Friday, August 19, 2016

Why I Stopped Giving a Sh*t About What People Think

I want to clarify the title here. It's not that I don't give a shit what anybody thinks. I care very much what my loved ones and my close circle of friends think. Those people who I value, who I know value me - all of me. I also value my job and respect my boss and coworkers and therefore, I care that they feel I'm doing a good job, that I'm a good employee/coworker/etc. It's that I don't give a shit what everyone thinks. There's a distinct difference.

I used to. I have had continually low self-esteem and low self confidence from the age of about 13 on.  Depression makes me feel even worse about myself. Like I'm nothing, worthless, hopeless, a failure and always will be. Anxiety tells me that even those people I'm closest to don't really like me and are just putting up with me and being nice.  I border on being an HSP (highly sensitive person) and an empath, so I feel everything, including what others feel about me. In addition to my actual internal feelings, there's the mental health stigma. There are people who think I could be better if I tried harder, looked on the bright side. There are people who don't understand that my illness is a physical illness. There are people who think those with mental health conditions are crazy, violent, should be locked up. We and are illnesses are easy scapegoats when something goes wrong.  When something tragic happens in society, nobody says "Well, you know Bob over there has a heart condition, we'd better heavily investigate him." But if he had a mental health disorder,  you can bet your life savings that they would.   I've been categorized in numerous types of situations as a "trouble maker", denied things I worked hard for and deserved, for being open and honest, for not "fitting the mold", for being different than everyone else.  I've had so many people try to drag me down, blame me, make me feel awful about myself over the years.

I say all this not for any type of pity, from myself or my reader. What I'm trying to say is this: If I cared what everyone thought about me, my illness, what I said, my actions, I'd never come out of my bedroom. I'd lie in bed in despair, my depression, anxiety, low confidence and self esteem, every time I've been stigmatized or made to feel bad about myself, all feeding on each other until I truly don't feel I deserve even life, let alone happiness, success, or anything else. I have been in that place, caring what everyone else said, physically feeling what they feel about me, and letting it pull me into a deep black hole that was barely possible to climb out of.  It is not a good place to be at all.

So I stopped giving a sh*t about what the collective everyone said.  I focus on those who I love, those closest to me, and quite frankly those who keep clothes on my back and food in my kitchen.  And even within those people, I've learned to no longer blindly care what they think. I have found my voice, some strength, some confidence and self-esteem. Not as much as I'd like to, but enough to fight for myself. Enough to not simply say "I care about what they say at all costs, and I'll do whatever it takes to make them happy." I've learned to fight for me, who I am at the core, for my morals and values and beliefs. For my illness, and all that it encompasses. I've learned to keep my head up proudly as I defend myself.

I've also learned through this process that I do not want those in my life who want me to massively change. I'm happy to work on my faults - the faults that I see as my faults, not those that others pin on me because it takes blame and responsibility off of them, or simply because it happens to not be their preference - but I will not change me at the core. Nor do I want people around me who want me to. Because what those people are ultimately telling me is, "we almost like/love you just as you are, but not quite. We'd fully like/love you if you fit into this mold that we've created for you." And I refuse to do that any more. I tried for years. It landed me once in the hospital and many times almost back in the hospital. Not because I was truly sick enough of my own accord to go. Because trying so hard to be who people wanted, caring so much what they thought about me, caused me to lose myself. And that, losing myself, not recognizing who I was when I woke up, looked in the mirror, went about my day, and the confusion that it brought, the feeling of complete loss of identity, made me sick enough to be hospitalized. And I will not go through that again just to please someone else.

And perhaps people think me selfish, or harsh, or uncaring for this. But it helps me stay as mentally healthy as possible. And while I actually barely have a selfish bone in my body (that's always been one of my downfalls, giving of myself for others to the extreme), I cannot give away my mental health to make other people happy any longer. It is, for the first time in possibly my life, a decision I feel 100 percent confident is the right one, and I am proud to live by it. 

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