A few weeks before my 14th birthday, my mom sat me down and told me that she was going to take on yet another job. This one would be at night. She said that she would get me from school and make me dinner, but that it would then be up to me to do my school work and put myself to bed. She would be back from this additional job in time to make me breakfast, take me to school, and get ready for her usual, already-packed work day.
I waited for her to finish and calmly told her that wouldn’t be necessary. I told her that if she worked all day, then did her one night job, before going off to another, she would never sleep, and that would ultimately make her sick. Instead, I would start working. I would find a job and help with the bills, the rent, and the food. And I did.
Through a friend of a friend, I started working at a deli, and I hated it. As the youngest employee, I felt that the older kids didn’t like me or respect me, and being an introverted, socially awkward teenager did nothing to help matter. That summer I gave up volunteering and going to summer camp so that I could work as much as time would allow. When I started my freshman year of high school, I gave up any ideas I had about signing up for anything or joining any clubs. I also realized I had to do well during school hours, because having to stay after school would mean less time at work.
For months I would go straight to work right after school. After work I would go with my mom to her cleaning job, and then go home to do homework and sleep. The experience was physically and emotionally exhausting. One night, about six months in, I got out of work a few minutes late, and when I got to my mom’s car waiting outside, she flipped out on me. I couldn’t handle it. I reduced myself into a little ball, cried, and sat in the car as she drove and yelled at the top of her lungs. When she parked and quickly got out of the car, scurrying about gathering the vacuum and the supplies, I tried to compose myself. When she told me to stop being lazy and get out of the car, I lost it again and I told her I wasn’t going in with her, which started her on more yelling. I collapsed in the seat and cried until my head was pounding and my throat was hoarse, and that night I did not help my mom.
When she got back in the car after finishing her job, she told me all about this fellow student of mine who was inside and had seen that I stayed in the car while she worked. He told my mom in front of everyone there that I was a bitch who didn’t appreciate my mom, because how could I just sit in the car while she worked?
I remember it all so well because I felt guilty about it for years.
I don’t anymore, and I never should have.
What I learned from this experience is that people are going to judge you. They won’t know the whole story and it won’t matter — that doesn’t stop them. A person’s perspective is their reality, and the truth is most people are not going to refrain from saying mean or hurtful things just because they don’t have all the facts.
And in this situation, you have three choices: you can wear yourself out always trying to ensure that everyone has a full and complete picture of everything going on with or about you at all times so that they can make the most accurate judgment about you having access to all the facts. You can drown in your misery and tears holding on to the things people think about you or say about you.
… Or you can brush it all off.
Because when you go to bed at night, the only one sleeping in your head, the only person you need to make sure feels comfortable with every action you take, is you. And as long as you can feel good about the things you do, it does not matter how anybody else sees you.
There’s a difference between constructive concern and assuming the worst in someone. The people in your life that are worth your effort, the people that love you and care about you, will not make hurtful judgments or say things to make you feel bad.
Don’t waste your time focusing on the haters. Don’t waste your time not being as happy as you can be. It’s not worth it. I promise.