You told yourself it wasn’t for him – the time spent with the curling iron, the strategically placed dabs of perfume, the sheer wash of berry gloss on your lips, that black blouse Grandma always eyes suspiciously, the one that hugs your curves and accentuates the swell of your chest. And it isn’t for him – at least, not entirely. So what do you do when he stares past you like you aren’t even in the room; when your attempted conversations drop dead on the floor and dissolve into nothingness?
You will want to stay, to do everything in your power to draw him out of whatever funk has taken ahold of him, if only to convince yourself that you tried. Don’t. Fabricate a headache and go home by yourself. Your friends will worry, will console, and will offer to stay home with you while you cry. Don’t let them. Be as polite as possible when you convey that they need to get the hell out.
When they leave, look in your mirror and tell yourself you’re hot, because you are. You’re more than hot – you’re beautiful, and deserve to be treated as such. You’ve got a kind heart endless compassion and potential and you’re smart brilliant and your eyes are stunning. Own that. People never ignore beautiful things except on two occasions – either beauty makes them afraid for the potential of loss or rejection, or they have so forgotten their own light that they can’t see anything other than the perceived darkness inside of themselves. It is not your job to remind others of their own inner beauty. Doing it for you is hard enough.
Get mad. Turn on violent music that probably pisses off your neighbors. Scream and curse. You don’t deserve to be treated like you’re invisible by the people who claim to love you. Don’t worry about keeping it all together right now. You’ve done that. You’ve done your job. You were bright and courteous in the face of cruelty – and yes, that was cruelty. The snide voice in the back of your mind doesn’t want you to believe that you’ve just been treated cruelly.
Oh, what’s that voice? It sounds like that backstabbing friend from high school or the teacher who told you that you have no real talent or your seemingly perfect older sister, and what it’s telling you is not right. You shouldn’t go back to the party and make him see how wonderful you are, even though it wants you to. That voice does not love you. It does not want to see you happy. It does not think you are really worth someone who looks at you like you hung the moon. It doesn’t believe that you’re worth your own personalized fairytale ending. It fabricates hundreds of insults that you would ever even entertain the idea of a fairytale, aiming to puncture your already thin skin. It thinks there’s no one else on the Earth who would “love” you other than this loser who can’t even be bothered to smile at you when you enter the room. You are breathtakingly beautiful. You shouldn’t be buried beneath the garbage of somebody else’s insecurity. Remember this, and you will be given the second of breath you need to remember that this voice is no more than a bully. That one second is all you need.
The voice is rifling through its bag of tricks and pulling out all its favorite toys – secret insecurities. Don’t worry; you’re ready for them. It’s telling you that you’re a scardy cat, a wimp. Daddy doesn’t love people like that. Mommy will be heartbroken that you’re hurt. Put on a brave face and shove your discomfort under the proverbial rug so that she doesn’t feel worse than she already will. It’s not so bad. You’ve got good self-esteem; you’re better than this! Why are you even bothered? You’re bothered because you’ve been hurt. That’s okay. That’s normal, and human, and temporary. The final blow: it says – in an angry, condescending tone that sounds like your grandfather –that you’re too sensitive. Men – all men, ever – will hate that. You’re damning yourself to a life of eternal loneliness, you moron!
That’s not true – not at all. Politely tell the voices in your head to shut up, because, see, you’re beautiful. Explain this like you would if you were talking to a small child; the voices, although they are not you, are still a part of your mind. Your mind has been wounded; you must be gentle! It is the lens through which you see the world, and depending on what you focus on, it will become what you see. Don’t dwell in the land of artificial inadequacy, lest you want to be swallowed up in darkness that somebody else has chosen for himself or herself. You must not allow yourself to become a casualty in their quest for self-destruction.
Treat your mind and heart with the care you would a freshly bruised limb. You cannot afford to beat yourself up any more than you have been by the circumstances over which you had no control. If you do that, you might as well have stayed there with him. You have already been ignored and bullied by someone for whom you (used to?) care. You have no strength or worthwhile reasons to do it to yourself.
You will find – often to your surprise – that such a simple scolding silences those cutting monsters scurrying around in the static noise running on loop in the back of your mind. They cannot exist in a reality where you believe and your own beauty and value. Pat yourself on the back. The hardest part is over.
Immediately following the sudden quiet that has now taken over your mind, you may find yourself in the presence of one final lethal thought: the question of whether or not leaving means that you took the easy way out. Were you just submitting to his unpleasant behavior? Absolutely not. Believe that. Know that, just as well as you know your own name. Close your eyes and breathe in that truth as if it is the oxygen in your lungs keeping you alive, because it is. Being affected by this injustice doesn’t make you a coward; it means you are brave beyond your wildest imaginings. You made a choice about the behavior you will and will not accept and upheld it. You didn’t allow insecurity to be the deciding force in your life; you didn’t believe it when it mused that you might not be able to do better than somebody who treats you like you’re substandard.
Congratulations! You’ve done all the hard work, really. The wound has been acquired, survived transport, and has endured the sting of being cleaned. Now it’s time to rest. Nurture your spirit, not only as an “I’m sorry” gift for the horrors your heart has withstood, but also as a celebration for the strength you exhibited. This balance is important. Dwell on the right you have done by yourself, rather than the pain you’ve experienced, or else you may find yourself tempted to fall victim to his ways again – and willingly, to boot. I know, that sounds like a horrible, excruciating idea. Praise yourself for recoiling in horror. It means you’ve chosen self-love yet again. That really is a cause for celebrating.
Fill the room with as many candles as it can hold. Pour yourself a glass of wine and turn on music that makes you calm again. Breathe. Sit with yourself for a moment. Resist the urge to numb out with food or television or the Internet or – worst of all – other people. You know better. It won’t feel good. All that’ll do is shove back what little parts of this you have yet to heal into the closet to deal with later, which means you’ll inevitably end up with a scar from this situation. You don’t want that. You know the difference between authentically needing other people to help you through a rough time and when you play the victim to those who still love you in order to convince yourself that you have people in your life who care about you, as a kind of silent revenge against the one who hurt you. That does nothing productive. All that will do is put undue stress on your best friend or exhaust a good guy who actually really likes you and would treat you right, given the chance. Don’t use your pain as a shield – a kind of weapon to drive a wedge between yourself and others with the crazy idea that doing this will in fact protect you from experiencing a repeat of the same situation you just drug yourself out of. It never works, and the thing is, you’re totally smart enough to know that. You’ve got this. Stand up a bit straighter and smile. You’re beautiful.
Do something creative. Journal, dance, sing, draw, whatever. Remind yourself of your creative power as an individual. Stare at the proof that you have an irreplaceable voice in the world. Resist your inner critic. Cast aside the visions of stumbling across your art twenty or thirty years from now and laughing at your inadequacy. You are never inadequate when you are learning. Your art will never be ugly when you use it to learn and heal. Someone, somewhere, needs to be touched by what you have to share. Don’t let insecurity stand in the way of what truly is a selfless act of kindness. Share it with no one, or share it with everybody. Share it with the world, or just share with friends and family, or anybody except your friends and family. Fight the voices that say that you’re an embarrassment. Don’t tear the rawness of your experience apart. Let it live, breathe, move and heal in whatever you produce. It is how you will help yourself, and it is how you will help others.
Although your journey to experiencing healing has been mostly completed, it is not yet over. When the people who love you express their frustration and sadness for what you have experienced, you will be tempted to adopt the role of the victim. Don’t. You’ve learned too much by now. Instead, remember the kindness extended to you: the friend who saw you were down and brought you a chocolate bar, no questions asked. The seemingly random relationship advice from you boss, that said if it’s not easy, don’t do it. When you see that guy with the sparkling eyes who stopped to ask if you were okay when you weren’t and the caring almost knocked you flat, swallow your fear and smile at him. That’s the kind of person you deserve.
You are beautiful, and you are brave. While choosing to honor yourself may at first appear to drive people from your life, the reality could not be more different. Light drives away nothing but darkness – and in this case, people who have chosen (maybe for a lifetime or maybe for a minute) self-loathing and bitterness masked with artificial airs of entitlement and superiority. Those people would enjoy nothing more than to have their twisted sickness validated by their ability to drag others under with them.
Stand tall in your experience. Wade ankle deep in the hurt feelings and the joy and the rush of creative expression and the inherent paradoxes of life. Spread your arms out wide and tilt your head to the sky. You’ve chosen a higher path for yourself, and now you get to watch the clouds part and feel the sun shine on your face. Remember, “like attracts like”. You’ve shown the universe what you’re made of, and now all you have to wait for is the glory of the impending reward. You’ve demonstrated without fear the level of love you have for yourself and others, and only good will come of that choice. Period.