I'm concious of the fact that I'm writing something really flipping obvious today. Like, hit-your-head-on-the-wall, duhhhh level of obvious.
Apologies. You have to know if you're reading my blog for the first time that I mostly write for myself, to make sense of things that go on in my head. So if you've reached this level of self-actualisation way before me, then congratulations! You've levelled up as a human! Feel free to skip to the end.
Sometimes, though, the most obvious lessons are the ones that are the easiest to forget. Issues become issues again (and again and again). Which is frustrating. I've noticed though that I can pick myself up when I fall a lot quicker when I've already had to do it before.
So that's why I'm writing this.
A big part of my twenties (particularly the early twenties which are slipping further away from me at a terrifying pace) have been spent learning not to care what other people think about me. As a teenager - particularly around the age of sixteen - my self-confidence took a spectacular hit, a nose-dive into nothingness, and it took years and years to be built up to the point where I am now, and frankly, I'm still not quite where I want to be yet. I've said it before, but when I met my husband, I was an actual wreck in a lot of ways. As I mentioned in my last post, grace is what my whole life hinges upon. At that point, I needed Chris to understand me and not put pressure on me to change.
Which he did, gracefully. And he still does, gracefully, ten years on.
The other day we were in the car and I started crying over something really stupid and insignificant. I took something tiny - that might make people think less of me - and it brought back all these memories of how I used to be.
That is what it is like to have low self-esteem (or rather no self-esteem): everything hinges on what other people think. You are obsessively determined to get things right. You analyse everything you've said and done. Every weakness and flaw in you feels huge, glaring and obvious. You put up walls; you don't allow many (or any) people to see those hidden parts of you, because it is too dangerous to let people know who you really are.
Some people might read you as being standoffish, or rude; only you know how you really feel on the inside: inadequate, worthless, terrified. Ordinary social situations used to make me feel shaky and sick.
If you're in the midst of that now, I'm so sorry. Because it really does suck. Just that mild reminder of who I used to be was enough to make me break down, sitting next to Chris as we drove along the motorway, helpless non-stop crying (the snotty, ugly kind).
I am very relieved not to be that person anymore.
A few years ago I resigned that I would no longer pretend to be someone I wasn't: I decided I would purposefully make myself vulnerable sometimes (only to a certain point, obviously). I decided I would be real with people who knew me well enough to still love me regardless. I decided to write this blog, not to show off or pretend that my life is perfect, but to just be honest. As honest as possible. And to let people in to that honesty. Because what is the worst that can happen? You can get hurt? People might think less of you?
So what if people think less of you?
I've struggled the past couple of years to deal with the very real (and very loud) opinions that people have about the way mothers should do things. I never expected this: this intense interest in how other people raise their kids. I've learnt that I raise my daughter in a different way than my friends might raise their kids: that's fine. When you're in baby-and-toddler world, it can be really easy to lose sight of the big picture and to think that the smallest of choices mean everything. I've learnt to let go of comments from people in the midst of that. Because I get it: some people do things that make me raise my eyebrows (internally). You forget that in the long run it doesn't really matter how you decide to sleep train your kids or whatever.
But still, sometimes, I let people's opinions get to me. We all have our weak spots, right? Like the soft fleshy underbelly of a boss monster. Doesn't matter how well-armoured we think we are: there's always a little weak spot somewhere, and whether on purpose or not, someone will hit it eventually. For me, that weak spot is being a stay at home Mum. I occasionally hear people saying things like:
'I couldn't be a stay at home Mum. I'd be so bored. I need stimulation. I'd need my brain to keep working'
'I think it's good for the kids to see me as a role model by working.'
'I could never rely on my husband like that: I'm too independent.'
All of those statements are relating to that person: they're not saying 'I hate stay at home Mums and they suck and they smell.' They are just ... thinking about themselves. (Most of them anyway. I've been on the receiving end of some pointed comments about our life decisions before, and that's a whole different ballgame).
But, boom! Arrow straight to my weak spot. I start wibbling when I hear that kind of stuff. I start wondering 'if that person thinks that, then what do they think about me?'
Do you know what?
It doesn't matter.
It doesn't actually matter. I don't need to prove anything to those people, and frankly, if someone is so narrow-minded that they can't imagine why anyone would make a different choice to them, then they are not a person I should waste my time on. And I don't feel the need to justify myself by listing out all the reasons why we made this choice (like I used to, when people asked, stammering out a long list of all the circumstances that led us to this point).
I'm learning to narrow my focus and purposefully block certain things out. Because it's too exhausting otherwise. I find caring about my immediate family as well as caring about friends and my wider family, and being concerned for the state of the wider world, takes up so much of my headspace that frankly I don't have time to care about this sort of stuff anymore.
If you're trapped in a bubble of losing time or emotional energy or even sleep worrying about what people think of you, then repeat after me:
Sometimes I will make decisions that will make other people judge me, and that's okay.
If you're reading this and you're still at that place where everything hinges on how others perceive you, I understand. Hang in there. Sometimes, all you need is time to get your confidence back.
... maybe someone is reading this and judging me right now.
If that's you: I'm terribly sorry, but I don't care what you think.
Hey. Does that mean I've levelled up?
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