Not caring about what other people think is the best choice you will ever make.
For years, I’ve carried the burden of caring what others thought of me.
Caring causes me to compare myself and my very existence to my more successful friends, reading their statuses on Facebook and wonder why I seriously haven’t gotten it together enough to obtain stability. I even suspect that people whom I have known since my earlier days in Rochester are now giving me the side eye because I’ve decided not to work and focus on me and my mental health issues.
In terms of intelligence, I know that certain people I have friended during my graduate studies no longer talk to me on the regular—possibly because they feel I cannot hold a conversation. I find this to be unfortunate because I don’t have any other people of color to talk to about the issues of racism that affect me daily.
I often feel like I’m walking on eggshells around others because I don’t want to have that conversation about my career goals or personal feelings, fearing judgement if I share my true thoughts (If I seem standoffish and quiet, that’s one of the reasons why). This fear of judgement also plays into my fears of failure and being forgotten, which is another blog entry altogether.
After receiving a rejection letter from a prominent publishing house, I have reached out to my friend, Pam. I have met her two years ago when I was writing Star Trek fan fiction and she and I have been friends ever since. After sending her private messages about how I am not the person I imagine myself to be, she calls me later on in the evening to see how I am doing.
“Pam, I feel that people are judging me because I decided not to work in order to work on my mental health issues. I even had a friend unfriend me on Facebook for whatever rea—“
She stops me midsentence. “Who are these people you keep talking about? Man, fuck these people. You have to do what’s right for you. You can’t give a fuck about what other people think and if they are going to unfriend you because of your mental illness, then they were never your friend to begin with.”
After hearing those words, I sit quietly on my bed and wonder why I care so much about what others think of me to begin with. The truth is that I hate losing friends as it’s actually hard for me to keep them for whatever reason. In fact, the fear of losing someone bothers me more than anything else—especially if I cherish them dearly. But would feel even worse about myself when they stop rocking with me if they deem me a damn failure. This is the reason why I would often bust my ass in school, at home, at work hoping for a positive outcome.
But in terms of failure, by who standards am I measuring my success? My overall significance? The more I think about these questions, the more I come to the conclusion that I’ve been listening to people—family and professionals alike—who either haven’t recognized my efforts or haven’t been aware of the issues I have been pushing aside. Either way, I am hurting myself trying to impress them so they will be proud of me because I’m fighting for their love and approval.
To gain the admiration of many, I have placed my mental health on the back burner in order to function in school and life. I have placed my own trauma on hold to get involved in radical politics. Concerned friends have advised me to care for myself, but I have not listened because—in my mind—I still need to prove that I’m not the lost cause “most people” have written me off to be. But I realize that actively ignoring my struggles (even though I experienced flashbacks and panic attacks on the low) has caused me more harm than good. Caring about what other people think and attempting to mold myself into their image not only contributed to my depression, anxiety and PTSD but my suicidal ideations. Wanting unconditional love and approval is one of the reasons why I would stay in toxic relationships to the point of being sexually and physically assaulted.
It has taken talking to my friend Pam and reflecting on my negative thinking logically to finally see people’s opinions of me for what they are—their fucking problem. I don’t have to have the fancy job, the man, car, house or the big name in the political scene. What’s more important to ME is my overall sanity and happiness. I deserve that. I desire that and there’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the workforce or volunteer work to become healthy. If people don’t understand that, that’s on them—not me. And don’t you know that by not giving a fuck for the time being has actually alleviated my depressive episodes? For the past few hours, I’ve felt like a beast, y’all!
By the end of the day, this life—my life—is about giving myself the opportunity to heal from all that’s happened to me so I can be a whole. Granted, I still want to be successful and even memorable. But I’m no longer willing to break my own spirit to gain the world’s approval.
It’s not worth it.