I am here despite constant rejection. I am here despite social sabotage at every level. I am here despite deep despair, despite hopelessness, helplessness and often overwhelming fear, isolation and loneliness.
I. Am. Here.
If you are reading this essay, you are here, too. And, I'm PROUD of you for existing beyond what I know all-too well can be insurmountable hardships. Yet, here you are. Reading. Breathing. Alive.
Being alive is a victory over whatever oppression you have suffered. Over whoever the haters are in your world. Breathing and existing and SMILING, no matter what, makes you a total and complete success. Regardless of debt, regardless of any other difficulties, you are a powerhouse. While the inequities may be frustrating, and your lack of progress, maddening--you are still here. And, that's a HUGE win.
People that marginalize you, that try to silence you...the ones who push you away, resent you, blame you, make you the villain of their life to excuse their own narcissistic desire to discard you--they want you to die. Yes, they do. They'll never admit to that. Especially not in our sensitive society. But, how sensitive can we really be when we still have hate, prejudice, racism, bigotry, ageism, anti-Semitism, misogyny, and total bias against anyone with any physical difference--especially people who are visibly "handicapped" in some way? That's part of the social double-talk we learn from a very early age forward. No one will admit to wanting you to die, yet no one will help you to really live either. What does that tell you?
Recovery from social resistance will never be instantaneous. It takes years. Decades. Because anyone who receives social resistance continues to receive it. There is no such thing as a one-time event with social sabotage, or it wouldn't be sabotage. If you hear, or have ever heard, "Why do these things always happen to you?", what you are really hearing is, "You are not treated fairly on a regular basis--and we notice that fact--but we blame you for the inequity because blame-shifting is easier than helping."
Double-talk. It's everywhere. And, it gets in your head, too.
I remember expressing sadness on social media about nine months after losing my daughter. It was surprising, and surprisingly hurtful, when a well-educated "friend" publicly declared that I must have postpartum and needed medication.
If this "friend" truly felt I needed professional help, a private message could have told me that. The public pronouncement was for his benefit, not mine. This person holds no Doctorate in Psychology or Psychiatry, or Medicine, for that matter. He holds no Doctorate at all. But, I do. His egotistical need to publicly take me down a peg as a woman who has proven her intellectual prowess was apparently more important to him than anything else. He had no right to devalue my feelings. He had no right to publicly suggest there was no validity to my sadness. He had no right to marginalize me in any way, shape, or form. But he did. It can be argued that as a white male, this man was ignorant to a pervasive cultural negativity towards women. But that's just an excuse to justify what is bad behavior, regardless of gender or skin-tone.
The situation above is an example of social resistance. Any attempt to make you feel "crazy" for legitimate feelings based on real-life events and experiences is a social prompt to get you to engage in self-sabotage. Don't let people do that to you!
Intelligence can help take away the sting of social betrayal. But it's still hard to be constantly criticized, scrutinized, blamed, resented, and generally made to feel less-than. No one deserves that kind of treatment. If you were to ask the people who treat you badly why they do it, they'd have a laundry list of reasons--but none are valid. Compassion over judgment and kindness over cruelty is the only healthy social response. Period.
It's hard to talk to your partner, friend, co-worker, sibling, family member, or parent about anything that may bother you and get silence as your response. If you're lucky. Because, when you get a response, you're laughed at, told your feelings aren't legitimate, and that the things that bother you don't really matter. Even if this message is conveyed with a smile and a hug, the one conveying it is your enemy. That person wants you to feel bad in an effort to maintain a codependency, or vertical relationship, that keeps you down and them, up. You're likely in what is an emotionally and psychologically abusive social situation because your family was not supportive, and most likely, abused you in some way, too. When you're vulnerable as a child, you'll be vulnerable as an adult. That means you'll be in situations you shouldn't be in until you can be physically (and therefore, fiscally) independent. But if you are an adult survivor of abuse, reaching that goal may not be as easy as it is for a friend or relative who had, and perhaps still has, supportive family--at least, financially supportive.
I try to be mindful of time, because we can't get it back. Setting goals is all about valuing yourself and your precious time. But it can be overwhelming to try to reach a goal when simply surviving your life is all you can manage on any given day. If that's the case for you, I want you to feel proud of yourself for doing just that--surviving. And, I want you to not give up on yourself, or your goal to be independent. I want you to push on, even if that mostly means surviving for another day, and another, and another. I am PROUD of anyone who is surviving because the option to thrive was taken off the table by society for one reason or another.
Let me remind you survivors out there that as long as you breathe, you can (and will!) make change....
Permanent change in life is always incremental. Small. It has to be gradual to stick. Physicists call it "critical mass." Once you have accumulated enough "small" changes, you will be empowered. You will also be in a position to make the one big change you probably pray for every second of every minute of every hour of every day.
Remember, just being alive is a victory. But smiling is a victory, too.
You deserve to smile all the time. No matter your circumstance, smile at your success over social sabotage. Smile at your existence despite the social obstacles. Smile because you are here. And because you are here, you can smile. Also, smiling will drive your haters absolutely crazy.
If living well is the best revenge, smiling is a close second. Haters live to see you sad. It makes their century to think that they have defeated you in some way. Even if all you can do is survive, a smile allows you to reclaim agency. That's true power. You are letting everyone know that you are here--no matter what anyone does or doesn't do. You exist. And, on top of existing, you shine!
My life may not be what I want it to be, but I am still happy within myself. I love me. I'm proud of who I am. Proud that no one and nothing changes my core. Proud that I can still feel love and be open enough to both give it and receive it--whether I'm getting it directly or not. I'm happy in my own skin, despite the cruelties that have scarred my body. And, I'm not new either. This isn't naivete. This is real. True. It's happiness, regardless of what the world has done to stop me from feeling it.
I am victorious, not because a bunch of people have approved of my resume and given me a job with a fancy title and a salary to match. That's actually never happened. And, it doesn't matter if it ever does. I am victorious because I am here, despite how others treat me. I am here, regardless of social betrayals at every level of my life. And, because I'm here, I can talk to you.
Wherever you are in the world, we are connected. I am with you, and you are with me. That makes us stronger. We may not always feel strong. We may not always feel brave. But because we are still here, we are strong AND brave. You are strong and brave. I am PROUD of each and every human being who chooses to stay positive, chooses to be kind, chooses to be generous, despite being treated poorly, despite social sabotage, and despite the resulting physical and fiscal difficulties that come from both. You are the true superheroes of this world. Your very life inspires others to keep going, whether you know it or not. That's a victory, too.
Just existing is a success over anyone who thinks even one negative thought about you. Choosing to think, speak, or express negatives over positives is actually part of mental illness. A person who chooses negatives can never be your friend, your lover, or any true supporter of your life. Because that person is ill. Mental illness is not obvious like a physical wound--people can be high-functioning individuals who hold jobs and own homes yet still be afflicted with mental illness. In fact, professional success in things like business is often linked to the Dark Triad--narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism--all part of sociopathic behavior. That's why financial and/or professional success outside of the arts is in no way a true measure of mental health or any real emotional intelligence (or talent, for that matter).
If you are feeling sad and stuck, don't mistake your frustration with social sabotage and betrayal for unhappiness within yourself. Don't devalue your survival because others do. Recognize your victory over social resistance by appreciating your very existence. Every breathe you take makes you a MAJOR success. Every second you survive means you have another chance to survive again, and again, and again until you can finally thrive. Being here is the victory you need now to make any future success possible. Never forget it!
You are a success every day that you are on this planet. No matter what people have said or done to you. No matter how much money you have, or don't have. No matter who has tried to hurt you. You. Are. Here. And that, my dear readers, is a victory worth shouting about.