Who Really Cares?
January 11, 2017
“The moment we begin to fear the opinions of others and hesitate to tell the truth that is in us, and from motives of policy are silent when we should speak, the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
— Elizabeth Cady Stanton
I think this is a question that is often asked but responses are typically….”Not me for sure” “I could care less what people think” “Their opinions don’t pay my bills” But if we all really look deep do we truly care what people’s opinions are of us as an individual? I can only speak for myself on this topic but I can honestly say that I’m torn. Remember, this is where I am emotionally on this topic at this moment. With so many internal opinions this answer is likely to change momentarily. However, I can say that the majority of my life the message has always been conveyed to me that “image” is very important, if not, one of the most important things in life. And it’s the opinions of others that somehow control the vision or path of my future. Let me explain…..
Being raised in a very conservative and small southern town the typical way of dealing with things has always been to “keep it in the family and put a smile on your face.” Do I think that this way of thinking is detrimental to completing the normal emotional/psychological/physical developmental stages? Why no. But I do think that in some instances it can make for difficult adjustments. I clearly remember as a child getting ready for church on Sunday mornings and for one reason or another I or my sister would get in trouble usually leading to tears of frustration about simply not getting our way. But let us pull into that church parking lot and it was, “Dry it up and put a smile on your face. We are headed inside the church.” What this translates to is this….”Don’t let anyone see anything that is considered ‘out of the norm’ because it will reflect poorly on our family thus making us look like incompetent parents.” Now, I obviously can’t say that this is exactly what my parents were thinking or feeling but it definitely rings true for those friends, family and perpetrators that I’ve had dealings with. I’m also in no way trying to demonize the way my parents raised me.
Is this a very catastrophizing way of looking at a very harmless situation? Absolutely. But this is a very multi-generational and societal way of thinking that is very common nationwide. This is also a side effect of a society that focuses primarily on appearance that is often unauthentic. Nevertheless, these very unrealistic expectations that have false attainability beliefs infiltrate the minds of impressionable children and teens and they are constantly chasing an image or ‘image like’ appearance not only to fail but fail miserably. The thought, in turn, of not being good enough is implanted and constantly reiterated until it becomes a belief and then a self fulfilling prophecy. This obviously doesn’t ring true in every situation but, I would be willing to bet that there are both young teen boys and girls who struggle with body image and appearance in epic proportions.
All of my perpetrators in some form abused me in ways that attacked my appearance and body image to a level that has left long time scars and often gaping wounds both internally and externally. These wounds, by far, have been some of the deepest. Body image and self worth were tied into one very distorted concept that birthed very distorted beliefs. The specifics of these events are left for those willing to listen professionally. Please understand that they are as fresh today as the day they pierced my skin and psyche. This belief is also one that is also held in high regard by society as evidenced by the astonishing numbers of children, teens and adults who are held captive by eating disorders, compulsive plastic surgery or any substance or behavior that falsely advertises that there will be TOTAL control or perfection such and I would be the first one with my hand out.
Now, why all of this long and drawn out explanation? Well, because for me this is exactly what my ‘perfect storm’ looked like. Essentially, I’ve been marinating in false beliefs and concepts the majority of my life in many different ways. These beliefs that have developed at a very young age while also being further molded by daily verbal and emotional abuse just so happened to be the perfect breeding ground for lifelong eating disorders and body image issues.
I was recently asked the question…”How do I imagine a world without the care of what people think?” Again I quickly thought, “I don’t care what people think in the least bit.” Then the reality of the question hit me a few seconds later and I looked at her like someone who had just seen an individual streaking in their living room. All I could muster was the puppy head tilt. I honestly had to fight back tears because I knew what was being hinted at and how incredibly painful this topic is for me.
Since I’ve now had time to digest the question further I can honestly say this….I have no idea what a world where no one cared what other people think about them. This in no way has any hint of sarcasm attached to it. It’s almost like asking Helen Keller what it’s like to have sight? When I’ve never lived or understood how to live life full of true freedom in that way, it’s difficult to imagine a life like that even being possible. That’s not to say that people don’t fully understand and embrace that concept currently. It sounds like a beautiful fantasy that I’ve been unable to touch, smell, see or taste thus far.
I can tell you that personally with the weight on my shoulders that I’ve carried daily for many years surrounding this topic, it would probably feel like I was so light that I might float away if I were that free. I don’t really know an answer that isn’t conflicting. What I do know is that caring what people think about me and my life and life choices does not get the bills paid. I think also that because of the nature of human beings wanting and needing to belong often times we tend to try and conform naturally to what society, family or friends think for fear of not belonging and having that connection of acceptance from another. I also know that caring what people have thought has left me with devastating effects to my own detriment and often in ways not seen with the naked eye. So, I guess maybe this is just another situation where moderation is the key and too much is dangerous. I’m not too proud to say that I just don’t know or understand that balance yet because I live in a constant state of fight or flight. However, I’m beginning to understand exactly how far this issue permeates every part of my being.
Usually, I write and I get a noticeably uplifting release. Tonight, however, I must say that the feeling is an all over heaviness on my heart, mind and body. As a tear muscles its way through a tough, outer exterior, I am reminded at how very painful and yet cathartic these moments can be.