Scared of my own image, scared of my own immaturity,
Scared of my own ceiling, scared I’ll die of uncertainty,
Fear might be the death of me, fear leads to anxiety,
Don’t know what’s inside of me.
Don’t forget about me,
Don’t forget about me,
Even when I doubt you
-“Doubt”/Twenty One Pilots
I met up with my ex last night, and the last time I saw him it didn’t exactly go well. To everyone else it seemed like I was just looking for trouble, but really I was looking for closure, and I’m glad that I went.
It reminded me that not everyone is in agreement about me. I’ve basically been talking to the same few people for the past three months and lately I have felt a little ganged up on, or like a scapegoat for anything that goes wrong ever. Or maybe just a human punching bag. Whatever it is, it’s not a nice feeling.
But he brought a completely new perspective to those same issues that others just had not considered.
I’ve written before about how I got involved with someone who has a very serious relationship, and that situation has nearly cost me some friends. Not because they’re actually involved in any way, just because the idea of it is so wrong to them and I’m supposed to be better than that and I always do the right thing and I never want to hurt anyone so how could I do a thing like this???
All fair points.
But my ex got it and he was the first person to do so without me having to explain. When I told him, he was surprised, but after a minute he said, “My feelings about this are so weird…because on the one hand, I’m like ‘You shouldn’t do that’, but on the other hand, I’m so proud of you.”
I immediately smiled and I realized how much I needed that. I asked why.
“Because you did something awesome! You just did something for you, and you didn’t think about anyone else for once and that’s kind of awesome.”
And that’s just it – regardless of the morality of the situation, I followed my heart, listened to my own feelings and did what I wanted to do. Everyone needs to have a healthy balance between thinking about themselves and thinking about others. If I was the kind of person who thought about themselves all the time, I doubt he would be saying that. But the reality is that I have been off balance my whole life. I try to consider others’ feelings and play by the rules as much as possible. I’m proud of that, but sometimes it is exhausting. Sometimes I don’t want to be the always-moral, sweet, caring, tries-so-hard-to-be-perfect one.
For a long time I’ve felt like other people don’t care what I think or how I feel. I’ve felt like other people make the rules of my life and stuff just HAPPENS to me and my job is just to respond in the best way that I can.
I needed someone to tell me that my feelings are important. I needed someone to tell me that I’m allowed to take action, make decisions and that those decisions are valid.
“Because I felt like it” or “Because I didn’t feel like it” or “Because I felt x way about it” have been valid reasons for other people doing things, including things that involve letting me or others down. Why should they not be valid reasons for me too?
In conflict I constantly take a backseat – I apologize for the sake of smoothing things over, I don’t speak up when things bother me unless it’s really important. I’ve been trained to believe that if I want to have any hope of keeping friends or boyfriends, I have to act like their feelings are more important than mine, even if I don’t really believe it. Other people have no problem airing even the tiniest of grievances with me, until I sometimes feel like I can’t do anything right, can’t even breathe or move without upsetting someone accidentally.
Sometimes this strategy works. As I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, sometimes it’s worth it. But when it starts to feel like you’re taking an emotional beating, you’re stressed and anxious, and your self-worth is diminishing, maybe it’s worth it to find another perspective.
Last year I spent #BellLetsTalk Day with…well, my ex. Before we were exes. Back when things were good. The night before we’d gotten into the only fight we’d ever had, if you can even call it that, and I spent the whole day worrying that we were going to break up. If you could even call it breaking up, because I wasn’t even sure if we were technically dating. It was a very anxiety-filled day. I asked him if I could come over to talk about it and he said sure. I braced myself for the worst and started to mentally prepare my best persuasive argument as to why he should not break up with me. I told him that he didn’t have to meet me at the subway station, which he usually did. But I emerged from the subway tunnel and there he was, reading a book as always.
It was such a small thing but it let me know that he forgave me. We weren’t breaking up, at least not yet. It was my usual strategy…being applied to me. I mattered. To him, it was worth shaking off the stupid thing I’d said the night before.
Last year I also spent #BellLetsTalk Day talking about how to help others and learning about others’ experiences. This year I decided to focus a little bit more on telling others about my experiences. Because they matter.
And you are too.
Sorry this was rambly af but it’s the best I can do right now.
We’re still doing a Twitter chat with @Healthy_Minds, @Speak_Out_Blog and my account, @chelsearrr, so if you want to follow along and participate, follow those accounts and use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag AND tag @Healthy_Minds, otherwise I won’t see your brilliant contributions.
Chelsea Ricchio is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of the SPEAK OUT blog. She is also the Communications Manager for Healthy Minds Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2015 with a BA in English Literature and Book & Media Studies. She was the former president of the student group Active Minds at UofT, which hosts SPEAK OUT events on campus (from which this blog takes its name). She was diagnosed with Dysthymia and Social Anxiety. She is 23 and lives in Toronto with her cat Genie and her roommate.