May, Myself, & I: A Self-Love Experiment
DAY FOUR: It’s none of my business what you think of me.
I lived many years in the illusion that I could control whether you liked me. I wanted everyone to like me or want me or want to be me. My sense of worth came from if I thought I’d impressed you. If a post had a lot of likes or if I made someone laugh, I’d feel as though I’d earned my keep that day. As if my life isn’t worth living if I’m not making some substantial difference in millions of people’s lives.
And if something I said or did elicited a negative response from someone? I’d spin out, melt down, isolate. I called my mom multiple times in middle school and high school for her to pick me up and take me home… All because of someone’s comment or because of the way a person looked at me or because I’d done something embarrassing or had a pimple makeup couldn’t hide.
Over my lifetime, I created this choo-choo train of every negative comment spoken to or about me, which ran parallel to the train of every time I’d hurt a person, embarrassed myself, or let myself or someone down. Both trains ran off guilt and shame, even if someone had done something horrible to me. If a person was mean to me or said a rude comment, I’d thank them for their honesty and try to find truth in their comment, wondering how many other people thought the same thing. I’d take it to heart as an absolute truth and begin implementing a plan to fix that part of myself.
As my SigO and my therapist tell me: “Jen. Sometimes people are just assholes and there’s no deeper meaning behind it. Just because someone says something about you doesn’t mean it’s true.”
But…That’s how I defined myself. I knew I was sexy if someone told me I was or if I dressed in the way society taught me was “sexy.” I knew I was funny if I made folks laugh or if they reassured me. I knew I was talented when I was affirmed of it. A lifetime lived with a bleeping red battery, only able to temporarily be recharged by the positive feedback of others.
You know that’s one of the main reasons I’ve held myself back from fully pursuing my dreams? I am so deeply terrified of the inevitable criticism. I’m not sure I’d be able to handle it. Brene Brown has a great talk on Netflix where she discusses the time her TedX talk surprisingly went viral. While there was a lot of support, there were also downright rotten responses. People commented negatively on every sensitive topic possible. She ate peanut butter and watched Downtown Abbey to cope.
My skin has gotten much thicker. Or, rather, my love and acceptance toward myself has gotten much larger. I can handle far more than I could even a few years ago. I still have a ways to go. And that’s ok. I’m making progress every day.
A big lesson I’m learning is that there is literally no way I can get everyone to like me. There’s no way to help every single human while I’m here. There’s no way to be perfect. Which should be a relief, really. But sometimes it just irritates me and I try for the impossible anyway, ultimately burning myself out or ending up disappointed.
Only in the last year have I gotten comfortable laughing at my jokes even if someone else doesn’t laugh. I love puns and dad jokes. Yknow… The kinds that make people roll their eyes and go “oh gaawd” in response? Them’s my jam. But I avoided them because I was terrified someone would think I was dumb.
Now I do puns all the time. I’ll do them puntil the cows come home. I’m punaffected by people’s lack of laughter. I enjoy them even if others don’t laugh or punderstand. I have jokes with myself now! Inside jokes!
My boyfriend asked me via video chat what I was doing tonight. What I wanted to say was, “I’m working out” or “I’m reading about astrophysics” or “I just finished my book” or “I got a sweet new tattoo” or even “I’m watching a rad award-winning movie with blood and drama and car chases.” My actual answer? “I’m watching The Cutting Edge, a cheesy romantic comedy from 1992.” He rolled his eyes and chuckled. I went on, “It’s got montages and everything!”
I took a moment to celebrate this as a huge victory for me. Some folks may not understand this. I’ve known lots of people throughout my life who seemed to embrace their preferences and taste without being affected by what others thought of it. I always wished I could be like them. Instead, I spent my life as a chameleon… Liking what others liked, which changed depending on who I was around. I’d keep to myself the things I’d deemed lame or silly or embarrassing or unattractive. I liked the music another person liked and the food they liked and even the hobbies they liked.
It’s taken years to discover what I enjoy doing and what my taste is. I still get panicky about choosing a movie or show to watch if another person is watching it with me… BECAUSE WHAT IF THEY HATE IT.
So… For me to tell my boyfriend that I was watching a silly rom-com (which past Jen would have deemed not-allowed because it was too “typical girly”) without feeling any guilt or shame around it feels amazing.
I’m learning that this experience is unique. Your experience is unique to you. No two people will ever have completely the same taste… And good thing, too! That’d be a boring way to live. I have found that the more I embrace who I am, how I feel, what I think and what I want, the closer I’m becoming with the people in my life. Especially when we learn how different we are. Suddenly, the relationship dynamic becomes far more interesting!
The beauty of shifting out of the fear of what others think of me is that I’m accessing a new depth of honesty. I stand up for myself more now. I say I don’t like a thing if I don’t like it. It’s what’s allowing me to do this 30-day journey and share it online. Because whether I get 2 likes or 20 or 2,000 doesn’t matter. What matters is me feeling free within myself. What matters is honesty, even if it brings up discomfort for me or others.
And realistically, I’m not that big of a deal. And I mean that in the most loving way possible. I am such a tiny blip in your radar. The world will go on whether I post this or choose not to. And you’ll survive if I like differently-shaped pasta than you do.
By getting to know myself and by sharing that with others, some people have naturally faded out of my life. In their place, I’ve naturally attracted people who truly love me for me. For the REAL me, not the representative me. They like me, quirks and all. And, I’ll tell you what, my relationships have become deeper and more interesting.
Today’s extra loving tasks:
- I painted my fingernails. This is something I typically avoid doing, because-again-I’ve seen it as too much of a typical-girl thing… And I wanted to be special and different. (Turns out I am, just by being me.)
- I took the evening to drink tea, read a book, watch baking shows, and then watch a 90’s rom-com about figure skaters.
- I woke up with spinning thoughts this morning and took my dog on a walk and did free-flow yoga, all the while doing my best to accept how I felt rather than condemn myself.
- I shared vulnerably with a friend. The kind of share which makes the tummy tight afterward. It was received well, and our friendship is closer now.
What about you do you want to stop hiding? What are some of your adorable quirks?