It is a common conundrum: wanting people to like you versus at least appearing to not giving a shit. The problem with wanting people to like you is that you risk measuring your self-worth by viewing yourself through the lens of those who don’t vibe with you. Most people I know feel hurt for a red-hot minute and then let it go when this happens to them. But if you have the self-esteem of a blobfish, it can be painfully difficult to bypass that feeling. The emotional impact might feel like this ALL THE TIME.
Even though I am well-aware of being keenly intellectual, funny, a semi-talented writer, and a (mostly) compassionate human being; when someone takes an instant dislike to me and seems to perceive me as being less than any of those boss traits, no lie, it CRUSHES ME. Like beetles in a Tyrion Lannister monologue. I immediately try to shore up that person’s perception of me with the reality of who I actually am, asking myself why on Earth they could see me in such an awful light. But doing that is like trying to see yourself through a funhouse mirror. You’re going to see a distorted view, and it will never truly reflect your deepest self. You end up running into that metaphorical wall over and over, hurting yourself and never hurting the person who can’t see the awesomesauce of which you are made.
People have all KINDS of reasons to dislike you. And some of them many often be valid. When someone complains that I am the pickiest eater on G-d’s green Earth, or that I’m more stubborn than Donald Trump on a Twitter rant, I take it as highly legit. I could name you a list of traits I am fully aware make me a pain-in-the-ass longer than a delay on the NYC 1 Train. I’m no Saint, and there are definitely things in my life I’ve done or said that will make me cringe until the day life turns me into mulch. We ALL DO. The thing that vexes me is when someone dislikes me for reasons that have as much in common with reality as Kanye West’s ego. When people think things of me that are so divorced from who I actually am, I can’t help it; this time it’s personal.
It would be easy to brush off this kind of bullshit as “Oh, it’s their loss”, and chalk it up to miscommunication or projection. But when you have to interact with such people, it can be incredibly hard on your sense of self. What is it I’m doing that makes them think I’m not as bright as they are? What is it I’m saying that makes them think I’m not a good person? You can kill yourself trying to understand the logic behind it all. The problem with doing that is that often there IS NO LOGIC behind it. Sometimes people see you in a way you aren’t, and that’s something you have zero control over.
It could well be their own projections, things they don’t want to accept in themselves that they put on you instead. It could be they met you on a bad day. It could be your outfit was so terrible it created an awful impression (maybe put ice on the all-flannel and yoga pants for a while?). It could be that they’re complete assholes and do this to everyone. It doesn’t really matter, but the important thing to remember is that sometimes it really isn’t you. This can be a tough lesson for anyone, but for someone who has an Anxiety Disorder, self-esteem issues, and has been bullied her entire life (as well being a victim of emotional and psychological abuse), all it does it make me compare myself to that person over and over and over again. It’s emotional masochism.
One of the biggest misconceptions I think people have about getting over this stuff is that there is a myth around the idea of forgiveness. Forgive them for they know not what they do. There seems to be this lie we tell ourselves that by forgiving someone for being a human toilet, you’re not only being a better person, you’re helping them too. Honestly, why? So they can keep doing it to you and make you feel bad about it? That’s basically gaslighting. Those kinds of people do not deserve your forgiveness.
When people apologize, or at least own up to their part in hurting you, then yes, perhaps forgiveness should be on the table, because there has been accountability and acknowledgment on the part of the person who is treating you badly. But for people who don’t think they did anything wrong, or don’t think their perception of you is incorrect (and never will), forgiving them only gives them license to keep being a bag of dicks.
For an extreme example: Dylan Roof, the shooter in the South Charleston church massacre has no remorse for what he did, and would absolutely do it again in a heartbeat if he could. He does not deserve forgiveness. He has not earned it. I understand there is a religious component to some people who choose to forgive even the most evil of others who have harmed them or their loved ones. I understand it is often a big component of Christianity. I am not dismissing that, but I think sometimes it can do more harm than good to the forgivee. It may well set you up to merely be a target for more hurtful behavior. Remember that Grateful Dead bumper sticker in the 90’s? Yeah, there’s a heavy truth to that.
When people don’t make the effort to try and help you, or treat you better, or at least listen to your side and come to an understanding that perhaps they weren’t fair in how they judged you; they are selfish and don’t need (or want) your forgiveness. If it makes you feel better, than by all means go for it. But trust me when I say that forgiving people who refuse to see what they are doing to you, or at least refuse to acknowledge it, are doing you no favors. It can be emotionally draining to be forgiving of people who don’t give a shit about you. It takes emotional courage to constantly give that away. And frankly, I am done doing it.
To be even-handed, there are plenty of folks who may never forgive me my own trespasses; and I don’t blame them for doing so. I’m no Mother Theresa. I have hurt as well as have been hurt. We’re all fallible, and while most people probably don’t intentionally go around treating others like a human litter box, it does happen. I’m no more free of that guilt than anyone else. But the older I have gotten, the more I realize that if one doesn’t let go, if you hold onto those grudges like a life-raft, it’s going to have a cancerous effect. Forgiving will not help me, or you, and I guarantee if the person who is making you miserable is doing so deliberately, they don’t give a rat’s fart about your need for forgiveness. They will go on being their nasty, self-righteous, holier-than-thou selves. Be like Elsa, but with better judgement. Perhaps instead of “Let It Go”, when you feel like you’ve just been looked down the nose by some awful version of Regina George, sing this instead. Hopefully embracing this attitude will free you far more than forgiveness could ever hope to.