Auntie SparkNotes: I Care Way Too Much What Everyone Thinks
Ahoy! SparkLife's wisest Auntie is taking a well-deserved vacation from the advice game this week. While we eagerly await her return, we'll be publishing a few of her vintage posts! :)
The first thing I have to say is, I am (possibly) hopelessly shy. I have been for most of my life. I can barely look people in the eye! I have trouble speaking to the people in my classes, and I've known most of them for two years! When I do speak, I speak VERY quietly. I've had multiple crushes, but haven't done anything about it, because I'm just SO afraid to talk to them. I never answer any questions in class, and I have sort of faded into the background. That is NOT what I want.
I am also constantly paranoid that people are talking about me, which I have found out that they do, and often. They say things such as, "She doesn't deserve to be part of (specific group here)." My crush's best friend is the leader of most of these things. I care way too much about what people think about me.
This also has lead to me thinking badly about myself. They think about me as lesser than them, I think that too. I actually start to speak up, or be myself, I do/say something stupid, and then I go back into my shell. I am constantly beating myself down with my thoughts. What do I do?
Well, for one thing, sweet pea, you get the heck out of high school.
Which I know is probably little comfort to you, especially if you have multiple years left to go before that happens. But it's worth saying all the same: This kind of miserable, petty, judgy nonsense (i.e. the torments of your crush's nasty friend) is pretty much the exclusive purview of teenage brats with nothing better to do—which means that it pretty much stops once everyone involved is no longer a teenager.
Y'know, just in case you were worried that this was going to last forever. It won't, I promise.
But in the meantime, you can get a head start on the better days ahead—because however badly your jerky peers choose to behave, you can choose to live like you're already over it, and then some.
Simply put: You can stop caring so much what other people think of you that it defines how you think of yourself.
And you can especially stop letting the lowest common denominator of high school troglodytes be the person who tells you who you are. Because this person you mentioned, the one who sits around opining on how undeserving you are of basic social inclusion? He (or she!) might as well have a sign on his forehead that says "I'm a useless douche weasel." A person who spends his spare time tearing other people down for funzies is a person who contributes nothing of value to the world, and knows it—and that's especially true of the one who specifically targets the shyest, most unconfident girl available. Bullying a socially awkward kid is like beating up a toddler: It's not exactly a challenge, you know? And more importantly, doing it doesn't exactly say anything good about you.
And you, Sparkler, are so much better than that person's opinion of you. You're miles above it.
You just have to start living like it.
Here's how that works: Starting now, you're going to stop letting the self-loathing homunculus inside your head have the last word on who you are and how you behave. And instead, you are going to behave like whatever kind of person it is that you want to be. If you want to contribute in class, that's what you'll do. If you want to talk to your peers, you'll talk. If you want to stop speaking in a whisper, you'll clear your throat and speak up. (And if you have trouble with that, you'll practice—in the mirror, with your family, in one-off interactions with baristas and store clerks—until you learn to use your voice.)
And if that internal bully-by-proxy pipes up to tell you that you're being conspicuous and people will see, you're going to internally tell the bully to go pee up a rope, because you don't give a single solitary damn.
Don't get me wrong: At first, you'll totally be lying. It takes time and effort to reach that above-it-all place where you really, truly don't care what other people think of you. But what you must realize, Sparkler, is that you're the only person who will ever know you're faking it. As far as everyone else is concerned, you are that confident, from the moment you start acting like it. And when you walk around all day like you're fine and cool and unconcerned with other people's opinions, an amazing thing happens: You start to fool yourself, too.
Until eventually, it's not an act anymore. It's just who you are: A person who likes herself, who believes she's worthy of respect, and who has better things to do than waste her time with people who disagree.
Got something to say? Tell us in the comments! And to get advice from Auntie, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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