A Fraction of a Damn

“To be ourselves causes us to be exiled by many others, and yet to comply with what others want causes us to be exiled from ourselves.”

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With The Wolves

I’ve spent 11 years learning not to give a damn what other people think. It’s a work in progress, for sure. I’ve got a deep yearning to be liked by all the people. But likablity isn’t authenticity. And being likable doesn’t leave much to stand on when life starts roiling about being its usually wily self.

Once, when a friend faced a tough decision (the kind that makes sleep scarce and makes you re-examine your life and values), she sighed, “I wish I could just not care what other people think, like you do. But I’m not like that.”

Well shit. I’m not like that either. Not just naturally. And I’ve always envied the folks who seemed born waving their middle finger at the world, doing what they want, and to hell with the rest of ’em. But that’s never been my natural state.

What I am is wise enough to know that living my life in a way that made other people happy, seeking their approval and approbation, was killing me. Literally. I could not make the inner chorus of doubters and naysayers (who was made up primarily of outside voices I’d allowed to crash on my psychic couch & now they’d taken up permanent residence) shut the hell up, no matter what I did.

I’d do what I thought they wanted. Nope. Wasn’t enough. Or it was the wrong thing. I’d misunderstood the task, gone about it wrong, didn’t perform perfectly. The list went on and on and on. But it amounted to one thing: I wasn’t good enough & never would be.

And so, I drank to shut them up. And the price for their silence almost killed me.

That is some fuckery.

And so, I had to let it all go. Not because I’m valiant and brave and completely self-possessed. But because I wanted to live.

Rising from the ashes of being a yes-girl to my inner chorus took years (and some quality therapists). Because I’d stopped trusting myself long ago. I had to rediscover my voice through the cacophony. It took time to learn to trust myself again. Because first I had to excavate who I am from all that wreckage.

The work isn’t magic. I still get struck with that god-awful mixture of shame & fear that burns in my chest when I think I’ve done something that folks won’t like, something that will ultimately render me unlovable.

But fear’s a lying bastard. And I know it.

So, I sift through my the things that cloud my vision, dig down to that inner knowing, and listen. I wait until I know what the next right thing is. And then I do that.

And it isn’t that I don’t care what people think. Or that I’m never stung by their responses. It’s just that I care what I think more. Because the one person I can’t live, can’t breathe, if I’m exiled from is myself.

Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash

Author: Kendra Lee

I am smitten with Atlanta. I believe Black Lives Matter. I care deeply about housing justice, education, and transportation. I am a huge MARTA fan. I've got the most adorable second grader, an incorrigible Boxer named Delilah, and a pretty amazing husband named Simon. I've been sober for 9+ years. I heart coffee. On any given day I may write about all--or none--of those things.

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