Early in life, I was exposed to the hateful side of the world. By elementary school, I’d quit ballet at the racist academy I was being trained at. By middle school, I’d been in two physical altercations and the subject of dozens of malicious jokes for being smart, thin, and unattractive. Two characteristics of which I’ll own up to (*flips hair*). By high school, I’d been named public enemy number one by an adolescent female gang. And by college, I’d been raped, kidnapped, and outcasted.
Imaginably, processing my relational trauma as something that – impacted me, but – was not a reflection of my character, worth, and future, rather my perpetrators’ was difficult. And the struggle persisted as I entered college, surrounded by new people and determined to make the most of the opportunity I’d been given to start over. My first few encounters were positive, convincing me that I wasn’t the issue. But, as the high energy and sociability of an incoming freshmen class slowly began to fade, I again became the target of jealousy and gossip. It didn’t help that my family had joined what we’d later discover was a Christian cult. Keeping it all together meant viewing each injustice as an isolated event instead of lumping everything together like the universe was personally attacking me, and encouraging myself that I’d one day be able to put it all behind me as I had my prior disappointments. Rationality and hope.
Even now, I still don’t have it easy socially. I have a wonderful husband, some supportive family, several awesome friends, and dozens of past and current clients who would swear by my goodness, but for each group of people who shower me with love and appreciation, there’s at least one person who doesn’t.
Today, I want to share with you my strategy for living with the fact that to some people, I’ll never be kind, beautiful, intelligent, amazing…or enough.
The therapist in me wants to hear all the reasons you care about why the people who hate you hate you. But only so I can help you get to a place of not caring. See, I cared until I didn’t have any more care left to give. And guess what? Their hatred still remained endless. In fact, it intensified. Since they were no longer able to control me with my concern, they lay in wait for me to mess up, so they could magnify my faults and control me by ruining my reputation.
“When insecure people see you happy and unbothered, they feel inferior and will go to any length to stretch your small flaws to large ones, because they need to somehow legitimize their dislike for you by making you seem like a bad person.” -Detron Brown, PharmD, MPH
Unfortunately for them, I’d lived portions of my life with a good reputation and other portions with a horrible one, so social isolation was not a suitable means of controlling me either.
Through all this, I found that as kryptonite is to Superman, being kind, beautiful, intelligent, amazing and enough is to people who refuse to see you as kind, beautiful, intelligent, amazing and enough. Their decision to opt out of admitting how awesome you are is a tactic – to get you to stop being awesome…because then, you prove them right. By focusing on them and their opinions of you, you lessen the amount of energy you have to keep being the person they talked about and acted against in the first place. That’s why the key is to focus on you, your healing from their senseless assaults, and your life after recovery, instead of on them.
I’ve heard this a million times: “how others feel about you, think of you, and act toward you is their problem, not yours.” And despite how cliche it is, it’s true. A large part of healing from trauma involves shifting your narrative from a story of enslavement to one of empowerment. In other words, not getting so caught up living out someone else’s subjugating fantasy of you that you forget to actually live.
Realize, some people only dislike you because of the way other people respect you, some people only speak ill of you because of the way other people esteem you, and some people only mistreat you because of the way other people favor you. I know it doesn’t make sense, but…feelings aren’t science.