You Can’t Control What Other People Think of You (even if they’re right and it’s nice))

(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.

Love, Denise

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You Simply Can’t Be Liked by Everybody (but You Can be Liked by Some)

(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 had a phone call from my sponsor this morning for the sole purpose of letting me know the positive effect I have on some other people.  He likes me; I think the world of him.  It hasn’t always been this way  in my life.

The cascading effect of alcohol on depression is not an abstract.  I spent incredible blocks of time in my previous life obsessing about my lack of friends on Facebook.  I was on an incendiary self-destructive track which only halted when I stopped using…and I stopped obsessing about being liked.  I think the reality was that I wasn’t liked particularly.  Whatever witty and brilliant pearl of wisdom I dropped online was in fact ignored, but I couldn’t find the reason and I’m not sure I really wanted to.

Keeping things simple, I’ve found a causal effect between living authentically, responsibly and in sanity and being liked by enough other people to make life interesting and meaningful.  Luminita Saviuc is right.  Everybody is not going to like me, whether for good reason or who knows why.  But the last couple of years has proved this hypothesis for me.  Not only far more friends I have but far more honest friends who tell me their truth, who genuinely listen carefully even when I try to hog the spotlight, who ask me questions that make me think, who call and message me without agenda other than to find out how I am.

I need to be liked by some people.  Their affirmation fertilizes my soul.  Every now and then I need to spot a friendly smile.  But I don’t need anymore to be liked by every last person in this world.  I do expect to be treated with respect as the woman I am.  But we don’t have to be friends.

I just can’t see any way around this.  Worrying about the people who don’t like me gets generally in the way of life at best and is self-destructive at worst.  It feels so good to stop beating my head against a brick wall.

Love, Denise

Give Up Your Limiting Beliefs

(my take on the fifth part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

I can’t remember a time in early childhood when anybody told me that I could never be the person I wanted to be.  I grew up on “Kennedy” optimism, a belief in the power of education, unlimited horizons and the meaning of sacrifice for others.  My childhood hero was Albert Schweitzer.  But somewhere along the line I added 2+2 and came up with some limitations.

No matter who said it, I’ve had to make some choices about limiting beliefs.  Times have changed.  I’ve broken out of my gender shell.  I’m a sober and sane woman.  I can see the possibility once more about having my own place in God’s purpose. I can recognize my experience and skill set for what it is, a toolbox I can pick up and take down any number of paths.

This is progress, not perfection, but when I don’t nurture limiting beliefs anymore about who I am and what I can do, I can be happy.  And I’m not unique.  I believe this is true of all people regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, anything you can name.

Give Up on Blame

(my take on the third part of 15 Things You Should Give Up to Be Happy)

Could it be that the best developed human talent is the ability to find scapegoats?  It’s not just me; human history is chock full of possibilities of placing the blame for business failure, battle defeats and self-destructive behavior.  I had to wade through a lot of bramble thickets to finally conclude that I alone am responsible for where I am.

I’m not to blame for my gender identity.  Nobody did that to me and I didn’t make that choice.  But I am truly responsible for what I do with it.  Yes, discrimination is a reality, but if I give up and start blaming others for my failure to be working and don’t speak up for myself in a mature and responsible way, then I have truly failed.

My alcoholic mind cunningly tells me that somebody, some thing is to blame.  But after the last 18 months, I don’t take orders or suggestions even from my alcoholic mind.  My alcoholic mind can shut up and sit down.  Blame and shame is a losing game (hey, that rhymes…).

I am a powerful and independent woman who can look with confidence in the mirror and say “Whatever comes my way, it’s mine, my choice!”