[“Whatever Forever” – The Mowgli’s]
As I believe is made evident by my writing here—sharing my hurts and feelings—I am a fairly open person. In fact, I believe openness and the ability to empathize are my two best personality traits. That being said, I also am a bundle of flaws who realizes that perfection is an aspirational state of being, not a reality. Therefore, I pride myself on being an incredibly forgiving person who understands that flaws are inherent and can sometimes come out, despite best efforts. This combination of beliefs means that I rarely hold real grudges and therefore I hold no real regrets. I thoroughly believe that everything is a learning experience and I can rationalize myself out of most anger. Actually being angry makes me feel nauseous, like my body is literally trying to physically reject the emotional experience. I may become frustrated easily on occasion but I let it go just as quickly. I try, adamantly, to go with the flow and spread good vibes in my wake.
Unfortunately, It is through my ability to forgive, and my practiced nonchalance, that I have found myself being taken advantage of. Previously, I thought it was simply par for the course and I should let these instances go if I was to maintain this attitude of understanding. For me, it has been a hard road to the realization that there is a difference between being generally accepting and being walked on.
I’ll start out by saying: I have never been one to have much self esteem. Strike that, I have never been one to have any self esteem, really. I am not the prettiest, the smartest, the funniest… no real, relevant “est”s apply to me as far as I am concerned. And there have been plenty of comments made throughout my life to support my lack of confidence. I have actually been asked, by another human being, what it’s like to be the ugly one in my group of friends. I have been aggressively lied to, made to feel insane for my rational feelings, told I am hard to love, that I am not fun, that I am difficult to be around… I have been ripped to metaphorical shreds (especially in the past few months) and made to feel entirely unworthy… And I just took it… Believing these comments to be the truth because the words came from people I had valued the opinions of; thanks to my stupid mantra of acceptance and forgiveness. As I said before, words have weight and there is no taking them back (seriously y’all, don’t speak unless you can improve the silence).
I let each instance go, as best I could, because I thought that maybe I deserved it, maybe there is something about me that truly is utterly undesirable. It never occurred to me that my own opinion, that my own self worth, should be dictated internally, not externally. It never occurred to me that these people were viewing my through their own fun-house-mirror lens. No one knows me better than me, but I was letting other people dictate my self worth (and ignoring anyone’s positive comments made to the contrary as well).
Pardon my French, but that’s all kinds of fucked up, right?
I have always known that my sense of self worth, or lack thereof, is an issue. Unfortunately, I only realized recently how miserable I had been making myself by not allowing it to play a role in my relationships. I thought it only applied to my relationship with myself, not with others. Over the past few months, as I have sailed through one misery after another, these statements from my former love and some other people who have played roles in my life, have drifted into my consciousness at the most inoppertune times and haunted me… Especially in the quiet dark as I drift off to sleep. I finally realized the enormity of this problem when the people in my dreams started telling me what a waste of space I was: “Said person,” his new love, beloved family members, my (inexplicably) verbally capable cat, lovely and steadfast friends, even random strangers… All of them started berating me in my dreams, making the action of waking up just another nightmare as I had to then shake myself of the feelings of doubt I experienced whenever I interacted with the real-life people who had only so recently belittled my existence, just within the confines of my own brain rather than in reality.
Because I have cared more for the opinions of others than my own (and only the negative ones, apparently), these feelings of worthlessness have all been a mess of my own making. I can’t control what other people think, feel, or say; but I can control how I choose to internalize their reflections. I am definitely not the prettiest, but I am fairly certain that I am not the ugliest (people don’t run screaming or vomit from the sight of me at least—maybe they just have strong stomachs and low flight responses). I ask way too many ridiculous questions to be the smartest, but I know I am not the dumbest (I am paid to write things for my department, and no one has thrown them back at me in disgust… Yet). And I may not be the funniest, but I can tell some decent jokes (Q: What do you call a dead bee? A: A was—I made that up when I was about 10—Thank you, I’ll be here all week). Evidence of my adequacy exists, I was simply choosing to ignore it.
I am far from perfect, but I am fairly satisfied with where I sit on the Bell Curve of imperfection. What is life without the desire to constantly improve?
How did I get here? Not gonna lie, it was by hitting rock bottom. Forcibly hitting rock bottom because the trap door under me was triggered by some dude I chose to love. I then fell to the bottom of a long, dark, pit that had spikes and outcroppings to tear at me physically and emotionally on the way down. But, from rock bottom you can only look up. You can see things from a different angle and not worry about what’s behind you. So, having hit it by force, I am in the process of re-evaluating my life in this cavernous, dank emotional hole. I had thought that I was set and settled in life, I was comfortable where I was; but it turns out everything can change in an instant and sometimes that can be for the better (not that I recommend this for anyone… Definitely try to reassess before hitting this point).
So, how have I been able to say, after 27 years of disuse, that I care for myself a little more each day, you may ask? Through Emotional Decluttering (I didn’t know what this was called when I started my life assessment in between bouts of crying and manic positivity, a lovely and wonderful friend shared that link with me). I just knew that the actions I was taking to rid myself of negativity were helping me feel better. Out of necessity, I formulated a plan and it turns out that plan is one that others have formed as well (it’s always nice to know you’re not alone).
I was (and am) actively working to remove harmful or unused elements from my life. I was essentially an emotional hoarder who was forced into a self-imposed intervention. I held on to everyone and everything despite the fact that many people and things in my life had outlived their usefulness. I was too scared to let each item go because I thought that one day I might need it.
If you’re too hard to be around? SAYONARA! If you cause too much drama? CIAO (and not in the “hello” sense)! If you make me feel bad about myself in ways that are not constructive and thoughtful (because let’s face it, everyone needs a reality check sometimes)? SEE YA! Does my stomach cramp up with anxiety at the thought of you? ADIOS! Are you a faker, a flake, a one-upper, a douche nozzle, a poo poo head, or just plain mean? DEUCES BRO!
At the end of the day, I don’t support people or emotions that don’t support me. Life is hard enough without letting someone tear you down (especially when that someone is yourself… Be your own advocate and cut yourself some slack).
What I DO Have Time For…
I have already admitted that I am far from perfect. A sense of self is something I have always needed but not actively sought. Waiting 27 years to access a built-in but not broken-in personality trait means I am currently experiencing my awkward teenage phase in this process. I am occasionally over or under selling myself, misrepresenting my thoughts and feelings, and sometimes wanting to give up because, dammit, it’s hard to recognize where you’re lacking and it’s even harder to prompt yourself to feel real pride. I am having emotional growing pains.
I still struggle every day with the idea of people even LOOKING at me… What if I have something in my teeth? Do I look weird? Ugh, I hate my hair. Why can’t I be invisible? Why is this something I have to take on? Why can’t it be as it was before? All of these things can be wrapped into my anxiety disorder as well, sure, but I still have to address them and create coping strategies.
It’s a constant effort and struggle but I am doing what I can to climb my way out of this pit of sadness that I was abandoned in, by the person I loved most in the world. Turns out, while romantic love is great, I should have been the one I loved most.
Who knew 80 days could yield such personal growth? I wish I was recognizing 80 days from some other date than my separation, but beggars can’t be choosers. Turns out though, that beggars can find that they are kinda fun and maybe not so hard to love.
*Thank you to all the people who actively try to lift others up. If you tried with me, it’s likely I didn’t listen and for that I am sorry. Sometimes you have to be hit upside the head with a bad thing before you recognize some of the good ones. Regardless, I appreciate you.
Photo: E. Campbell (2017)