Do You Worry What People Think of You?

(inspired by http://mbg.to/NJwQWgg)

Yes, I do. All the time. It’s a disease.

1. What is the story you’re telling yourself that’s making you care about what other people think?
2. What consequences has this story had in your life?
3. What has this cost you so far?
4. What is your life going to look like five years, 10 years, 50 years from now if you keep this story or belief?
5. What is it that you truly want?

My answers:

1. What is the story you’re telling yourself that’s making you care about what other people think?

I internalized early on that it’s very important for people to like you no matter what. No matter what. I think it mainly has to do with the stereotypical expectation of women being people pleasers and having that ingrained through all outside influences my entire life. I dislike conflict because it throws me off balance, it flusters me, and I lack the confidence sometimes to stand up to it, to stand up for myself. Any chance I get to avoid it or brush it to the side is a win in my book.

But it isn’t a win.

If I can make everyone like me, then I won’t have conflict. If I don’t have conflict, I won’t feel flustered and self-conscious.

This is impossible.

It makes me uncomfortable when other people have a misconception of who I am. If you were to sit my in-laws down along with my best friend and ask them all what they think of me, they would each give you very different impressions of me. Who is right? Who is wrong? Is anyone wrong? Is it possible that they are both right? My in-laws haven’t talked to me in 10 years; even if there was any truth in how they perceived me then, is there any truth in it now?

I logically know that not everyone is going to like me. I don’t like everyone I meet either. I am probably making unfair assessments of some of them too. Does that really matter? If I never interact with them again, does it matter?

2. What consequences has this story had in your life?

Immense consequences. I have tailored most of my life to making others happy even at the detriment to myself. I have put others before me to the point where I have sacrificed my own happiness, my own goals, and my own wants, desires, needs. I compromise in big ways and small ways in order to make and keep people happy.

Working customer service has been the ultimate expression of this.

I remember having a friend in high school who was deeply depressed. I felt for whatever narcissistic reason my teenage mind could come up with that I was the only one equipped to help him out of it. I put him first in everything and ended up compromising my immune system from neglect and got sick. Nobody won. His parents stepped in and got him the help he needed and things became awkward with us afterwards.

A college friend and I have recently been discussing the Smile women automatically give when we are in an uncomfortable situation. We immediately try to put others at ease even when they are being inappropriate with us. We feel it is our place to still make sure others think kindly of us even when they are strangers rubbing our backs, commenting on our looks, or lifting our sleeve to look at our tattoos.

The ultimate consequence of caring too deeply what others think is never taking a second to think about myself. To realize that I usually put myself last even though I’m the one who lives with myself 24/7 and should take better care.

3. What has this cost you so far?

It has cost me regular growth in self-esteem, in doing things I’ve always wanted to do but haven’t so far because I’m too afraid of what people will say, and it has cost me myself.

I don’t know who I would be right now if I had internalized a healthy response to this. I don’t blame anyone but myself. And I don’t even blame myself; I’ve done what I’ve needed to do in order to get to this place in my life. At 35 years of age, I am learning to care less about what others think and more about presenting peace to those around me and especially to those I do not like.

I am in the midst of renegotiating and reconciling the traditional trappings of what society thinks a wife should be, a woman should be, a childfree person should be, a college graduate should be, an ex-daughter-in-law should be, a writer should be, and an introvert should be. I am realizing some of my paths are going to seem pretty extreme and confusing to some but I can no longer stall my journey down them. I am being unfair to myself and I only have this one life to live.

4. What is your life going to look like five years, 10 years, 50 years from now if you keep this story or belief?

My life is going to look very similar to what it looked like five years ago, 10 years ago, and even 20 years ago. It will be filled with little regretlets following me around, tugging on my pants, reminding me of each time I failed to stand up for myself, failed to follow a dream, and failed to pursue happiness. It will be glazed over with resentment and pointing fingers with an extra healthy dose of bitterness served on the side.

I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned so far and I am cognizant of the fact that I will always have lessons to learn. But many of these lessons need to be put into practice before its too late. There are only so many times you can keep bashing your head against a wall and expect a different result.

5. What is it that you truly want?

Whew.

I want:

– to live my life without fear directing it.

– to be every day honest about who I really am, what I really care about, what my passions are, what my beliefs have evolved into, and how fluid my thoughts really are on gender, sexuality, marriage, and religion (just to name a few).

– to be open about love.

– to celebrate my individuality yet mindfully honor my place in this world.

– to proclaim myself in confidence and remain sturdy when others respond with hesitation or questions.

– to commit to something I’m fearful of and prove to myself I can do it (ie. roller derby…I love the entire idea of it; I am incredibly, immensely fearful of injuring myself. I have yet to break any bones or get stitches. I have arranged my entire life in safety and I feel as though I’m missing out.).

– to go on a vacation all by myself and navigate every aspect of it by myself…just to prove I can do it. I’ve always relied on others when away from home, especially when things go wrong, and I’ve never had to stand on my own two feet in a situation like that.

-to feel wholly comfortable in my skin…regardless of my weight, my body shape, my hair color, or the number of tattoos I happen to have at the time. Regardless of what I think others are thinking of me…because most of the time, they are not thinking about me at all; they are thinking of themselves and their perceived flaws.

#FirstHarassed : a collection of experiences

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CONTAINS REFERENCES TO SEXUAL HARASSMENT

(Inspired by true events)
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I am a woman.

A partner, a lover, a sister, a daughter, a baker, a writer, and a wannabe Buddhist.

But it’s the woman part that many of us have the most trouble with sometimes:

Do you want me to tell you about the time a boyfriend said I shouldn’t pin my bangs back because it made my forehead too big?

Or the time she dreamed her t-shirt went flying through the bedroom door and how she laid on her back for hours, legs spread with a boy-man (who should’ve known better) between them? She can still see the top of his shaved head.

How about the countless bus rides that came with a free thigh rub from a good samaritan senior male?

Another favorite was the 17-year old athlete who threw a hissy fit if she didn’t give him free reign over her body.

All of this we’ve accepted as normal. We were a bunch of hormones sardined together in a school…how else were we supposed to behave? Boys will be boys, right?

Now when I think back to what they tried to get from me, I realize how much they chiseled away. Like a marble slab left to an inexperienced sculptor, my body was chipped away by each one with the promise of something better. With the expectation that I will give and give and give and give.

Because what else is a girlfriend for?

I rejected sexuality then: Not for me, I said. I have a low libido, I claimed.
I needed to protect myself. I can take care of myself, don’t need a man to take care of it for me.

This too was wrong.

To deny our sexuality, our passion, our pleasure; to claim responsibility and shame for their “inability” to keep their hands to themselves is, plain and simple: Bullshit.

When a woman is ingrainedtaughtinstilledindoctrinated with the idea that she is sex first, sex second, and beauty third, she will never be able to stop those thoughts from infiltrating her brain. Even when she discovers feminism, when she grows up, when she builds her self-confidence, when she finds the love(s) of her life and is finally respected.

She will still default to this mindset, even just a little.

And when she is catcalled while walking or patronized by a sexist customer at her job, when she is told by her boss that he won’t hire men to work in her all-female department because “you girls will get distracted”, and when she is sexually harassed at work but is encouraged to hide in the backroom when her harasser is in the store, it feels as though she will never escape.

For every one person who knows better or has changed his/her ways, there appears to be 25 more who won’t budge. Who will stare you right in the eyes and laugh at your discomfort. Who will repeat their sexist comment and dare you to say otherwise. It is a battle that is never-ending. But it is still important to fight. To educate. To not give in.

Because the other day, a woman was catcalled on my street and she stood firm, looked sharply around, and demanded in a loud voice, “Who the HELL just said that? You show your face RIGHT NOW. Right NOW.” over and over again.

To silence.

To no response at all.

The anonymous male voice was swallowed up in the face of strength, courage, and the demand that he claim responsibility for his actions. He could not. He did not.

She is my hero. Sometimes we do win after all.

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The story behind #FirstHarassed

Being present

Breathing in
I am breathing in.
Breathing out
I am breathing out.

When I breathe in, I am in the present moment.
I am not focusing on the future breath, I am not focusing on a past breath.

You and I are here and now. We are immediately present.
I am breathing you in, your presence in, your love in.
I am breathing me out, my presence out, my love out.

I am breathing for me alone. For everyone around me. At the same time.

I am present for me.
I am present for you.

I breathe.

The gardener

You are my garden.

Not in a sense that I own you. No, you are wilderness that I stumbled across at one point in my life and kept coming back to.

I tended you. Your soil was in need of nutrients, water, and love.
You tended me. My soul was in need of what you alone could give me.

The sunlight warmed you, the rain nourished you, the trees protected you.

But every so often, people would trample through my garden, not paying heed to the rich soil that was underfoot.

It’s been a few years and your soil is ready.
Together we planted seeds. Each one was lovingly and carefully enveloped in the earth.
Each one has so much potential.
Letting go of the seeds to their ultimate destiny made me cry but the thought of what they can become made me smile.

This is my promise to you:

I will tend you as I have from the beginning.
I will water and care for each seedling that appears.
I will learn patience: there is no salad to make yet. To harvest the crops now would mean to kill them.

I love my garden and I know the feeling is mutual. I am here, your gardener, your confidant, your secret-keeper. When harvest time comes, we will be new. We will be ready. I will be here where I have always been.

And our baskets will overflow.

Promises

I promise:

more authenticity
more integrity
to listen more effectively
that I’ll take a breath before responding
I will be more cognizant of spreading myself too thin
I will live more outside myself than in my cavernous thoughts
I will care first, judge never

I promise:

to fail at each of those promises every day.
to pick myself back up, forgive myself, and try again.

In lieu of biological children, this is my offering to my community and the world around me. I cannot help but believe every day that this will make a difference. A small one, perhaps, but a difference all the same.

 

 

117 faces

Me at the gate

Last season on the circus, I did a photo project for myself: I wanted to take a photo of me at the front gate every day that reflected the exact mood I was in. I only managed to do it 117 days of our 9 month season, but this is the result: happy, sad, bored, sick, scared, angry, overwhelmed, relieved, calm, and everything in between.

A wintery spring

Hello grey skies, cold winds, and muted sunshine!

I embrace you. I actually do. You may not be pleasant to deal with right now, but you are my reality. You are my today. You may be my tomorrow and you were certainly my yesterday.

I experience you right now which means I am here, breathing, smiling, thinking, loving. I have so much to be thankful for that unpleasant sensations while walking under the trees means a lot less than it could.

It is brisk, it is exhilarating, and it makes me feel wide-eyed and alive.

I breathe in icicles.
I breathe out understanding.

Knowledge is everything. Fear is nothing. Experiences are worth experiencing fully. People are worth loving completely. And the cold, though not wholly appreciated, is worth acknowledging on our path to sunny days.