I have told myself that no one likes me for a big part of my life. I have been very hard on myself and I have felt convinced nobody listens to me or believes that what I have to say is valuable. My mind has been one of my biggest bullies.
Who am I? Am I an expert in any field? Why do I deserve to be listened to?
Being Brushed off Hurts Like Hell
I have been dismissed by others too many times to count. By men, by women. By teachers, friends, colleagues, managers. Most of all, I have dismissed myself by not taking myself seriously and trusted other people’s instincts more than my own.
Despite my lack of confidence, I speak up often because another part of me is impulsive and tries to cover up the anxiety inside me. But I then spend hours analysing my behaviour and finding faults in my actions.
I cringe at my bad jokes, I insult my stupid questions, and I laugh at my own misery.
I justified people’s dislike for me. I trusted my assumptions of other people’s opinions about me more than anything else. It’s mad.
When I finished education and transitioned into the corporate world, a small part of me hoped that people would just be kind. I falsely believed that once kids turn into working, responsible adults, the bullying would be over. I felt relieved ahead of time that the world I lived in would be more accepting of me.
I was naive.
6 years ago my grandfather was very suddenly taken to the hospital and my mother called me on my work phone to tell me he would not survive. My supervisor was there and saw my face go pale and tears start rolling down my face.
She told me to go.
I needed to say goodbye, but more importantly, I needed to be there for my mother.
My supervisor assured me I’d be paid for the time I was gone because it was an exceptional circumstance.
My grandfather survived that day, and a couple more weeks after that. He was a darn strong man. He eventually died peacefully at home. RIP Grandad.
Payday came and I noticed a chunk missing. Apparently, the boss — my supervisor’s manager — decided I shouldn’t be paid for the time I’d missed to be with my grandfather.
I remember not reacting impulsively for once, and actually, I was not all that surprised some of my pay had been cut because the manager had “picked” on me before. I remember asking myself whether this was worth fighting. I was tired, sad, and stressed, having just attended my grandfather’s funeral.
I decided to at least find out why. I took my time to type an email — I needed to keep this official and professional. I asked her for the reason I was not paid despite being told in writing by my supervisor that I would be. I also asked why nobody informed me of the change that would affect me directly.
Her response was something along these lines:
“We are not required to pay you by law. We did not talk to you about it because we did not want to add to the pressures you were facing during such a difficult time.”
To that, I put my middle finger up at the computer screen. I felt utterly betrayed.
I knew the company was not required to pay me — I would’ve accepted that had it been told to me at the time. But you can’t retract a promise and then let me receive the news in a form of a cut-down paycheck.
And this was just one one of many problems I encountered while there. This was the last straw.
I was being unfairly treated, that is a fact, but was I ready to go further? What were the chances of achieving anything considering this was okayed with HR?
I remember asking myself, is this what the corporate world is like? Is this only a small thing compared with how others are treated at work? Do people take this kind of BS? Was it just me, or did this company break the professional formality code?
I found it especially hypocritical, considering an employee could not get away with doing something of this scale without receiving a disciplinary or warning.
I took it personally. I felt powerless and used, disliked and taken advantage of. I worked my a** off at that company, I surpassed all my targets, did countless hours of overtime for free, and the one time I needed support it was not given to me.
My mother, one of the kindest, “would-never-hurt-a-fly”, type of person, told me to go get them.
Fear Attracts the Big Bad Wolf
People are like dogs — they smell fear too. They can spot a nervous person a mile away and automatically invade your space with their superiority complex. People have walked all over me without knowing it. I sometimes feel I bring out this alpha character of people who are otherwise likeable and nice.
Why I am so anxious, I cannot pinpoint to a single event, but many accumulated over a long period of time. These are just a few moments I carried with me while thinking about how to approach my manager at work:
- The times when I wouldn’t understand certain English words and I’d be laughed at endlessly, and those words would be used around me more to mock me.
- The times I would walk past a group of girls from another school on the way home and they would push me on to the road and laugh.
- The countless times where people told me “you can’t sit here” at school and I’d end up eating lunch in the library while I did my homework alone.
- The time I told a few girls I’d kissed a boy and they laughed because I was so ugly no one could possibly be attracted to me.
I don’t want to admit that they had an effect on me because that would make me weak. Maybe that’s the key — I’m dismissive of my own past experiences because I’ve been told time and time again they’re nothing compared to what others go through and I’m wrong to feel sorry for myself.
I took all my insecurities, all my fears, and I pushed back — hard.
After quitting my job I had an exit interview which I requested to write down the answers for. I think in hindsight, maybe that was my first real sign that writing was my talent.
This was not just about the paycheck — it was about the many witnessed situations that I felt were unprofessional and unfair. I knew this would reach someone who could implement changes that would cover grey areas like my scenario even if nothing changed for me. I was not going to lose anything from it since I was leaving anyway. It was my way of getting closure. I was brutally honest but careful with my words — I could not write bitterly and be seen as the immature employee who was unhappy because she didn’t get her way.
After I sent my statement and left, a tiny bomb exploded apparently.
I received my last payslip a couple of weeks later in the mail and low and behold, there was also a cheque for a day’s worth of pay. Turns out, my exit statement made an impact. I wasn’t wrong to complain. I was made to feel for a second that I was being childish, stomping my feet about a small amount of money, but I became stronger from it — I grew in confidence.
I also heard through the grapevine that the manager left not long afterwards. Make of that what you will.
Coping With “It”
It’s hard living with anxiety, but I have found ways to make it work for me. I learned to be my own counsellor — I tell myself I’ve got this. Positive affirmations really work, these are a few I tell myself every day:
- I am a good person. My intentions are good.
- I am a good mother. My son is cared for and is happy.
- I am beautiful inside and out.
- I am special.
#1 I Cut myself some slack.
The truth is, haters will always hate, and I choose every day to discard the hate I give myself by not giving their words attention anymore. It’s a learned behaviour not to entertain it now, and as I have said before, it takes practice.
I am coming to accept that there will never be a time when everyone likes or appreciates me. And that’s OK, as long as I am consistent with my own principles and I keep doing what I like doing without harming anybody else or myself.
#2 I turn my insecurities into positives.
The boss expected me to accept my fate and I decided not to because I learned through experience where the line for me is.
I decided to use my “bad stuff” to fuel my energy and do something good with it—I gave myself some self-respect and stood up for myself 6 years ago.
Now, I write about all my fears and insecurities as a way to acknowledge them and let them breathe. Doing that calms me. And that’s good.
#3 I look for signs to keep my negativity out.
Now, you may know from other articles that I ask for signs to snap me out of my negativity.
As I typed the main story of this article, I started to feel quite overwhelmed. I found myself getting upset and beginning to feel self-pity all over again. I think that writing this will help others who also suffer from anxiety to realise they are not alone and that there is hope. But it is still hard to face your past, even for those who claim they are “over it”.
After finishing my story, I went to “reset” my mood by having a shower. As I finished, I got a video call. It was a dear friend confirming she was visiting that weekend, which of course, cheered me the hell up. Her energy and good mood lifted mine completely.
I’m not saying the universe summoned her to speak to me at exactly the right time.
But I am saying the universe provides.
#4 Recognise and praise your progress.
I didn’t know what would come from that exit interview. I wasn’t hopeful of anything. But I gained dignity and self-respect from that manager. I did something to stand up for myself and I felt good.
Despite that, throughout the years, I still remained negative, fearful, and anxious. But I continued to make progress in other areas. Recognising my achievements boosts my confidence and motivates me to continue seeking to improve.
At the beginning of 2020 I vowed I’d really focus on my self-love, and I feel great. My biggest achievement is not automatically looking at something in a negative light. I don’t look for the disadvantages first.
And that makes me feel proud.
I look back at the things I have done over the years and regardless of how I felt at the time, in hindsight, I am proud. Because I would not be here if it wasn’t for everything that happened. Even the situation with my old boss was a lesson personified. So I am grateful.
Give yourself credit when you notice progress, even if only in your train of thought.
So, what is my silver lining here?
In spite of my fears and my insecurities, life is good. Because although I’ve had trouble processing some events in my life, I have learned to love. And that trumps everything else. Actively doing everything I can to treat myself with respect puts me at a higher place in the hierarchy of happiness. You too can do the same in order to give yourself the self-respect you deserve.
- Cut yourself some slack.
- Give your fears a purpose.
- Ask for signs and look out for them.
- Give yourself credit for the progress you make.
Life is bloody good, you just have to make the effort to look.
Previously published on medium
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