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The majority of my life could be categorized into two ways: Offensive Mode and Defensive Mode.
As a kid, beginning in elementary school, I was completely in Defensive Mode. I was shy and bullied – not a great combination for building self-esteem. I always felt that I had to defend myself and my choices to everyone. It didn’t help that I wanted to be different, for sure.
I recall one 3rd grade morning recess with clarity.
I had been minding my own business, sitting alone and building a sand castle in the dirt (not a sandbox). Two girls walk up to me (they were known as the mean girls) and glare at me. One says “Look how stupid she is, sitting in the dirt.” The other says, “You like dirt so much? Here’s some dirt.” And they both proceed to kick dirt on me.
It only lasted a few minutes, and I wasn’t physically harmed, but that moment was one of the first in a string of incidents that molded my defensive behavior. In the moment, I wasn’t defensive. If anything, I was merely submissive. Letting them do what they wished, in the hope they would get bored and move on. It worked, but it left me always wanting to scream “I’m not stupid!” or whatever was the choice adjective of the day.
To this day, being called any version of “stupid”, being wrong, or making mistakes still makes me cringe. I’ve come a long, long way from that day, but I will be the first to admit, it’s hard to turn off certain reactions.
I retaliated by proving that I wasn’t stupid. I focused on my school work, acing class after class, bemoaning anything lower than a A. I graduated 9th in my class. This was my defensive period. This was my way of saying “You’re wrong, damn it!”
But when high school rolled around, I finally realized that defense wasn’t any good without a great offense. And thus began my “Fuck the world” phase.
I never fell toward drugs or alcohol as many teens do, but I did become angry. Or well, I alternated between anger and apathy. If it didn’t anger me, or prove my point, I didn’t care. I lost a couple friends this way, but I didn’t care then— I was angry. Sometimes, it felt like I would go out of my way to make people not like me. Because I was different, damn it. I don’t need you to like me.
So what does all this have to do with you?
Everything or nothing. I tell you this story because I know there are so, so many of us out there who have been bullied, picked on, and made to feel like we’re wrong for wanting to be different. There are many who are overweight, born different, look different, talk different. There are many who have their differences inside, and so, so many who have their differences on the outside. We have ailments, and diseases, allergies,and preferences. And there are so many who like to point out those differences and make us feel bad for it.
I tell you this story, because many of us get caught up in Defense/Offense Mode and we forget that there is another option— Love.
1. Rather than trying to convince someone how awesome you are, love yourself.
2. Rather than being angry at others, love them. You don’t know what they’re going through.
3. Instead of hiding your differences, love them. Unique isn’t wrong, it’s beautiful.
4. When someone tries to degrade your worth, remind yourself how much you love yourself. Yours is the only opinion that matters.
5. When you’re hurt or sad, rather than lashing out, love yourself. Your own love is the best love.
6. When you insult yourself, correct it by reminding yourself how much you love you.
7. When you feel the urge to gossip, ask yourself if love is involved. Spite, jealousy, and resentment are enemies of love.
8. When you want to scream at someone, tell them you love them instead.
9. When someone is screaming at you, tell them you still love them.
10. No matter what, always, always love yourself. If you can love yourself, nothing else matters.
How are you going to spread some love in the world today?
Image courtesy of: Marc Falardeau