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April 5, 2022

How to Be Happy with Yourself—Even when Others Aren’t.


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My six-year-old daughter has a similar energetic constitution to mine.

She will let someone hurt her (physically or emotionally) and not tell them it hurts her, or stand up for herself in any way, for one reason only: she doesn’t want to hurt them.

Does that sound at all familiar?

She’ll make herself uncomfortable to ensure the comfort of every other body but her own.

I was recently on a playdate with a new potential mom friend and her two littles, the same age as mine, when I saw her kid pulling at my daughter’s wrist. I watched my daughter try to push the kid’s hand off, then watched as the kid grabbed her other wrist and yanked her really hard.

I said calmly but firmly, “Please do not touch Hayven like that. I can see that hurt her from all the way back here.”

My daughter’s pink-flushed-to-white face trying not to cry should’ve said it all to her new friend when her words didn’t.

Apparently, my request scared the kid, and she ran behind her mother, who excused it by saying she plays rough with her dad. Sure, I get it. Mutual roughness…great, but nerve-wracking. One-sided roughness…not so great.

When I saw a less aggressive but similar thing happen a couple of minutes later, I said, “That’s the touch I’m talking about; please don’t do that.” Again, she ran to her mother, who instantly said, while not looking up, “I didn’t even see you grab her,” as if that alone meant she didn’t actually do it.

I’m not a blamer or a shamer. Toward others anyway.

Mistakes are normal, natural, necessary parts of growth, and so is healthy shame when one is made.

But it felt like this mom was blaming me for her child’s momentary experience of shame, and because of that, her kid never got to actually feel that shame, meaning she could likely learn to become afraid of it (perfectionism in the making) and instead learn to blame others.

Meanwhile, my kid relearns that she shouldn’t tell the truth because the people hurting her will, in turn, be hurt, and they won’t like her anymore and that’ll mean she’s the bad one.

Despite my two attempts at repair with this child, the mom held space for her kid for so long, without an apology to mine, that we eventually left simply because of how wildly awkward it was. She made it feel like we went from being a butterfly floating on the breeze for a few weeks to splat on a windshield in about one second (though she’d likely assert that I did that).

Still, I reached out in a text to say, “Sorry it went down that way. Upset was never my intent. I hope it mended well.”

A day later, she texted me with one obvious goal: to make me wrong.

She told me her child’s feelings were hurt. Again, never apologizing. She excused the behavior with intent, saying her kid’s intention was to play and, as someone who didn’t know her, I shouldn’t have “scolded her.” But her kids’ intentions and actions did not match, which is what I was hoping to address in a redirection when she was hurting my daughter (accidentally or intentionally). The mom asserted that while she knows my kid is sensitive, hers is too.

All these things, years ago, would’ve had me in a shame spiral swearing I’d never speak again because my truth hurts people, causes people not to like me, and makes me bad.

But I want to show my daughter a different lesson.

This was never about my kid being sensitive; it was about her being physically manipulated against her will in a way which anyone in their right mind would’ve seen and redirected.

It was about my kid being too sensitive to this other child’s feelings and not her own by not telling the truth.

Sometimes, the truth hurts. Sucks, but true.

My daughter, like myself, would like to avoid this fact for the sake of other people. But the thing is, when I drove off the lot, despite my daughter repeatedly wondering out loud from the back of the minivan, “I really don’t know why she was so upset. You just asked her to stop,” I questioned whether I was an asshole for saying something.

The whole experience felt like one giant gaslight.

Old me would have spent weeks blaming myself for someone else’s shame, like what had been done to me. I’d take it all in and do unto me. This time, I walked across it without sinking in, and only for a couple of days.

Today, I’m somehow able to wake up and feel centered in a knowing that if someone wants to make me feel like an asshole for saying something and addressing what’s true, then I could easily flip that projection right around (though it didn’t quite seem like she was open to self-reflection). And besides, mirroring her isn’t my job, nor does it serve my field in any way at all but to write this now—to mirror to you that for people like my daughter, me, and maybe you, we’re allowed to stand instead of wobble for ourselves on the inside when the outside wishes we wouldn’t.

It was all disappointing for sure. I was excited to have a mom friend who shared a similar lifestyle. It just won’t be her, and I’m strangely okay to be disappointed—and to be a disappointment.

How did I get here? To a place where I allow myself to be happy in the face of others who don’t think I deserve to be? To a place where I can stand despite any curiosity about the potential wobble or whiplash that may come after I do so? To not back all the way down into myself for fear that they’re all-right, and I’m all-wrong just because that’s what “they” say?

Well, it has taken years of being a witness to love and loss, diffusion and discernment, surfing the waves of all kinds of intensely sunny and intensely stormy days. And if love has taught me anything, it’s to not attach myself to someone else’s lack of it in an attempt to find it. Mentally speaking, it’s a waste of energy.

This is not to say that this other mom isn’t a loving person. I have no idea, but her position, while deflating to my hope, was also good information about what she stands for.

I’m not wrong—I’m just not right for her.

It’s not wrong—it’s just not right for me.

These days, I give myself permission to live this truth without the innate fear of rejecting others or being rejected. I’ve come to understand rejection strangely as a strength-building exercise for the energetic constitution.

I’m allowed to be happy with my in-integrity decision and not waver just because someone else doesn’t like it.

However I got here, I’m sure glad I did.

We can both be right, on our own merry ways…and so can you and whoever’s trying to make you feel wrong for your own right.

Do not stand against, my love. Just stand strong.

You’re allowed.


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