I’m standing in the queue at H&M. I only popped in to “have a quick look” but whaddya know? In the space of twenty minutes I’ve managed to rummage the rails, make not one but two trips to the fitting room, snap an awkward mirror selfie and ended up in the queue for the tills with half the shop draped over my arm. And that’s when it happens. There are a couple of girls at the head of the queue who are talking and laughing. They’re looking my way, I’m sure of it.
Thirty seconds ago my full attention was on the pink off the shoulder top I picked up and whether it’s going to make me look like a bottle of Pepto Bismol, but now it’s 100% on the girls and the way they’re laughing. At me?
Oh God. It’s my hair isn’t it? They’re laughing at my hair (who isn’t?), I think to myself, running a self-conscious hand through the back just in case it’s sticking up. Nope. Okay, well maybe there’s something on my face? I did inhale a Lidl cinnamon bun earlier and what’s the betting the icing is all over my chin? I wonder, as my tongue takes a sneaky swipe at my lips.
I come up empty. They could be laughing about last night’s episode of Love Island for all I know, but no, they were looking at me so immediately in my head I wage war. I laugh inwardly at them, taking pot shots at their bad eyebrows, their clothes, the claw-like fake nails and even faker fake tan. I’m throwing thought-daggers at them until they pay for their stuff and walk away, without even a glance in my direction; completely unaware of the poisonous thoughts I’ve been brewing.
For a long, long time, that’s what I did. Throughout High School and my early twenties I was obsessed about what other people were thinking about me and I automatically assumed that whatever it was and without any evidence, it was bound to be bad. I dealt with it by doing exactly what I thought they were doing; I thought bad thoughts about them. It was a quick way of reassuring myself, of feeling better about my own “faults”. I poked fun of badly blended foundation to feel a little bit better about my terrible acne. I pulled faces at people’s clothes to feel a bit better about what I’d thrown on that morning. I snorted at bad writing and sloppy grammar and assumed stupidity to make myself feel more confident about my own words and feel better about being a “swot”. Of course, I never spoke those thoughts out loud, though. Honest. I was far too shy and uncertain of myself to do that.
I thought that in doing this I was building up my own self-esteem, but in fact all I was really doing was just making myself more and more insecure. Distrustful of others and spewing negative thoughts – and negativity in general – all over the place like vomit.
Then, in my late twenties something clicked. Call it Saturn’s Return or the impending approach of the big 3-0, but something changed. It wasn’t so much that I stopped caring about what other people thought of me, I was just tired of going to war over it. I was bored of wasting my time and energy in pursuit of something I’d never know, and wasn’t really any of my business anyway! I wasn’t ever going to be able to root around in people’s minds and find out what they really thought of me.
So I gradually changed my mindset. Instead of throwing mental daggers at someone when I thought they were talking about me, or thinking about me – I shook it off and countered with a compliment. I thought something nice about them. I complimented their smile, or their attitude, talents, clothes, makeup. They were just thoughts to begin with, but soon enough I started to say them out loud too.
Soon, instead of assuming that everyone was thinking bad things about me, I started to realise that it was entirely possible they might be thinking nice things too. If I was doing it, then other people must be too, right? Suddenly, I wanted to know what those nice thoughts could be. Maybe they thought my hair looked good, or that I’d killed it with my liquid eyeliner for once? Maybe they liked what I was wearing or – who knows – maybe they thought that I was funny, pretty, smart… talented even? Wow. People are actually really nice! (…Mostly.) And maybe I am all those things.
By building up everyone else’s self-esteem, I’d somehow inadvertently built up a great big tower of self-esteem for myself. The truth is, if you go shooting negative thoughts at others, you’ll be just as wounded by the kick-back. So send out some positive ones instead and maybe you’ll get some positivity back 🙂
Have a good weekend everyone! ♥