I’m sitting on the couch, attempting to start this week’s post, but drawing a complete and utter blank as to how to start it, while holding the weight of the world squarely on my chest.
This past week has been rough, on top of challenge of the past few months, on *top* of the weight of the last year.
Every time I think things couldn’t get worse, they somehow do. And never in the ways I’d expect, either.
Overall in this past year, there have been two main truths that inspired any sense of peace in the wake of the disappointment, grief, and anger that this past year has brought:
Thinking positively – keeping my focus on the knowledge that this pandemic will turn a corner eventually and my life will start looking up again
Remembering that none of this is my fault – the circumstances of my life have nothing to do with me and everything to do with a global pandemic no one was expecting
But as life continues to move in the opposite direction that I’d prefer it to go, the weight of my grief, anger, and disappointment gets heavier, and those two truths have slowly slipped away over time.
I can no longer entertain the thought that this pandemic will eventually end, because I don’t have the heart to think long-term anymore; I’ve reached a point of merely living week by week.
And although none of this may be my fault, the things that have been in my control have not panned out the way I would have liked; as I confront apparent failure after failure, my confidence takes a hit each time, chipping away at my belief in myself…
…to the point I’ve started to doubt myself in my very core.
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This blog is an interesting thing.
I’d love to use a different word besides ‘thing’ but that’s really the most accurate way to describe it – it’s a thing.
If I wanted to get precise, I suppose I’d say it’s a project which commits me to regular writing practice by means of self-discovery.
I think ‘thing’ works better, although I find it interesting that I felt internally compelled to use something – anything – other than the word ‘thing’. This blog is for me and my own self-discovery; I knew exactly what I meant by calling my blog a ‘thing’, yet my mind decided that I needed to use a different word – something more descriptive, something more interesting, something more cerebral, something more unique, I don’t know, just SOMETHING else.
Because my emotional mind believes this blog is for everyone but me.
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From the time I was eight years old, I learned that my authentic, expressive self was the ‘wrong’ way to live in this world. I learned to doubt myself.
But not all of myself.
There were exactly two things about myself that I could trust:
1. My academic success
2. My kindness
I could trust my academic success because I saw very concrete evidence of it (i.e., my grades); I could trust my kindness because that was the one nice thing my peers said about me.
But that one nice thing was my Achilles’ heel, because here’s the thing about bullies: they made me feel good about the one thing they wanted to exploit. Everything else they tore down and threw away.
So the crux of my bullying was the manipulation of my emotions in order to break down my boundaries and take whatever they wanted from me – and would praise my ‘kindness’ after doing so.
As a result, my sense of kindness was heightened to the point that I learned to consider literally everyone else in the world before myself (and if I ever tried to be myself or put me first, I was spitefully called ‘selfish’).
Even in my adult life, I have run into bullies who decide that my kindness is for their taking. But by this point, I had rebuilt some of the boundaries and self-love that had been shattered in my childhood. I felt more authentic and confident than I ever had, and more willing to express my emotions.
But my adulthood bullies still didn’t like that – especially the boundaries part.
When they realized they couldn’t get past those boundaries and convince me to bend to their will, they figured out there was a backdoor. They quickly learned how to manipulate and twist my own story so that I started to doubt myself.
The last time I was bullied was over a year ago. And one beautiful thing that this pandemic has given me is space away from those bullies so I could heal.
This blog has been a huge part of that – but the healing isn’t done yet.
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When I started this blog a year ago, I intended it as a platform to get my writing out into the world, and I truly thought I would ultimately use it professionally to help me get writing and other creative-type jobs.
Obviously, that intention has changed.
But to be honest, I am prouder of myself now than I was when I first started it.
I am proud because I made a commitment to maintaining my blog, and, so far this year, I have done it (nine weeks in a row now!).
I am writing posts that are authentic and honest.
I don’t need the validation of growing readership to be satisfied with my work and my blog.
I am writing much more easily and freely.
I have finally found a means of putting myself, my health, and my growth first – for perhaps the first time in my life.
In just two months, I am beyond proud of what I have done here.
And yet every Friday when I publish a post, I am utterly terrified.
I am afraid of what potential employers might think if they ever found this blog.
I am afraid of accidentally hurting or offending someone.
I am afraid of being ripped to shreds by the cruel, judgmental world of the internet.
Given my current job hunting situation, that first fear is frequently on my mind; I often worry about whether having this blog could impact employment opportunities. Will they think I’m two-faced or dishonest? Will they think I’m too emotional? Will they think I have too many ‘issues’? In essence, I worry that potential employers would view this blog as inappropriately emotional and therefore unprofessional. My logical brain does its best to come to the rescue by reminding me that being emotional is not unprofessional – it’s human – and I’m allowed to have boundaries between my personal and professional lives. Just because I process feelings and experiences in a more public setting such as this blog does not mean that I’m ‘overly’ emotional in the workplace. Could potential employers see this? Yes. Do I really want to work there if they take issue with me being honest about my emotions here? Probably not.
Given what I shared about my bullying experiences earlier, that second fear is very much related to the hyper-kindness I developed growing up. I will spend two, three, even four times as long as the average person to write a single post because I agonize over every word, phrase, and idea, desperately wanting to make sure nothing I have written feels attacking or unfair towards someone else. This blog is about me and my experiences, and while I do share stories that involve other people or institutions, the point is never to throw anyone under the bus. It’s always solely about me, and I have to continually learn to trust that I’m being mindful and sensitive in my writing, while also knowing that yes, I might very well accidentally say the wrong thing sometimes.
That third fear is, at its core, the fear of being bullied again – and the bullies that still live in my brain have me believing that if that happens, if the world of the internet does indeed rip me to shreds for what I’ve shared here, it’s entirely my fault. They will tell me that I invited it by baring my soul for the anonymous world of the internet to see, and all of the consequences that come with that decision are entirely on me.
Yes, those internalized bullies are correct – writing this blog is my choice, knowing the platform I am using and the cruelty of the world around me that has only been spotlighted by the ease in which we can sit in the silence behind the anonymity of our devices.
I am aware of what the consequences may be of my decision to publish these particular blog posts publicly. There are people out there who will judge me – I can’t control that. The only thing I could do to prevent any kind of judgment towards my writing is to not write at all.
But if I don’t write at all, then I deny myself the gifts that committing to this blog has given me, many of which have been deeply healing for me, especially this year.
One of those gifts is, paradoxically, awareness around the many wounds I carry that still need healing. And one of those is around my deep-seeded fear of being judged and told by others that I (or my writing, or my ideas) aren’t good enough – the same way my bullies used to tell me that I (or my feelings, or my dreams) weren’t good enough.
I can’t control how people are going to react to me or what they’re going to say – and unfortunately, the more I put my authentic self and my work out there, the more judgment, criticism, and attempted bullying I will encounter.
But rather than letting that stop me from doing the things that help me grow, heal, and find joy, I can choose to put up boundaries instead.
That’s the biggest gift this blog has given me – the opportunity to once again rebuild my boundaries and confidence in the face of those who would rather see me broken and defeated.
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This past week, I have been wrestling with my fears around this blog, wondering if I’m doing more harm than good for myself with it – though I already knew the answer.
I have to keep going. For no one but myself.
Writing this blog for even the two months that have passed in 2021 so far has helped me more than even *I* will ever know. It has already shown me that this is the way back to my authenticity, to my dreams, and to hope in where I’m heading, even if I can only muster that hope day to day. This is the remedy to my self-doubt – and I cannot let the fear of what people may or may not do/say to me win.
I may not see where my life is going right now, while coming to terms with circumstances beyond my control, but I can control one thing: I can control whether or not I choose to continue to let my bullies call the shots.
This blog means more to me now than ever – I refuse to let old fears convince me to quit.
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