Last week someone who was once very close to me called me a slut. First on social media, then via text. And while I could do a million rants on slut-shaming, and misogyny and a narrative that condemns girls for being too promiscuous yet tells them they need to be more sexy, I’d like to focus on another topic in this post: and thats a preoccupation with what others think of us.
At dinner with some friends this week, someone said the following to me: “I am not who I think I am. I am not who you think I am. I am who I think you think I am.” So simple, yet so incredibly powerful, and I am most definitely a culprit. I hate that my ex boyfriends Twitter is on my list of most frequently viewed websites rather than the CBC or the Globe and Mail or even freaking Buzzfeed, anything that stimulates my mind rather than beating it down. I have never felt more small than when I read something I believe is directed at me and purposefully so as to make me feel even smaller. So why do we subject ourselves to it then? I’ve never considered myself to be incredibly confident, but never to be crippingly insecure either. Sure there are things about myself I’d like to tweak, but I consider myself to be a self-aware person who is relatively comfortable with who she is, yet sometimes I let what I think others think of me to dictate who I am, what I say and how I act.
I used to think I was the problem with certain relationships and friendships. That if I put in more effort, or tried a little harder, or if I could just be who I thought that person wanted be to be or needed me to be, then all would be well, and I would be enough. It took me a long time to learn that no matter how hard I try I may never be good enough for some people. That your actions and words may never change someone’s perspective of you or feelings towards you. And that’s ok. In fact life becomes a lot easier and a lot more enjoyable when we realize this. I spent too long thinking I was the problem. We are not always made to understand the actions and thoughts of others. Think of if someone tried to make sense of the million little things you do and think on a daily basis. But we are made to be able to forgive ourselves, and move on and away from hurt. To tell ourselves that we have done out best, and that we can’t always win.
When I was in high school I received a message from a boy I knew in elementary school. He wanted to apologize for making fun of my weight when we were younger, and said that I had grown into a beautiful young woman. This message sticks with me today because quite truthfully I don’t remember him in particular ever being rude or mean towards me. But it was clearly something that he was unable to let go of until he messaged me. When people treat others poorly it weighs heavily on them. We’ve all felt this.
Sometimes an apology doesn’t come in the form of an “I’m sorry” or a bouquet of flowers. Its hidden in the self loathing words one puts on his social media, or comes years later at a party or through a Facebook message. Sometimes its just the way someone looks at you, knowing that they could have been better to you, done better by you. But waiting for this is a waste of time, because you need to be able to move on without an I’m sorry. To accept others and their actions for what they are, to forgive them for their wrongs, but to understand that they made a decision and that there is nothing you could have done to change that decision.
I’m a firm believer that going to bed at night being happy with the person you are and proud of the decisions you’ve made is one of the most peaceful things in life. I may be upset or angry with relationships in my life, or hurt by what others have said or thought about me, but I think highly of myself which is ultimately what matters. If you can find the peace in that I know you’ll be just fine. I know I am. And I no longer want to be who I think others think I am. I’d like to be who I want to be. For me I know that is enough.