I'm Trying to Stop Caring About You
And I’m trying to start caring about me. | November Challenge Week 3
PROMPT: What’s the opposite of love?
It seems counterproductive during a series about love that I'm training myself not to care about others but I'm learning that the way I show care for other people is unhealthy and codependent.
I care too much about what people think or might think to the point that there are whole aspects of my personality that I'm unsure whether they actually belong to me. I try to mold myself into what I think others expect of me and in doing so, I've lost the ability to meet my own expectations.
I've lost my identity (I actually reject that statement. I'm always me, even the parts of me I don't like that much. I know who I am, I may suppress it in my people pleasing but she's not lost, she's just not loud).
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I've been a good girl my whole life. Always been obedient and well behaved. Always anticipated the needs of my loved ones and tried to meet their expectations and desires for my life. I'm trained to follow orders, I come from a military family and I did JROTC for 4 years. I’m also trained to not express my needs because since those basic childhood needs are likely to be unmet, it’s easier to just pretend you don’t need anything. I suffer through unsatisfying, unhealthy, nonreciprocal, toxic, manipulative romantic relationships (and friendships and jobs, tbh) in an effort to prove my loyalty and show care to not hurt anyone's feelings by piping up about my measly wants.Even my disobedience and radical behavior exists through the filter of what other people expect from me. My opinions and politics have to be the right ones, the ones people expect me to have.
A lifetime of this behavior has created a habit in me to anticipate what people want from me and to try to be or provide whatever that is. I thrive on praise and being seen as perfect in the eyes of others. I take instruction even when people aren't giving me instructions at all. And without the approval and validation of others (particularly the people closest to me like my family, my best friends, employers and romantic partners) I couldn't make a decision or act on my own. I can truly only think of less than 10 decisions I've made in life strictly because I wanted to do them and not because they were what people expected of me. This newsletter is one of them (yay!).
I think I've learned what love looks like from my mom. My mom is one of the most caring people I know. She works so hard to be present for her students and her family. She puts everyone's needs above her own, sacrificing sleep, food, money, even her health to make sure that the people she cares about never go without. She's frustrated by people who just do what they want to do with no consideration for how it may make others in their lives feel. My mom always called that behavior “selfish.” She on the other hand is a “nice” person, always doing for others whatever she can thus proving that she cares. “No” isn't in her vocabulary.
I think a lot of Black women are taught this is what love looks like. But love does not equal blind devotion. It does not equal silencing myself in order to please and appease others. Love is not ignoring my needs to meet the needs of others. Love is not putting myself at the end of the list of priorities and calling that care and self sacrifice and selflessness.
So love for me now looks like living out loud. Being my best self period, not the best I can be for someone else.
I've written on this platform before that I am a recovering people pleaser, learning to establish boundaries and advocate for my needs. And part of that recovery means redefining what love means to me, how I show love to others and learning how to show love to myself above all else.
My people pleasing habit took a lifetime to build and it's not going away overnight. In learning not to care about others wants and needs, I'm learning what caring about myself looks like.
This entry was written for WEEK 3 of the Finding the Right Words November Challenge under the theme of LOVE. Follow along using the graphic above and write about whatever comes to mind with the corresponding prompts. Share with me using the tag #FTRW or email me at jdoggett9 [at] gmail.
There’s no wrong way to journal. You just gotta find the right words. Happy Writing!