Don’t Let The Opinions Of Others Dictate Your Story
Because it’s your story, not their’s
A few days ago I ended up at a Taylor Swift concert. A friend shouted me VIP tickets as a treat. We ordered some food and my card declined.
There was an awkward moment. I knew my financial situation but the ticket was free and I was hungry. I figured that I had at least $5 in the account to at least get me the cheapest thing there.
Turns out I didn’t.
Naturally, I didn’t buy any merchandise and I had nothing to give my friend for taking me along to the experience. She ended up shouting me dinner and a poncho against the rain.
Five years ago…
…everyone saw me as the young woman who had it all together — a University degree, a stable and promising job, seemingly good relationship with the parents, friends and a solid bank account.
There were regular updates on my life, where I went, what I ate, what I did on Facebook. My mother revelled in the likes and the comments. I, her daughter, her pride and joy did everything I was meant to do without a hiccup.
Meanwhile, her friends’ kids were off in troubled relationships, breakups, out of wedlock pregnancies, parties, drunk nights out in town and all sorts of things that would probably give her a heart attack.
I, on the other, stood on a pedestal of perfectness. I was becoming everything she ever wanted and for that she lived vicariously through me until it turned toxic and controlling.
The Fear To Be
I don’t know when it started, only that it did. I became acutely aware the people around me and how they all viewed each other. I don’t know what it’s like for guys but for me as a female, everything is much more intense.
Everyone always has an opinion on someone else — mostly bad.
I had the reputation of being the quiet good girl and I got there with the help of my mother orchestrating my every move. Any time I became too vocal about my thoughts or opinions, she would hush me. Any time that I wanted to do anything that was remotely outrageous, I would get shut down and chided. I lived my life in fear of the opinions of others and how my mother would react if I did something that’s not part of the ‘good girl’ personality.
I love my mother but I was also afraid of her as well. I was afraid of her opinion and her potential disappointment.
She became my mouthpiece to all her friends and constructed the facade of the perfect good girl. I happily played along because it was easy. I collected friends that would work around her demands — back home by night fall (I was in my 20s), no drinking, no going out alone with a group of boys (there must be at least two other girls), no out of town trips, no dreams of travel, concerts, places where I could potentially return home later than what’s been negotiated.
She knew everything — where I was, who I was with, what I did, what I ate, opened and read my letters before I even knew I had any. There was no secrets — except for the fact that I felt more like a shell pretending to be the person she’s helped construct for the world rather a real person.
Then I met the father of my child and it all went downhill from there.
And in the death of her reputation, she felt truly alive
The last night under my parent’s roof was the night she went through my bag when I didn’t return home before 9pm for three nights in a row. She chided me each night, telling me how disappointed dad is in me. Perhaps he was. I would never know because he never spoke a word, only a trusting a silence that I would choose the right thing for myself.
My mother, on the other hand, felt that she was losing control — so she tightened her grip on me. She demanded that I stopped seeing this ‘boy’ because he’s not good for my reputation.
“You’re a good girl. Everything is perfect right now,” she said to me. “You’ve got your whole life ahead. There will be others more perfect for you.”
She kept saying perfect and yet I felt very far from it.
The last guy I was with was her version of perfect but it made me miserable. She told me to give him another year when I decided to break it off — followed by a mental breakdown when I did officially call it quits in person and on social media.
I was 24 and felt like my life was wasting away. The idea of keeping my ‘reputation’ for people that only knew me from afar felt redundant to my existence. They were relatives I never speak to or see. They were ‘friends’ and friends of friends. They were people that had so much impact in all my decisions and yet they shouldn’t. They were the opinions of people my mother cared about.
My reputation was my mother’s reputation. She’s gotten so used to living vicariously through my superficial successes that if I dared fail, it meant that she would have failed too. Her sense of self was so enmeshed in how I was perceived by the people she cared about that she didn’t know herself either.
Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. — Abraham Lincoln
I moved out the next day.
2 years hiatus
Of all the people that I used to know, I still only talk to about three of them — two friends from University and one from high school. All the rest have all disappeared into the obligatory baby photos likes group.
I didn’t post on social media. Not really.
In fact, I disappeared almost completely and found a new group of people that truly cared for me as the person that I am — ups, downs, good decisions and bad decisions.
During that time I didn’t speak to my parents at all. I removed myself from their world and created my own — through tears, highs, lows, bad days and good days.
I got to live life on my own terms and experienced the outcome of my personal decisions.
I finally got to write my story and I stopped caring about what others thought of me. It helped me get real and make the mistakes that I needed to make back in my teenage years. It helped me say words I shouldn’t have. It helped me learn how to cope with my emotions. It helped me figure out how to pick myself up after fall flat on my face. It helped me figure out me.
Late bloomer and embracing the uncertainty
Four years later, I now feel like a wholesome adult with adult fears and troubles like making rent, how to feed the family and pay the electricity bill without a proper and traditional daily swap my time for money job.
Yet, despite the financial woes that could have been avoided if I continued to be my mother’s puppet, I feel happy. I’m laying down the stones myself and there’s a certain satisfaction in that even when my card is getting declined with insufficient funds at a Taylor Swift concert food stall.
There is a level of self love needed to do the things I’m doing.
I’m now writing, creating. hustling and doing all the things that I’ve ever wanted. I’m failing on my own terms and learning from my mistakes. From that I’ve transformed my reputation from the ‘good girl’ to the brave, smart and truly real and self loving person that I’ve always wanted to be.
Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure. Paulo Coelho