naamah_darling: The right-side canines of a wolf's skull; the upper canine is made of gold. (Default)
Stabbity at Not Just Bitchy brings us "Oh, just stop worrying about what other people think", which is a nice thought-provoking read that can be summed up by this worth its weight in gold quote:

A depressingly common piece of advice I’ve seen given is to "just stop worrying about what other people think". That’s not advice, that’s a goal.


FUCKING A. The piece is about the difficulty submissive men have accepting their identities and shrugging of societal pressures, which is a fantastic thing to be talking about. The entirety of it also applies to basically everything else. I'm feeling it on the "being a big fat fatty" front, and the "being a crazy person now officially on disability" front especially, those being more or less the only remaining difficult things I am still struggling with accepting in myself.

Even though it's not as orderly as I'd like, here is my comment, distilling what I've learned about Not Caring What People Think. I am not an expert on this, but I've been around the block a couple of times, and I do think that what I have to say has potential value to people struggling. I offer it here in the hopes that it might help someone. Cheers. (Discussion welcome.)

Naamah says:

This applies to SO DAMN MANY of the ways in which we are encouraged to feel shitty about ourselves.

It’s not even about not caring what people think. As you point out, we all have to care what people think to some extent just on a practical level, and we all NEED approval from at least some people in order to feel fully human.

It’s a matter of narrowing your focus, until it’s ONLY the opinions of PEOPLE who matter to you THAT matter to you on an emotional level. That’s a thing I learned to ask myself often: Does that person matter to you? Do they have power over you? Now, do you REALLY care what they think? Sometimes the answer to one of the first two is yes, but more often, the answer is no, and I can feel free to be outraged by their bigotry but not personally hurt in the feels by it. You cannot allow yourself to define your value primarily by what people who do not value you think. Un-learning that, internalizing it, is difficult.

I don’t have to deal with this on the basis of being a submissive man, but I am fat, and I’m disabled, and so I have a lot to fight against when it comes to people looking down on folks like me, and I have had to undo a hell of a lot of damage. It’s a lot of work. So pardon me if I wax intersectional, and kind of random.

I try to surround myself with supportive people and supportive energy. And by “people” I absolutely do mean online contact. Tumblr has been great for that. I try to find places where people talk about their experiences, both positive and negative. I try to find people like me that I think are awesome and that I admire, and I remind myself “X person is fat, and she is awesome, and I LOVE her because she is an awesome fatty, and I am also fat, which means I CAN BE AWESOME TOO.” I remind myself that X person is also bipolar, and one of the best people I know, which means that I can be good, too.

Whenever I can — and I realize that this is something that’s difficult and risky for many people for many reasons — I start conversations. I talk about being mentally ill on my Livejournal a lot, and part of the reason for that is to increase visibility of people like me, so that others won’t feel as alone, and will have a space to talk about stuff if they’d like to that isn’t their own space, subject to scrutiny in a different way.

Another part of the reason is that doing all that talking has REALLY helped me come to terms with a lot of what I’ve had to deal with. It has helped me sort out feelings, and boosted my confidence, even when I am talking about being scared and hurt. Saying “here I am, this is who I am, this is what I am,” even if I am only saying it TO MYSELF in a private entry or in my print journal, helps. So I suppose I’m recommending something I always found annoying when people recommended it to me: journaling. But writing down the truth of yourself, writing your own story, can help you see the value and validity of it.

A lot of it comes down to that: seeing, believing in, your own value. And when you believe in your own value, you stop caring as much what people think. Rather, you do care, I — maybe most people — probably can’t ever stop caring that some people think I am pathetic scum, but it stops hurting as much. (Then you might go through a phase where you’re full-time pissed off, but that’s better than pain, and after that comes the blissful not-giving-a-single-fuck phase, which is glorious and worth the trip.) If someone looks at you like a bug, when they make it obvious they think you are worthless, you become offended THAT they think that, but WHAT they think stops hurting as much, because you’ve moved past feeling that about yourself. Does that make sense?

I consume media where people like me are represented favorably, when I can. This is often difficult, and I am sure it’s difficult for submissive men to find that sort of representation in a non-porn context (not that there’s anything wrong with porn, I love it — when it’s not fetishizing my identity in a gross way — but I don’t find porn featuring fat women empowering in the way that I find other stories and imagery empowering — people in porn are not often depicted as fully-realized people, just snapshots of parts of a person’s identity, but not a depiction of a whole person or character).

I am creative, so I have that outlet too. I can use that to tell stories or make art that affirm my identity. Not something everyone can do, but it should not be neglected for those who can. It can be very powerful. And I’m not talking about serious FINE ART shit, here, I’m talking about I make a custom My Little Pony and decide that part of her backstory includes having a girlfriend on another pirate ship, or I decide that the boy pony I made out of a girl pony is in fact a little trans pony. I draw fat mermaids giving people the finger. LITTLE things. Playful things. Silly, but that shit is actually really affirming.

And I have tried to create a support network — everything from doctors to friends to professional contacts — where as few people as possible are douchebags, so that the majority of my important interactions are safe. This is not possible for many people in all circumstances, and I understand that all too well, but it’s something worth striving for, and something to be aware of. It’s worth clinging to the relationships that don’t make you feel shitty about yourself, and reminding yourself that THOSE are the people who really matter. “Asshole McFuckstick thinks I am scum, and I have to deal with him every day, and that’s toxic, but Joe Awesome and Kickass Jane are good friends to me, and my online support group of People Who Are Actually Incredibly Cool is full of people who Get It, and one of my parents loves me.”

A lot of this feels to me hopelessly inadequate, because so many of these things are terrifically complicated on their own, or they are things that aren’t accessible to everyone, or they are things that aren’t going to appeal to some people or help some people (journaling, for instance, is not always good for people, it just makes things worse for some people by causing them to dwell on the bad/scary things — not how it works for me, but that’s why it’s a potential tool only, and not a solution).

We crave approval. This isn’t learning to not need approval, it’s learning to give it to yourself in enough measure to sustain you so that you are not seeking it from sources that are more likely to harm you. It’s learning to hold yourself up until you can hopefully form a support network around you, and if you can’t, if you have to go it alone for a long time, it’s learning to bounce back from the blows — ’cause you can’t avoid getting hit. You just can’t.

It’s a constant struggle to retain your sense of worth in the face of deeply ingrained society disapproval. The final piece of advice I can offer is that you aren’t going to win that struggle overnight, and it’s not a steady thing. You will be at 70% one day, and the next day is a bad day and you are down to 15% again. And those days are not failures. They are part of the process. You weather them, and in doing so you learn you can weather them, and they stop having as much power over you.

Gregory above points out that it requires a strong sense of self. That’s so very true. And a strong sense of self is not something everyone just HAS. I sure as hell didn’t. I grew up being told I was a spoiled, worthless, cowardly brat. I had to develop it, it took time, it was hard, some of the hardest shit I’ve ever had to do, and at the same time it was deeply worth it and deeply rewarding.

I wish anyone struggling with it the best of luck, and strength, and peace, and I offer my assurance that it’s a *skill* and you will get *better* with practice.

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