When you don’t trust yourself
You can’t do anything.
This is really the biggest lesson I have learned in (almost) 40 years.
I tend to come off as someone who is supremely confident — which I am about many things, but that confidence was earned with painful, traumatic repeated experience. I wasn’t born this way.
Except, maybe I was? But I was also born into a world that put all sorts of shit on me because of my body, made all sorts of assumptions about me because of my body, and punished me cruelly for not conforming to them. So much messaging before I had the time to solidify any sense of self just meant that whatever I believed to be true between 14 and 20 kind of became the base of my understanding of the world.
And what I knew to be true was that I, a fat girl, was ugly.
Certainly I was mostly mocked by everyone. I couldn’t buy stylish clothes that fit me. People pointed at me and laughed. Not one boy I liked reacted with anything other than horror. I didn’t even have to like them — all it needed was the words “Ameya likes you.”
I, a fat girl, was lazy.
I couldn’t run as fast as anyone else. I huffed and puffed and looked like a fool. I was never going to achieve anything at sports so I sat them out so I wouldn’t give people more ammunition to mock me. I stopped swimming because I was ugly and didn’t want to wear a swimsuit. Certainly I didn’t move much and after a point my muscles didn’t really develop the strength to move much.
I, a fat girl, was stupid.
Wait, no. I knew I was not stupid. I was smarter than most kids I knew. I also knew people were jealous of me because of that, they called me names and mocked me for it, but I knew I was not stupid. Still, I coasted a lot because I didn’t want to be called out for being “oversmart,” and thus I was lazy again.
This is the moment where the music warps, you know? Because, as soon as I got to college, where being smart was seen as normal and I could unfold all of it and wave it about, everything else that I had taken as utter truths about myself began to crack.
Was I really ugly? Was I really lazy? I had these secret thoughts, so deeply secret I didn’t even let myself know I was having them. I kept my head down, tried to find a style of work, pined desperately for various men, but stayed in my corner, you know, too fat to be pretty, nobody wants you, you should be grateful I’m willing to throw attention your way.
That is how I navigated the world. I assumed I had nothing of value to add, and so I accepted terrible treatment from everyone: friends, boys I liked, extended family, bosses. Some of it wasn’t terrible as much as just exasperating, but I put my head and down and I took it. I felt so guilty for ever thinking I could put my needs over what was offered to me, because I did truly believe that I was worth nothing, so everything I got was a gift.
I kissed up to fuck-all bosses; I lay down and let boys walk over me; I truly thought that it was my fault because, well, I was fat and they could hardly be expected to respond differently right?
Except, those secret voices I pretended I didn’t have, they came out once in a while. They would scream, “You are better than this, why are you wasting your time? You deserve better!” And for a brief moment I would think, yes, I do deserve better, I can ask for better, I can have better. But all too soon, the other voices would come and drown these guys out and they would be shoved back into their dungeon.
Luckily, as I got older, and I found people who forced me to rethink those instincts by literally being there for me over and over, I began to be able to have boundaries. In 2013 I drew the line with a couple of toxic friends. In 2014, with a man I was hopelessly in love with who was exploiting the shit out of it. And, in 2015, with a workplace that didn’t meet my needs.
And, I gotta tell you guys, the biggest shock was the workplace. Suddenly, I found that there were people willing to pay me well for the work I do well. Suddenly, I found that if I demanded certain behaviour from the people I worked with, I was only working for non-toxic people. And, what’s more, I had work. It might not have been dream work, but by god I was happy because I didn’t hate the work or the place I spent most of my waking hours. So much happier than when I worked for the “recognized” names or the super trendy places.
But, to get there, I first had to trust myself. I had to trust the constantly repressed voice that said, “Meya, you are worth x lakhs. You deserve work life balance. You are allowed to say no.” And then I had to leap. And, of course I crashed the first time. But it wasn’t a terrible crash, because I knew what was wrong. I finally trusted myself about that. And so I got up and used what I had learned, and didn’t crash like that again. Plus, I learned that if I crashed, I’d be okay.
And I took that learning to other parts of my life. I drew boundaries. My heart bled, I couldn’t breathe from hurt when I walked away from men who treated me badly. I was terrified to stand up to friends who treated me badly, and tried to make me think it was my fault. But the good thing is, once it was over, instead of being broken and worse, I was… better. Every time I chose myself, no matter the outcome, I loved myself more, I valued myself more and let me tell you, there ain’t nothing like that.
So I am here to tell you, in a long rambly way, to JUMP! Trust yourself to catch yourself! Trust yourself to be okay without other people! Because you’ll find out you can be, and then, the only people you’ll let into your life are those who genuinely make it better.