(My riff as a transwoman in recovery on the PurposeFairy series 9 Reasons Why You Should No Longer Care About People’s Approval; all creative credit belongs to to that author.)
I have no problem getting all paranoid about what people think about me when I’m out in public (or private, for that matter). My first venture into the world as Denise was a sweat-soaked, stomach-wrenching, blood pressure-escalating safari into a world where I imagined the very worst.
I registered my car that day at the county office. The only person that noticed was a little boy standing next to me with his mom. He looked up at me with a quizzical look on his face. I could hear the wheels turning – now just what the heck is this? I gave him my best winning smile back. He shrugged and moved on. I figured Mom could explain later.
But what I don’t consider near enough is how I respond to what other people think of me when it’s fairly accurate. I’m getting a handle on listening to “character-building” feedback about stuff that really is important. I don’t always like it…it makes me want to swallow my gum, but I know its value. What is more problematic are the gracious things people say and think about me, the kind words and thoughts about who I am and my place in their world. Weird, huh?
That experience happened again last night at my last transition support group. I’m now ready to move on…yay! But first everybody took a turn telling me what they thought of me. One person shared how much it meant to her when I helped her stay positive. I wanted to take her by the shoulders and shout are you crazy? Were we in the same room even? Both the therapists remarked on how when they sometimes were at a loss for words, I would be there with the word that would help see us through. Really? I’m sure the truth is I’m really an obnoxious extrovert who never knows when to shut up and, if she did, she wouldn’t.
I can live with the criticism, legitimate or not. Living with the nice things people say is a lot more problematic. I want to just straighten people out. And I work every day on making that stop.
I got all emotional, but I did manage to acknowledge my struggle to not control the nice things other people say about me. I did the only thing I know what to do.
Denise, just shut up and say thank you.
I can’t control anything of what other people think of me, even if it is nice. And I don’t need to.