When I started therapy, I wanted to fit into my skin. I wanted other things too, but that was top on my list. I’m really good at projecting confidence, but I wanted to feel how others thought I felt. Too see myself how others see me. Right now, I’m not sure that’s such a good idea. The seeing-myself-through-others part, not the skin-fitting.
Because … I do feel at home in my skin now. I like who I am, how I am, what I present to the world. But I’m increasingly aware that not everyone agrees. Like they say, behind every beautiful woman is a man who is tired of her shit. So I’m seeing more and more that there are people around me that are fed up with mine.
It’s a strange thing, to be so sure of who I am … and to see other people’s visceral reaction to that. Sometimes, it makes me dig in, flaunt the ‘unpleasantness’ that triggered their sneers. But it also makes me sad. Luckily, I’m good at hiding it when I’m sad, which is a useful tool for living with depression.
Some of us are
cursed blessed with the ability to analyse everything to death. Introspection can be insightful, but it can also be painful. When I review the reasons for a person’s distaste, I see their validity. I see that no matter how sorry I am – and I am sorry – it won’t undo the shit I did, and the effect it had on them. I recognise that in that moment, over that particular incident, they are right to hate me.
But part of living is forgiving myself, even as I recognise that they never will. And to accept that in my own life, they are others who have forgiven themselves for things they did to me. Things I’ll never forgive them for. I suppose it’s one of the paradoxes of being human. In some ways, we go easy on ourselves in ways we never would with others. At the other extreme, we judge ourselves far more harshly than anyone else.
In my dark moments, I remind myself that I shouldn’t be defined by my sins. Yet that’s exactly what I do to other people. I label that one good/bad thing (or two, or thirty three) they did, and put them in that box forever. Then I gift wrap the box, tie it with a bow, and place it on a high shelf. Or I douse it in paraffin and light it.
I was thinking about someone that I deeply admire and just as deeply dislike. I don’t know why I dislike this person. In the past, I tried to find things wrong with them, to justify my dislike. But maybe they’re a beetroot. Gorgeous shade of red. Full of healthy anti-oxidants. Good for me in theory. Except … I don’t like how it tastes. And that doesn’t mean it’s bad or wrong. It’s just a beautiful vegetable that I can’t stand.
Here’s something else that’s interesting. A lot of us chafe in our own skins. The grown ones among us just hide it better. And so, sometimes, when someone sees that you’re happy in your skin, they attack. The missiles might be driven by genuine puzzlement, concern that you’re not getting with the programme.
After all, life would be easier for you, for them, for everyone … if you’d just follow society’s bloody rules. But sometimes, it’s spite. Sometimes, the barbs come from an unhappy person that is upset with you for daring to enjoy your life. At times like that, dragging you down makes their own misery less potent.
I’ve done a lot of things I’m not proud of. And with time and therapy, I’ve forgiven myself for a lot of them. But I respect the right of others not to forgive me, just as I protect the unforgiving parts of my own heart. It’s the way of the world. I guess what I’m saying is … be kind to yourself … allowing that not everyone else will be.
In fact, be kind to yourself knowing few other people will be. Because punishing yourself does no good, and it’s hard to be mad at the world when you’re at peace with yourself. This doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Ripple effects will spread until they dissipate, and yes, there are certain things that can never be forgiven. The world will punish you for that. Through jail, or hell, or karma. It will punish me too.
Until then, all I can do is be kind to my heart, pray that kindness will soothe my pain, hope the peace it brings will flow to those around and calm some of their troubles as well. And I can raise my child to avoid the mistakes I made, promising her that even if she does, she will always be accepted, loved, and welcome at home.
♫ Exit Wounds ♫ The Script ♫