings and potential sensitivity of people around us. For a lot of reasons, being aware of that stuff is a good thing but, when it means you’re constantly trying to appease and/or keep up with people around you, it can reach an unhealthy level.

When I was first in my accident and newly wheelchair-dependent, I was a messy ball of self-consciousness; I was consumed by how I was coming across to my peers, how my disability was affecting my appearance, and with the “burden” my circumstance was putting on others. Being in an accident and adjusting to my wheelchair pushed the RESET button on my self-confidence and set me into overdrive with overthinking and over-caring.

Now, 16 years later and far after the fact, I’m a confident, disabled young woman. Only in hindsight, I see that I should have used the time I spent being so dang preoccupied with what other people were doing or thinking about me, to reflect and take stock of my new position in the world. I could have used that time to reflect on the abilities I do have, to be grateful for my opportunity to improve myself physically and psychologically, and to get a head start on my long, long stretch toward the self-confidence I have today.

Anyway, hindsight is 20/20, and regret never gets us anywhere. There’s no productivity in the “I should haves.”

So, let’s talk about what it looks like to reflect, be grateful, and better yourself because those are the first steps toward self-contentment. Your first challenge is to stop giving your self-doubt the time of day. For me, that has often looked like saying “No” aloud to myself when a negative or intrusive thought pops into my mind. If you don’t like that one, you can make a list of the things, at least 5, you love about yourself somewhere that you can refer back to when you need a pep. If you can’t think of five, think harder. You’re making a highlight reel of yourself, and anything less than five won’t work.

Focusing on your virtue will get your mind out of that negative place and, hopefully, remind you that you have what it takes to get through whatever kind of nail is in your road. We all have what it takes, but having the right mindset is the first step. Reflect on your blessings and be grateful for what you have. If that isn’t easy, then your mindset needs to change seats. Sit with it until you can figure out how to appreciate where you are.

Now, we set goals. Without this piece, you’ve only acknowledged your discontent and not improved it. Changing your mindset is the first step but, if you don’t make changes and your turbulence persists, you’ll slip right back into that bad spot.

I struggled with this most of my first year of college. I was throwing myself into a situation where I could no longer depend on the friendships I made throughout my life in grade school, and I had to create an environment around myself from what felt like scratch. Every new person I met in college only knew the disabled version of Kristin and not the version that my high school friends were privileged: a fun, likable girl who had a hard time. Especially my first year, I struggled with seeing the good, loveable parts of myself in that new environment, and with seeing the light at the end of my Socially Misfitted Tunnel. Needless to say, I didn’t make many friends that first year.

I got through it, though, and that’s the important part. I promised not to put myself through that year of isolation again, and I started the sophomore year with a goal: be uncomfortable, make friends, and push myself into happiness. I stopped caring so much about what people thought of me, instead of focusing on what made me happy. I can’t claim to have mastered my confidence until about eight years after making that goal but, now that’s it’s part of who I am, I’m free.

I don’t care what other people think of me. I just don’t. I only say that because I know I’m a happy, honest person without a guilty conscience, so you need to get that part straight first. Be kind to others, help people when you can, and free yourself from the burden of other people’s judgment. It’s much more fun this way.

Kristin Beale is a native of Richmond, Virginia. She is the author of two books, Greater Things and A Million Suns, and a comic book, Date Me. Check them out and read an excerpt at Her comics can be found on Instagram @Greater.Things.Comics.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.