When @trucklife-family sets questions for @abundance.tribe, she doesn't make them easy and really likes to get you soul searching. The latest one asks: What Do You Believe Is The Highest Form Of Self Love and Why Do You Believe So?
I honestly don't know if I can answer this. I don't have strong convictions and the words ‘self love’ seem to trigger the thoughts ’selfish’ in my brain. However, there's no reason not to do some soul searching and see what's going on in there.
I was initially going to do my usual and chicken out of answering, but I came across someone who just makes me bristle and got to thinking why, then realised the connection to respect of both others and self.
Photo courtesy of @izzydawn
I'm a pretty accepting and respectful person. Everyone gets the benefit of the doubt with me and I'll overlook a lot of things that many wouldn't, because I often can see where they are coming from. Everyone is unique and pretty much necessary for the human race, if you only look deep enough. That doesn't mean I'm going to trust them. In fact I trust almost no-one, but that doesn't mean I don't respect them. Am I contradicting myself here?
So what sort of person makes me bristle? It's those who have their opinion and if you don't agree with them 100% then you are made to feel like some worthless, brainless idiot. There may be things you actually agree on, but it doesn’t matter. If there is just one thing that you don't agree on then they turn condescending and make you feel like you may as well be something that crawled out of the gutter and needs to go back.
In many ways I actually feel sorry for them, because they end up shunning so many people, due the fact nobody's ever going to agree with anyone 100%. However, deep down in me there is still a scared child who believes that they are worthless, always wrong and never enough, so part of me bristles and goes into protective mode.
Growing up I made mistakes and hurt others, both physically, through play fighting, and emotionally, usually by repeating what everyone was saying/thinking then being told how utterly horrible that was. My solution was to speak less, listen more and not join in with play fighting any more, rather than feel the pain of having hurt someone else. It was early on in my life that I vowed never to say something behind someone's back that I couldn't say to their face. This possibly isolated me all the more as conversations with girls, and indeed women, can often turn to criticising someone behind their backs. I still pull out of conversations heading that way to this day unless, I know them well enough to steer the conversation to more positives. When they start saying the bad about someone, I'll say the good instead and sometimes I can see the light go on as they realise what they're doing.
But, I digress. My stance made me an easy target for others to get an ego boost from, because if they could be better at something than someone else, it could be me as I would acknowledge their accomplishment and not try to one up it with something else that they were weaker at. However, it meant that I spent a lot of my life being told how much better everyone else was than me.
The girl I counted as my best friend at school used to criticise me for the very things she did herself. She liked to be honest with me, and expected me to deal with it, but didn't like it in return. I also had a big sister and anyone with older siblings knows how they have to be superior in everything, purely on the fact that they are older. I don't resent either of them, they were children dealing with their own insecurities. I adore my sister to this day and I know she feels bad about things she did or said when we were children, some of which I don't even remember.
My sister was classically attractive, with dark hair, an hour glass figure and a cleavage all the boys ogled. In addition she was academically bright, quick to pick things up and always getting good grades without really trying. The only exam I did better in her than was German GSCE, because I'd just spent a couple of weeks in Germany, speaking the language daily. I, on the other hand, was a palefaced redhead, skinny, flat chested and had little figure to speak of. I was mediocre academically, had handwriting that looked like a toddler's and was slow at just about everything, but I got there in the end.
I admired everything about my sister, yet never realised at the time that she was fighting her own battles with her peers to prove herself to those jealous enough to try and bring her down. The problem was, the harder she tried to improve and gain their acceptance, the worse they became. Her own experiences were perhaps what softened her towards me in her mid teens and she no longer tried to demonstrate how much better she was art things than me.
By the time I was in my mid teens I was socially anxious, always worried about what people were thinking of me and in my mind fully aware that I was unattractive compared to all other girls around me. These weren't unfounded fears, they came from things people had said to me or what I'd observed. We couldn't afford for me to turn up to school in attractive clothes (no uniform where I went), so when the girls were dressing to attract attention, I was trying to keep a low profile with my second hand, I'll fitting clothes. One girl did a survey that she got the boys in the class to fill in on how attractive they found the girls in the class and I knew already where I'd sit in their eyes, so I made myself scarce. She still came and found me when it was completed, though, to show me just how low I came. I know it wasn't meant to be hurtful, so much as to make her feel just that little bit better about herself. We weren't exactly the popular girls in the class.
So this was me, the person who always made others feel good about themselves by being inferior to them.
I suppose the one thing good about being at the bottom is that you haven't really got anywhere to fall. At about 16 I made some decisions that there were certain things I didn't need to keep putting up with, just to make those around me feel better about themselves. I stopped trying so hard to get people to like me and started to just look at who I wanted to be. It's funny how people change towards you when you do this. You start to attract the right kind of people and the suddenly don't see much of the wrong kind any more, now they can't gain what they want from you. At 17 I met my husband to be when I wasn't even looking for romance.
To have someone there who cares for you for who you are makes a big difference in your own self belief. He would often say you shouldn't care what people think of you (not that he followed his own advice) and it helped to put things into perspective a little at times. I still care what people think of me if they are important to me, but I'm less bothered about what strangers think.
I worked behind the bar for a few years and drunk men have this strange urge to tell you exactly what's going through their heads. It was confirmed multiple times that they found my lack of cleavage unattractive, but loved my sister's. They'd even say to my face how much less attractive than my sister I was (but they'd still want o shag me! real charming, thanks...), yet it didn't bother me any more. They weren't men I'd want to be with and I had someone who thought I was perfect the way I was and who I was confident and happy to be with.
Although I've moved on to accept myself for who I am, I'm still a people pleaser at heart. I try to improve on facets of myself that I don't like to see in others. One of the hardest things to hear can be someone telling you you're wrong about something you think you’re right about or that something you're doing or believe in is actually a bad and hurtful thing. This is why I avoid doing that to others and instead try to accept that we're all different, with different ways of doing things which aren't necessarily wrong or worse, just another way of doing things or existing. It's also why I bristle when other people won't repay the courtesy and accept that in myself or others. I’m ready to respect you and accept that you are a good and worthwhile person, even if you don't believe the same things as myself, so why shouldn't I expect to have the same respect in return?