The effect of other people's opinions (OPO) can be extremely powerful. Input from a collective group can be helpful, valuable and quite constructive.
Just look at Yelp. I use this site all the time for restaurant and service recommendations. I employ the Yelp user reviews as direction to where to eat, who to get my nails done by in a foreign city or to choose a local florist to deliver an arrangement to an out-of-towner. I trust without question the opinions of complete strangers who offer star ratings, testimonials and detailed journals of their personal experiences regarding local businesses. Yelp has yet to be wrong.
On the flipside, there are times when unsolicited OPO makes its way into your life. There seems to be a particular phenomenon that when you share your medical adventures – everyone else wants to share too, and most of the time it's horror stories of pain, discomfort and gore.
When I recently relented and decided to finally get a cortisone shot in the tendon sheath that runs around the thumb and into the wrist to alleviate the physically limiting pain I was experiencing in my left hand, I was impaled by OPO – a bevy of well-wishing folks who detailed the humongous needle, shooting pain and general horror I was about to undergo.
By the time I arrived at the doctor's office, I was a blubbering mess. I commandeered my husband to be my official "hand-holder" and was resigned to getting the shot, regardless of the unbearable, bone-shattering pain "other people" told me I was about to endure. I was so worked up I was sweating, my stomach was in knots, nausea set in and at one point I thought for sure my body was about to hit the floor.
Then, the doctor came in and suddenly had second thoughts on whether the shot was the correct recourse. (That, or he viewed my pallor and decided I might need a moment before he shot me up.) He decided to do x-rays (to buy some time and) to be sure the joint was not the problem since at this point, I could not even form my first initial with my own thumb and index finger. Relieved, I looked at Chuck and told him, "There is no way I am getting that shot now." My husband shook his head in disbelief at the doctor's stupidity, "Well, he missed his window of opportunity. It's too late now."
I was beyond the point of return. The tales of pain beyond the human threshold proved to be too much. Other people's opinions got the best of me.
The doctor returned to the exam room with unwelcome, yet good news. The joint looked OK, which meant the doctor's original suspicion of tendonitis was correct and a cortisone shot would be the fastest, surest way to provide me with some relief.
A nurse covertly sauntered in and placed a syringe and aerosol bottle on the table near the sink.
Guilt set in. I suddenly felt terrible that the nurse had taken the effort of bringing the injection gear in. I knew I had to "woman" up. Plus, I didn't want to go home, then have second thoughts, muster some bravery and pay yet another $50 office visit co-pay. I looked at Chuck, I looked at the hand specialist, took a deep breath and uttered words I was sure I would regret: "Let's do this." OPO echoed in my head as I foreshadowed the imminent hurt.
The physician made a funny about how this was his "first time," too, and I broke into a fresh sweat. He rearranged the room so that we were both comfortably seated and Chuck had a special place for his hand-holding duty.
I told the doctor I would be looking away the whole time, turned my head, closed my eyes and started taking deep breaths. I felt a cool spray at the entry point near the top of my wrist (the doc showed some mercy with a topical numbing agent) and then, well ... nothing.
Okay, at one point there was a slight twinge of pressure, but I giggled with relief as I turned to the doctor and muttered something about being embarrassed for making much ado about ... nothing. Talk about anti-climactic.
This is not the first time OPO has taken advantage of my trustworthy nature. Other people had similarly made me quite apprehensive for my first mammogram – an incredibly important test for every woman to get. Tales of painfully squished boobies made me almost bow out. However, the discomfort of that test is more about standing in the middle of a cold medical space right in front of an alien-looking apparatus and then sticking your boob in it, rather than actual physical pain.
Now listen, I am not some super human with an unusually high pain threshold, or a fetishist of the "Fifty Shades" variety. Either I'm just a regular gal who is very vulnerable to OPO, or other people are total wusses.
Yet, how could it be that OPO is so often correct with movie recommendations, the best place to get Indian Dosa when visiting Cleveland or revealing who has the best complementary cocktail hour hors d'oeuvres spread?
Here's an opinion from this person: If someone is about to undergo an experience (whatever it may be) that they are at all apprehensive about, try to be optimistic. (Unless of course this experience may risk their life or is a major-high stakes situation that justifies some devil's advocate counsel.)
Don't fill their head with damaging junk that only causes proliferation of their fears or may make them second-guess going through with something that could ultimately turn out OK. Everyone's perception of a situation is different, but the extent to which you can influence someone else's encounter (whether your impact is helpful or hurtful) is mega huge.
OPO is a constructive tool for more trivial fare, but I've got to beef up "MOO" (my own opinion) so I can filter OPO a tad more effectively for the big stuff.
Yeah, pain is so subjective. What I consider mild discomfort may be another persons worst pain ever. When I hear people going on and on about how terrible a colonoscopy is or something like that, I think, sheesh, how did you make it through life this far.
I do believe many people really are just big cry babies. This is perverse, but I kind of delight in watching a grown man in the chair next to me at the lab for a blood draw wincing before the tech even gets the needle close to his arm. Come on now cope, people.
My mom always talks about her miscarriages around pregnant women. It makes me furious. Whilst reading this article, the black sheep's "the choice is yours" plays in my head. Maybe because it came out the same year as opp.
It's kinda like tattoos right? One person says the pain is unbearable, the next person can sit for a tattoo all day. Someone probably told you that tattoos hurt before you got your first one, but obviously you found out you could stand having one (or a couple dozen of them) done. You can't trust OPO when it comes to pain; some people need a shot of novocaine to get a haircut, and some people just seem to like making other people worry needlessly. Whatever it is, it's rarely as bad as you build it up in your mind to be.
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