Friday, November 8, 2013

The Bully

Last week, someone was in my apartment while I was getting dressed. Every article of clothing I put on, they would comment.

"You shouldn't wear that. It makes you look fat."

"Pull your skirt down a little bit. I don't like how your knees look."

"That doesn't fit you like you used to. You shouldn't have stopped working out. Now you look frumpy and unattractive."

"That color makes your skin look weird. Why did you waste your money on that sweater?"

Finally, I was able to find an outfit that both I and this person were satisfied with.

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Then, came the hair and make-up.

"Your eyelashes are too short. You need better mascara."

"Don't wear eyeliner. You look like you're trying too hard."

"You should get those eyebrows waxed! They are SO not feminine. But, that makes sense, since you're not much of a lady."

"Dreadlocks? What were you thinking?!? That was such a mistake!"

"Your bangs look weird. You should swoop them the other way. Better yet- why do you even have bangs? They don't make you cool, just so you know..."
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Then, I looked at myself from all angles, trying to figure out what other people would think when they saw me. But, it didn't matter. The person that was standing next to me let me know what other people probably thought. It wasn't pretty.

I'll spare you this part, because it just got downright catty and nasty. And, to be honest, I don't really feel like reliving that on my blog.

I never stood up for myself. I never talked back. I just listened and accepted their words. I felt defeated and hurt; scarred and slightly humiliated. I can't explain why I never stood up for myself. Maybe the words are too familiar. Maybe I've grown accustomed to just taking it.

When I finally got in my Jeep and the other person had strapped into the seat next to me, I was on my way. Fully insecure, fully taking in this person's words, fully believing them.

Does this make you angry? Does it upset you that I would just take it? That I would believe the toxic words? That I would let it internally affect me? That I would take their words with me, strapped to my back like a L.L. Bean school bag? That I would slowly let their words become the filter that defined how I saw myself?

Don't be mistaken: This person has been abusing me for a long time. With words. Harsh. Blunt. Cruel. No feelings spared. Crippling in most social situations.
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Now for the truth: I am this person. I am this abusive person that judges everything about myself: My laugh, my teeth, my eyelashes, my glasses, my body. Every move I make, I critique myself. Harshly. "Don't laugh that loud. You'll draw attention to yourself." "Don't slouch; it makes you look fatter." "Don't sing too loud; you're off key."

The list goes on and on. And this is what I know: I am not alone. Women and men alike. We all abuse ourselves.

I didn't realize until last week when I was having lunch with a dear friend what I do to myself. We were talking about the abusive thoughts we have about ourselves and the analogy popped into my head of being bullied.

Recently, I was bullied by a literal person. Someone who thought they knew what they were up against. There were manymanymany things I wanted to say to this person, to tear them apart verbally. Although I did say some things that I wish I could take back, the majority of what I wanted to say, I refrained. I tried to be careful with my words.

Several times, I had to stop and pray. Were my words glorifying God? Was it my place to take them down? Was it my job to seek justice? One thing was clear: it's best not to fight dirty. I kept my head high. I stood up for myself. I felt proud that I didn't dissolve into a puddle like I did when I was bullied as a child.

But, now a thought occurs to me: Why do I bully myself? Why do I quickly "Oh NO you DIDN'T" when a person verbally attacks me, but I take abuse from myself??
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I don't have all the answers. But, I do know this: God has been super intentional about showing me who I am to Him. I have been so focused on not letting other people's words affect me. Maybe it's time I started silencing the voice inside myself too. Maybe it's time to look at myself in the mirror and use God's Word to build me up, the way I would for a friend.

How does this resonate with you? Do you find yourself picking yourself apart until there's nothing left?