I wasn’t always like this. I grew up as a fun-loving and even outgoing kid. Totally unconcerned with the world around me and what it thought.
But at some point, I started letting the stares of other people in. The comments. The teasing. I started to look around and realize I wasn’t like my classmates. I couldn’t do the things they could. I walked different. I was different.
It was then that I started spending my life trying to please other people. Trying to get them to like me because I was different so I assumed their default would be not to like me. I tried to wear the right clothes. Keep up with the latest makeup trends. Make my wild, curly hair straight or flat to match the other girls. I was quiet, nice, and always agreeable. I had opinions but I never shared them except maybe with my parents or really close friends. I avoided conflict at all costs.
I would love to sit here and say now that in my mid-30s I’ve outgrown that, but I definitely haven’t. What I have done though is realized just how much energy I’ve spent on other people. On what other people thought or felt about me. I’m trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be so they wouldn’t write me off because of my disability.
The realization is the first step. During the last two years, I’ve spoken out a lot about COVID and my feelings about it and the way people have handled it. I have no doubt I’ve alienated some people with those feelings and thoughts. I’m sure people have unfriended and unfollowed me. And my default reaction to that is still to want to blame myself. I was too outspoken. I should have just kept it to myself because now there might be someone out there who doesn’t like me.
I’ve spent so much of my life apologizing. Apologizing for being “too sensitive” or talking too much or too little. For being too shy. For not doing enough of this but doing too much of that. No wonder I’m exhausted.
These last two years have made me angry and hurt beyond description. This last year dealing with my living situation has made me doubt myself and made me feel inept. Because I allowed it to. I allowed myself to feel bad for expressing how I felt. I allowed myself to feel put down by someone who didn’t deserve any of that power at all. I questioned my capabilities. After everything I’ve been through, I let myself question my ability to handle shit. When all I’ve been doing in my life is handling shit.
I know this is going to be a process. I can’t just turn off the desire to be liked in an instant. I have to keep consciously working toward it. And that starts with not apologizing for who I am and how I feel, and it starts with not just allowing myself to be who I am (however imperfect) but to love who I am. All of the sensitive, assertive, outgoing, shy, quiet, loud, happy, sad, anxious, carefree parts of me.