This time last year I was closing a chapter of my life. After the summer, things got a little dark. I got reckless. I got scared. I got lost. Life sucked and feeling like Dorothy, I clicked my heels together, and drove my happy ass home.
Home was home. It was like pulling on a cozy sweater –extremely comfortable. There’s a reason every great adventure starts when the heroine leaves. Frodo couldn’t destroy the ring from his couch. Harry wouldn’t have become a wizard from underneath the stairs. Katniss couldn’t protect her sister by staying home. I’m a bit tiffed that my point of reference for adventure is overwhelmingly male but you get the point. Change doesn’t happen when you’re comfortable. It’s not a convenience but an inconvenience to the patterns we’ve created. Comfort and change can’t coexist and at some point in your life you’re going to have to choose which one you want. I understand the importance and need for comfort, trust me I do, but if you want to grow, if you want more, if your dreams are too big for the house comfort has afforded you, you’re going to have to get up and create the momentum for change to come into your life.
I was comfortable at home and it was what I needed at the time. I’m not ungrateful that I have a place to stay, virtually no bills, and awesome parents who care about me. Not at all. It’s a frustration mainly with where I am or perceive myself to be. I’m surrounded by comfort but desperate for change. How do you fix that?
Discomfort isn’t something we should always hide from. Sometimes at the precise moment we feel most uncomfortable is exactly when we need to lean in and dig a little deeper. Sometimes feeling stuck is the exact thing we need to get moving.
I know I’m not alone in feeling that way. We’ve all been through shet and all of it leaves its mark . That’s why I did three things. I wrote “Life Sucks (for now),” a free ebook, designed Life Support, a bi-monthly newsletter, and created the Life Support Forum for y’all. We all need direction, motivation, and support to make the changes we need to live the lives we want. I’m hoping this will help you because it helped me. Sign up for the Life Support newsletter in the upper left bar and get the ebook for free ninety-nine. That’s literally all you gotta do! Who knew the first step to making a change could be so easy?!
I traced the long pink trail down my arms with my finger. The welted skin etched it’s way down my arm. It was about an inch long. I thought it was a curse for being fat. I thought it was penance for imperfection. Never mind that I saw my tall, lanky friends with them. Mine was a mark, a brand that something was wrong with me. I always wore sweaters after that.
We take the messages that we hear and we carry them on our backs and shoulders, in our purses, on our minds, and in our dreams. We let them permeate every aspect of ourselves and never question why we welcomed them in the first place. Why? Why have we been conditioned to believe that any and all critiques should be accepted? Why have we been raised to believe that how we know ourselves is not the truth at all, that it has no permanence compared to the words of a passing stranger? If our bodies are temples why are the words of those who don’t know us treated as sacrosanct before our own?
I’ve always had this eerie sense of self. A comfortable understanding of who I was. Some call it being an old soul. Maybe it is. But the fact remained that growing up I never quite felt like this old soul had a place to rest. I was the odd kid who had too much against her. I was chubby, I was curly haired, I was too light for some and simultaneously too dark for others, I read too much, I spoke too much, the list goes on. I began to understand that I was too much and yet, still not enough. I figured that if I couldn’t get people’s acceptance I for damn sure could get their attention. I learned how to make people laugh and how to get them to notice me. Their attention replaced the affection I was actually looking for. But because I fed off the validation of others, I left myself vulnerable to their disdain.
Have you ever played those games that ask you what doesn’t fit or what is out of place? My whole life I felt like that was me. I so wanted to fit. I wanted to blend. I hated sticking out. I so desperately wanted to be the blonde white girl who fit. Who just made sense in her environment. In fourth grade my skin started to change. My lips were covered in black, crusted over blisters for an entire summer. I could barely open my mouth. Doctors looked at me with wonder and people looked at me like a sideshow. Stares and reactions ran the spectrum from sympathetic to disgusted. I didn’t like going out. The cocktail of medications made me stick out more as I ballooned in weight and the pigment in my skin blanched. I stuck out. No matter where I went, I stuck out. As I got older and the condition all but vanished I still carried that anxiety of standing out. I always saw that little girl in the mirror and knew others saw her too. I criticized everything about myself and continued what my bullies had started. I became my own bully. In high school, there were plenty of kids entering into a period of sexual development but I felt stunted in my own growth. I still feel that way to this day. I always feel like I’m alone and behind. Alone and behind. Purposefully separated and abandoned. It’s a hard cycle to break when you’ve become accustomed to only making yourself accessible to yourself. I give people slivers and glimpses into who I am but I never let them see the core. I never let them see me. I find it difficult to connect to people. I have friends, dear friends, but even from them I hide. My family jokes about my inconsistent communication and I laugh around them. They don’t know that I am that way because that little girl finds it difficult for anyone to find her life worth communicating about. She’s still battling her sense of inferiority. She’s still trying to unlearn hating herself.
Self- loathing isn’t something that we’re born with but something we’ll likely deal with for the majority of our lives. Hate exists in the spaces that we do because we allow it to. It breeds in those dark places that we are unwilling to confront and slowly starts to take over our minds. It captivates us in the worse way. We submit to something we’ve created. The irony is almost too much. How does it begin? Usually with a question. Most of our agony and torment happens to us within our childhoods. It’s the proverbial toolbox of pain. Unformed, unshaped, undeveloped, we aren’t usually confronted with the idea of self. We’re not worried about who we are but what’s around us. So when people insult us, we absorb it.
Well I never considered it before.
Hmmm…that person seems to think the same thing.
Well they can’t all be wrong. Maybe I am…Am I fat?
The question begs for an answer and the answer is usually supplied with the insults that were already provided. The scenario works the same for any situation, being weird, being gay, being a nerd, being anything that’s deemed different. It doesn’t have to be true because it’s not the words themselves that hurt — it’s what they carry. We go on to carry them for the rest of our lives.
I wore fat and weird as reminders that I was less than. I crowded my mind with the opinions of others and it completely covered what I knew to be true. I was different, yes, but I was not inferior. It can take a long time to untangle those wires. I’m still trying to untangle mine.
When I get dressed it takes me about an hour to find an outfit I feel comfortable in. It’s not my criteria I’m using to judge said comfort. I hear my mother’s innocently-intended comment about my dark skinned knees and pull down my dress. I’m reminded of my chubby thighs and reconsider lengths and hems of skirts. I worry that a cut may reveal too much of my chest. I search for a coordinated cardigan to cover the stretchmarks on by arms. I do all this for who exactly? I do it to put people at ease. I do it because that same little girl is trying to protect herself from being another target of another round of insults and taunts. I do it because deep down I still believe that others know what’s best for me better than myself.
This mentality obviously extends beyond the superficial. It can’t take root in anywhere but your mind so of course it affects other parts of your self-image. I’ve questioned my abilities more than a few times even when all I’ve received are compliments. I’ve been called brilliant, funny, a great writer, a good singer, and so on and so forth. For whatever reason my brain is only ever able to absorb the bad and completely disregard the good.
But there are also things you can’t blur the line on either. You very well may be fat, but that doesn’t make you worthless. You may be a nerd, but that doesn’t make you less than. You may be weird, but that doesn’t make you inferior. I’ve adopted the voices of my bullies for myself. I let that voice stop me from writing, from singing, from moving, from living really. I tell myself that this box is safe for me, to step outside of it would be suicide. To be unafraid would be suicide. I convince myself that I need this box and the voices that tell me stay within it. I convince myself that somehow not breathing is a better alternative to letting in the air. I convince myself that being miserable is the best option for me. It’s safe but it sure ain’t the best.
So how do you change it? If this way has become as insufferable as it’s become for me, how do you change your mind? It’s not easy and to be perfectly honest it’s not something I’m sure of yet. I just know that with every, “You’re going to wear that?!” I hear in my head, I counter with a “I sure the fuck am.” For every, “You’re worthless and your work is worthless,” I counter with a ”I am not and neither is my work.” For every, “you can’t” I tell myself that I can and I will.
So what about you loves? I know this is a heavy topic but a necessary one for all of us to talk about. How do you deal with self-loathing?
The Break Up
I was used to military life as an Army Brat. The canon firing at five in the morning and evening, the travelling, the moving, the pageantry, the galas. It was just a part of life. I had even gotten used to saying “see you later” to friends. But the older I got and the longer we stayed, the “see you laters” turned into painful goodbyes.
For whatever reason I hadn’t anticipated doing the same as an adult. Sure, people move for their careers, start families, and have bigger responsibilities than when we were on the playground or in the dorm but I just didn’t think I’d be in a position to have to say goodbye again. But here I was.
This time there was no larger force tearing me from someone, it had just run its course. The person I was when we met was gone. I required healthy communication, accessibility, and honesty. This person wasn’t there yet and I wasn’t going to wait anymore for things I knew weren’t demanding or even difficult. I had grown as a person, she just grew in a different direction. I had to learn the hard way that friends break up too.
The Four Steps to Break Up Recovery
I had no idea what to do when it happened. I felt like hell and didn’t know who to turn to. We had so many mutual friends I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had to pick sides and I honestly felt that they wouldn’t pick me anyways. So instead of dealing with the pain I tried to avoid it. You would think by now, after all the things I’ve experienced in my short life that I would know that avoidance NEVER works. Drugs, alcohol, sex, whatever your vice, it only keeps it at bay for a while. Eventually it will rear its ugly head, stronger than it was when you first pushed it away.
I went through my friend break up at the same time as my break up with my ex. It was ROUGH. Like, crying in the shower, wailing to Robyn, eating Chinese food and watching Golden Girls nonstop, rough. Ok so I do the last two all the time but I was going through. Naturally I thought I’d find my solution with boys. I’d never had a “single and ready to mingle” phase. I was too shy, too analytical, and too insecure to ever consider it but a bunch of bullshit will turn anyone into a willing participant.
I went on dates. I hooked up. I changed the way I dressed. I convinced myself that I felt better, that this was helping, that I was empowered but each morning the pain would come back to wake me up. After a while the phone stopped ringing, I started resenting people more and more, and I became an even bigger mess. This was obviously not the solution but I kept trying to make it happen.
I knew that I was putting myself in positions I wasn’t ready for and becoming increasingly reckless. So I waited for some things to taper down and cleared out my cellphone. I followed the next couple steps out of order and at my own pace but had I known better, I would have done better. Hindsight is a total betch.
Grieve: Cry them tears baby girl. Get them out of your system. Doesn’t matter if it’s only two sobfests or a full on Broadway production, this is your time and your pain. Do what is best for you but get it out of your system. It’s ok if you have to circle back to this step multiple times. As time passes, you’ll be strong enough to get from under it. Until then, netflix, yoga pants, pinterest, and chocolate are your best friends.
Realize There’s No Turning Back: Don’t hold out hope that you will be friends again, that’s a waste of emotion and energy. There are things that are more deserving of your attention than waiting for someone to figure out how awesome your are, forgive you, or whatever the circumstance may be. Accept that this is what it is and move on. Yes, it’s more difficult but it’s also more rewarding. You gain perspective and start aligning all of your relationships to your improved standards. You start seeing people for who they are and your friendships for what they are.
Even if this is just a phase and you become friends again, it will not and cannot be the same. The same got you to break up. The same wasn’t good enough. It’s going to be different because it has to be.
Check Your Baggage: I wrote a post about this you can read here but I’ll boil it down for you. In order to insure that you problems don’t become a pattern, you have to take a good look in the mirror. What baggage are you bringing to the table? No one should bear the brunt of a resentment or anger meant for someone else. Figure out your hangups and see if some of them even led you to the break up. For example, I realized that I gravitate towards emotionally unavailable and stunted folks. I make excuses for them, I give them much more than I ever receive, and then I get angry at them for being exactly who they always showed themselves to be. See how ridiculous that is? As a great sage once said, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself.”
Let It Go: Not that I’m chockfull of shameless self-promotion today…but I am. I wrote about letting go of it all a few months back as well. You’ve got to let stuff go. Your life, or at least the quality of your life, depends on it. Holding on to the pain you’ve suffered through, the memories of being done wrong, the anger of abandonment, the fear of neglect, ALL it is is emotional constipation. We both know how that’ll end up…
When you invest so much time and love in a person only to not get a return on your investment, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been robbed. You haven’t. People aren’t permanent. Nothing is really. That’s ok. If you made great memories, treasure them and the time you did have. Learn from the situation and guard your heart so the next time someone walks into your life, you’ll be prepared to be better, do better, and feel better. 🙂
P.S. If you haven’t even gotten to the break up yet, here’s a guide to get you through it. Let me know how it works out for you!
Certain events have put a lot of things in perspective for me in the past five weeks. Over the last eight months I’ve spent more time talking about finding love and not nearly enough about my true loves—my friends. This series is dedicated to adult friends, friendships, and the ups and downs that come with it.
Don’t act like you never saw that Apprentice clip or Vivica on The Real. I hate to use derogatory language toward any woman but let’s face it, we all know a toxic trick or two. How does one define a “trick” you might ask? It’s fairly easy.
A trick is someone who will smile in your face and lie on your name behind your back. A trick will claim that they love you while trying to steal your joy. Require further illustration? Let me help you out. Years ago I was at a club with a few close friends. Nothing out of the blue. Summer heat, Rihanna’s blaring, drinks in hand, we’re all having a good time. In comes a guy a friend had been talking to. She breaks off to talk to him while the rest of us watch on. Now keep in mind this girl’s “best friend” is also present. She is the living example of a trick. She watches as our friend flirts with her guy and heads over to them. Before long she’s in between them and not soon after her tongue is down the guy’s throat. Being the bleeding heart I am, I walk over to my friend with my bestie ready to throw bows. She tells us it’s ok, that her friend was only helping her.
Yeah you read that right. She was so sure that this person who displayed crappy behavior fairly regularly was looking out for her, because that’s what friends are supposed to do. But she wasn’t a friend, she was a trick. We found out later that her friend slept with her crush that night.
Identify A Trick
So how can you avoid this? First you have to be able to spot a trick from a mile away. There are four easy steps to finding out if this person has the best intentions for you.
She forms attachments too fast and has boundary problems
After an hour of knowing her you know way more intimate details about her than you care to know. She seems to have a terrible sense of self-awareness and will attach to you quickly. Everything you do is great or funny. She may even refer to you as her bestie when you’re still acquaintances.
She has no friends or extremely shitty ones
I used to not judge people for being loners and I still don’t. A trick is not a loner, a trick is usually high on the fumes of her own self-delusion. Their friends will either be people who don’t reciprocate the sentiment or take extreme advantage of her. She continues the cycle by taking extreme advantage of them. See what I mean? Shitty. If she is without friends, that should send up another red flag. Other relationships are a window into what yours could potentially turn into. If they all look busted as hell or she mentions any variation of, “females are too dramatic, I prefer guy friends,” steer clear.
Talks and never listens
It is a well established fact that I talk a lot. I started a damn blog so I could talk even more! But I’m well aware that my friends always need a listening ear and good friends provide that. Tricks do not. The same woman who told you “females” are dramatic is more than likely a tornado-cum-shit storm of histrionics. She will tell you all about her terrible relationships, her shitty job, her crap roommate, her bad haircut, her dreadful day, her turbulent childhood, and her horrible family before you even sit down. She will tell you these things because it benefits her but unlike in healthy friendships, she will not stop or take the time to really listen to your bad shit. She’ll just keep going along, fishing for compliments and encouragement along the way until she gets her fill and then she’s out. She’ll either physically leave the conversation or check-out mentally. Everybody has their bad days so if this happens once or twice don’t pay too much mind to it. But if it’s been a year and she barely knows your last name? Drop that ass off at the curb.
Talks Behind Your Back
Everyone does it to some degree but if you are getting word from near strangers about atrocious statements being made about you and you’ve done nothing to warrant them? Dropkick a trick. Cut her loose before she drags you down an even more emotional draining rabbit hole.
Her Middle Name Isn’t Taraji
Does she celebrate your successes or does she try to downplay your triumphs? Does she support your efforts or does she try to persuade you to focus on hers first? Does she distract and talk you out of doing the things you want? When you’re winning, does she stand up and applaud? Real friends have your back. True friends will be as enthusiastic for your dreams as you are. Good friends support you. The only word for a person who doesn’t is an enemy. Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
How To Confront
But what about those of y’all who got the memo late and are already in toxic relationships with tricks? How do you confront the issue?
If we were dealing with adults with some kind of emotional structure I would tell you to be honest, to be fair, and to be tactful. But we are not dealing with adults. Truth is to a trick what water is to the Wicked Witch of the West. “TTs” don’t understand the truth because they’ve yet to confront it in their own lives. They don’t mess with it and well…you’ve seen the havoc it’s wreaking. Your main priority is you. Close your eyes for a minute and imagine your leg gets caught in a poisonous vine. It grows rapidly and at this precise moment is already to your knees. To your left there’s a machete and to your right some supergro fertilizer. Seems like an easy enough choice, right? Nope. In reality, toxic people are poison and yet so often we allow them to creep and grow until they’re sucking the life right out of us. You don’t have any more time to waste being miserable. Cut it off. Even though you may want to act up, don’t. Do not expend anymore emotional energy on this person. Be blunt, not brutal. Be assertive, not angry. But know this, a trick is essentially an emotional vampire. They feed off of your energy and will do anything to get more out of you. They may bring a whole new level of drama. They may beg. They may even start acting better. But what they do is no longer your concern, so let them go. Cold turkey. Do not give these people access to your life. They don’t deserve it and most importantly, they haven’t done anything to earn it. Put those boundaries up now and realize there will be resistance from both sides. It will seem a heck of a lot easier to fall back into the old status quo but stay the course. Good things don’t come easy and you deserve to have a toxin-free environment.
How to Prevent
If you’ve ever found a mouse or roach in your home what was the first thing you did? You set a trap, you got some spray to keep their friends from joining them. What is TT Raid? Boundaries. Be upfront about your boundaries in all relationships. If people know they can push you, they will. Don’t give them that opportunity. Give new people an “observation” period before deciding to proceed into friendship. Don’t test them because that’s also another toxic behavior but watch how they react to things. How do they talk to you? Is their concern genuine? Do they have an agenda? Pay attention then make the judgment call. Last but not least, stay in your lane. In the words of the great poet, J.Cole, “don’t save her [if] she don’t want to be saved.” Bleeding hearts like me always want to help people but before you throw your hand out to lift someone up make sure the person grabbing onto you won’t be pulling you down.
What do you think? Have you experienced toxic tricks before? What’s your advice on how to handle them? Subscribe and leave a comment below!