It was really hard to become who I am. I haven’t become this quirky, socially nuanced person by accident, but by egregious trial and error, painful experience after painful experience that either taught me something about myself or others. Usually both.
I’ve been left out, talked about, forgotten, isolated, ignored, belittled, offended, laughed at, and called both “weird” and “crazy” (not in the fun way). Despite knowing these things hurt so badly, I’m guilty of having done the same things in return at times. Now, if any of these inconsiderations or meannesses happen to me, I understand that the agitator probably has something else going on, past or present, informing their behavior. It doesn’t have anything to do with me. When I’ve been the mean one, it doesn’t have anything to do with them. I read The Four Agreements, a gift from my dear friend Brennan, when I was 21 and it changed my life. Not taking things personally is one of the key tenets in the book. This concept is hard to grasp in junior high, in a sorority house, or at 31. Sometimes even in your 60s, according to my mom.* I believe emotional sophistication is being able to read a room, be kind, and sincerely apologize.
When someone excludes you or makes you feel like crap, allow it to sting. Allow it to singe your mind so that you remember to never treat someone else that way. I recognize that this takes fortitude, and not everyone has the emotional bandwidth to allow such grace. Some days you might have it in you, other days you may not, and that’s okay. That’s what being human means.
Something that happened a lot in past and surprisingly still happens well into adulthood is me walking up to people having an informal conversation, and no one welcoming me into the fold conversationally or in terms of body language. It makes me feel awkward and dispensable, and I don’t ever want to make someone else feel that way.
I went to two weddings last summer a couple weeks apart and this one woman was at both. At both events, she approached the group I was talking with and immediately interrupted and started a new conversation with everyone else without ever introducing herself, including me, or even looking at me. The first time she did it I thought it was an accident. The second time she did it I reached my hand out to introduce myself, and afterward she still continued as if I wasn’t there. One time, during a cocktail hour, she literally boxed me out of the group. It was so bizarre it was almost funny. And I don’t believe it had anything to do with me.
So, whenever I’m in the throes of unpacking the latest season of Succession, or whatever, with someone and another person walks up, I turn my body to welcome the person into the group and catch them up on what we’re discussing. If they don’t watch Succession, I ask if they have another well-produced soap they like to get lost in. There’s always a way to fold someone else into the conversation. When you’re having a casual conversation, there’s no reason why another can’t join. If you need or want to have a more private conversation, then… do it in private. :)
This just got very Debrett’s. Allow me to recalibrate.
I find that I invest so much of myself in the feelings of others that it then begins to deteriorate my mental health and quality of life. PLOT TWIST: I’m not a martyr but actually a narcissist, meaning I’m so concerned with the feelings of others and how it reflects on me that I then ultimately make the original situation in question about me, which helps no one. I’m working on it.
I’m not saying allow yourself to get trampled. In an appropriate moment, pull a person aside and let them know that XY hurt your feelings because XY. How they respond will speak volumes. Remember, you can always “unfollow” people IRL.
There is a balance, and you can’t prioritize others over yourself constantly. Sometimes you just need to be you and not feel like you have to apologize for it. I’ve gotten better at this with age and its slowly shaped my personality. Also, as I’ve gotten older I’ve been better able to curate those I surround myself with as dear, trusted friends. I identify particular boundaries in others because I’ve broken them in past, hurting them, hurting me, my pride.
It can take a lifetime to get these things right. Sometimes, even a lifetime isn’t enough!
It took me years to assert the things I need to be comfortable and high-functioning because I was afraid I was going to upset someone else or I’d be talked about behind my back. For instance, for my mental health I need a wealth of time alone and good sleep, which means I need my own bed, ideally in my own room. (I’m thinking of trips with family and friends, here.) Instead of pretending I don’t need those things to appease others or manage others’ perception of me, I say what I need and, again, how others respond speaks volumes about them and doesn’t actually have anything to do with me. We all have our “stuff,” our particularities. By asserting what I need I’ve let down a wall to let others feel safe doing the same.
What’s your learning curve look like? Any horror stories or big victories?
TL;DR I’m who I am because I embarrassed myself and learned and got my feelings hurt a lot and learned. How about you?
*Not that my mom is in her 60s. That was just her making an educated guess…
Wednesday posts cover something that’s top of mind for me that week and are written in a short period of time. This means that editing is not strong. While it’s not my best work, it is my best, unfiltered thought.
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