Let me tell you something, being unaware of your value doesn’t just rob you of opportunities, but it can completely rob you of peace, and bring untold drama and heartache into your life. I am hitting my 30s pretty soon, and while I have spent many years dwelling on my flaws and nitpicking how to fix myself like I’m some AI program, I have also made huge strides in realising my true worth. But boy-oh-boy I’d been sleeping on me.
Now, if you’ve been following me for a while you know I was bullied through my teenage years, I was constantly devalued as a person, made to believe no one liked me or wanted me around, going on for many years until I was 19. And just then, I moved out of home, started living on my own, got a job, and gained some semblance of control. Only then could I stop the outside bashing. But it was a little too late. The voices had soaked in.
Because I still wasn’t aware. On a superficial level, I wasn’t aware I was conventionally attractive. For my formative years, those words did not describe me at all, except when paedophiles and groomers used them on me. I’m very sure the first time I was told I was beautiful as a teenager was by some dude almost twice my age. One thing about groomers is, they’re very good at spotting potential and me? I was brimming. I had fully morphed into the body of a woman at 15. I’ve always looked the way I look now for as long as I remember. I’ve been an adult for such a long time that childhood feels like eons ago.
Another awareness I lacked was how much of a force I was. The energy and pull I carried. I was a smart kid, although I constantly tried to hide it because I was being bullied and I wanted to fit in. Nobody likes the wiseass. It might be unimaginable that I was hiding it because I was still a full-blown wiseass. But imagine if I wasn’t trying to hide it. My confidence would have been way up there with Elon Musk.
At my first few jobs, I was completely oblivious to the effect I had on people, and in the workplace. It wasn’t just that I was letting people treat me anyhow or make jokes at my expense even when we were not that cool. It was the fact that I didn’t even understand what humans were capable of when they were beefing with you. I did not understand why or how they could be beefing with me, or what was there to be beefed. To me, I’m just a plain old ugly-ass lady who liked to dress up as the mood fits, who talked way too much and offended people by saying a lot of stuff no one wanted to hear.
“Let others determine your worth and you’re already lost, because no one wants people worth more than themselves.”
― Peter V. Brett
It’s borderline dangerous and suicidal when you don’t know your own value.
I was socially awkward too but I often hid it under bouts of laughter, joke-cracking, and overt extroversion. When someone invades my privacy, breaks my trust by spilling my secrets, or gossips about me, I can’t seem to get why they did that. I wasn’t just clueless, I assumed it was something I’d done wrong, so I kept going back to them, befriending them, and showing them more love, because it was not their fault they did what they did. It was my fault. I didn’t just make these beliefs up. I was told over and over again till it became what I thought was my own voice. It was always my fault when someone treated me unkindly. And it was my job to fix it so they can treat me better. I never learned to walk away from spaces I wasn’t wanted. Does this sound like you?
But sometimes I’ll stay away from people and mind my business.
I would breeze into work in these tight-ass tops over my double D cup, rocking ripped jeans standing firm on my barely visible waistline, with high-top boots; sporting long, wavy hair, always listened to music and kept my head straight. I’ll strut in, fantasising that I was in a music video and there was a red carpet in front of me. I danced or skipped when I walked. I’ll go to my seat, flash a smile at everyone to say good morning because that’s what cultured people should do, and then I plunker down, and get right to work. I don’t leave room for follow-up conversations because my ears were plugged. I don’t let anyone praise me or fawn over me or make me into a queen; a position I could easily fill. I just blocked my ears and minded my business. I often arrived at work like a storm on it’s best day.
It took me years of relearning and unlearning to realise I did not like talking as much as I thought I did. It took therapy to unpack that my sanguine personality came from growing up in a near war zone and it was a mask designed to make my dad overlook me and think I was a pleasant child. It worked a bit, my siblings had a tougher time with him for sure. Even in adulthood, sometimes I’m talking so much and I try to catch myself, breathless, waiting for someone to interrupt me, because I’m not used to silence. If I stop talking, if no one else talks, it’ll be the echo of my voice, and silence, two things I wasn’t comfortable with.
Growing up, my parents and siblings would lock me out of my room just so I’ll have no choice but to mingle with members of my own family. My first housemate in Uni would knock on my door every other week of not seeing me, just to check I was alive. He knew I was always holed up. He claimed I could die and no one would know until my stench passed under the door. He would start random conversations and only let me off the hook when he was sure he didn’t interrupt an “unaliving” process.
Imagine the same me, I get outside and I’m everyone’s friend. I was never a people person. I was an introvert with CIA-level skills of extroversion. I knew how to show up as I was needed or wanted. Growing up a preacher’s kid who joined the choir at 8, I knew how to be likeable a little too well; what to say, what to do, how to curtsy, how to smile. Deep down, I did not like people and I just wanted to be left alone all of the time. And I would pull people into my world making them believe it was sunshine and mimosas in there, then leave them hanging because I was out of steam to maintain the relationship.
A couple of times it had gone full mean girl mode at work, I’d been labelled a boyfriend snatcher and shunned from female society. Literally I went through several shunning phases. But did it work? I never thought it wasn’t okay to hang with a dude because he has a girlfriend. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean they shouldn’t talk to a female. If I’m with someone who cheats on me, it definitely wasn’t because I didn’t do my job of chasing all the females around him away. So even though I watched Mean Girls and every similar high school movie I could relate to, I did not know there were these imaginary “sister codes” I was to follow. I did not care for restrictive codes.
I never sought to clear rumours or misunderstandings because my attempts had been feeble at best in the past. I never dated in high school or stole a kiss with the boy who had a massive crush on me, yet I was the most promiscuous girl in the entire school. At tutoring lessons and classes, I was always to be seen at the back of the class frenching different dudes. At Uni, I cheated on my first boyfriend with rich old men for money. At jobs in the past, I was that siren ladies warned their men about. I was vain and materialistic, and to get with me, you will risk your life. I was used to being infamous.
I chucked it up to me being a victim of life. Life just liked creating drama for me. None of it was my fault or avoidable. I made my peace with it.
But you see, I was creating drama for myself, while simultaneously thinking I was living drama free and not worthy of anyone’s drama. Because no matter famous I was, I was also very lonely. I repeated negative narratives to myself every night as I sleep while rocking a bottle of gin waiting for the reprieve of sleep. I wanted to be a part of something so badly, so I kept attempting to fix things inside me that did not need fixing. What needed to be fixed was on the outside. There are many things you won’t have control over when you’re a force of nature, but you can get pulled into the whirlwind easily, and you end up being your own biggest weapon in the hands of those who seek to pull you down.
Sometimes I still find myself mimicking people, guffawing at barely funny jokes, and saying by reflex “let’s hang out soon”. But I am catching myself halfway now and standing firm in not befriending every tom dick and harry. I save my excitement and energy for the gym, and other exhausting compulsory life stuff.
“Once you embrace your value, talents and strengths, it neutralizes when others think less of you.”
― Rob Liano
While I hardly visit the past anymore, I will ponder on it still, to ensure I don’t repeat the same mistakes.
So if you’re looking for me now, you’ll find me in my house; hunched over my laptop or tablet, while acting like I don’t know why I have back pains. Watching K-drama and living vicariously through soft men who would refuse to eat if their woman doesn’t reply to their text. Learning to sink further into new personalities that are emerging for me, including the loner type. Existing slow and steadily. Because after years and years of thinking the solution for life was to not exist, I may just accidentally live till I’m 90, and I refuse to do life stressed and anxious, waiting for life to stop being mean to me.
“The moment you become friends with your inner self, you realize that the failures or hindrances that you met earlier were caused more by your disconnected status with your inner being.”
― Stephen Richards