At what point do you stop being yourself so that somebody else can feel comfortable? All the time? Half the time? Never?
Is it antisocial to do your own thing? Is a violence against your soul to not?
I’ve suppressed myself a lot throughout my life. I’ve been taught directly and indirectly that everybody else’s needs are always more important than my own. Perhaps some of it is just part of the training that every woman gets. Perhaps part is what I learned out of self defense from being raised in a house with a father who wasn’t emotionally there. We either walked on eggshells or just walked around him. We never really knew who he was going to be from day to day. Perhaps part of it is from having a brother who was the master of manipulation. The only trips he took me on were of the guilt variety.
I remember when I went to college in another town I realized I could be anybody I wanted to be. Nobody knew me. I didn’t have a history. I wasn’t Ian’s kid sister. I wasn’t Joan’s daughter. I wasn’t Pat’s kid. All of them had gone before me in that town and in that high school. They’d either taken classes there or had worked there. I had a sort of hand me down life, a sort of leftover existence, a sort of filtered reality. My life was not my own. People judged me based on what their experiences were with my family.
When I moved to another state I realized I could be anyone I wanted. So I decided to be myself. I stripped away everything that didn’t serve or suit me, and grew a new me from the inside out.
I’m doing that again now. I’ve been recreating myself over the past several years.
I deleted my sister in law as a “friend” on FB in part because she was always disagreeing with me. She often felt that my posts were going to upset her husband, or my husband. She asked me to delete the posts.
She reminds me a lot of how my brother tried to control me. Shame. Family honor. Secrets. Guilt. Don’t air the family business. Keep a stiff upper lip. Hold it in. What will “they” think?
I found myself thinking before many posts – what would she think? Would she censure me? Would she censor me? I took to posting some posts on my blog only, rather than on my FB page. I still got to speak, I just didn’t have to worry about her reading it.
Funny, she never commented on anything that she agreed with. It was always “I disagree” or “I respectfully disagree”, as if saying “respectfully” takes the sting out of the slap.
I can handle constructive criticism. I just can’t handle constant criticism.
So I had a choice. Her or me. Make her happy, or make me happy. I chose me.
It made her go a little spare for a bit.
It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in a while. Reminds me of when I deleted my brother. It was a little terrifying and a little bit exhilarating at the same time.
She now thinks I’ve gone mental, that something is wrong with me. She’s a therapist, so she should know, right? I think she’s putting the blame on me because it takes it off her. If she’d asked me privately if there was a problem, and listened to my feelings when I answered, then it would be different. Her reaction just proved to me that my decision was right.
Self-care is a sign of mental health. I will no longer allow abusive people into my life, regardless of who they are. Family members do not get free passes. In fact, I expect better from them.
I chose my husband. I did not choose his family, or who his family chose.