Numb

Disgust. Shame. Hatred. Anger. They pour into my skull with a violent, jarring crash. 

It’s like leaving a loud concert and suddenly realizing everything has gone quieter, more muffled. It’s your ears adjusting to the repeated assault of loud noise. 

I am suspended from my body, like the outline of my mind is a centimetre or two off from the outline of my figure. All perceptions are fuzzier. My vision blurs. I hear sounds as if they’re hundreds of miles away. I can’t feel my body.

I’m not sure whether I should throw up. Or scream. Or hurt myself. Maybe I’m better off like this. Maybe I should find better earmuffs. 

Right now

I hate how you made me feel. I hate how you took my trust for granted and manipulated me, knowing I would always give you the benefit of the doubt. You lied and I would believe you because I thought that someone who said they loved me would never lie to me. I thought that someone who said they loved me wouldn’t push me past my comfort zone, or manipulate me, or violate me the way you did.

You know, for the longest time I blamed myself, as I believe many others in my situation do. I thought I should have put my foot down. I should have ended it right away. I should have said no louder, angrier, more forcefully. Those tears and that quiver in my voice shouldn’t have been there. I should have been stronger and then I wouldn’t be where I am today.

As I moved forward, away from you, I put my walls up and prepared for the worst. I was convinced that everyone I was with after you was just like you. I realize now that all these years and even today,  I somehow still blame myself. I told myself that I’m a bad person, and anyone I’m with will eventually see that. When that happens, I know that their eyes will wander and they will find someone better. I am but a stepping stone that is only there to be used.

I am starting to see now that the problem was you. You were so insecure and afraid that you put me down so I was on your level. You sought validation from other girls and used their attention to inflate your own sense of self worth. You were selfish and greedy, so you always took more and more from me even when I told you I had had enough.

Now I am far away from you and I see how love should be, but somehow I am still haunted by the past. I am told to be mindful and grateful for what I have, and I try my best, but I think before I can heal, I have to process what happened. It’s been 7 years. It’s about time.

Broken spirit

There is no longer passion or excitement in what I do. My spirit and my once inquisitive mind has been broken. Why am I here? Do I even want to do this anymore?

Has anyone else been working towards a goal that they believed in so much only to find that their work was obsolete? That the system they worked for was fundamentally corrupt?

I can’t study. I can’t work. It’s not even a matter of not wanting to work either. I just don’t want to do anything. I have a meeting in an hour and a half and to pass the time I feel like I should watch Netflix or play a game. But I can’t. I don’t want to do anything. All I feel like I can do is stare at the wall until I have to leave. Then go hope and sleep.

I can’t focus. I can’t concentrate on anything. I don’t care about anything. I feel like crying anytime I’m with too many people. The excitement is gone. I think it’s time to do something about this.

Thoughts from an imposter Cool Girl

There is a certain type of girl who claims that she’s only friends with guys because “girls cause too much drama”. This is very similar and oftentimes the same as the “I’m not like other girls” girl. In many cases, these girls are insecure, and feel they can only attain their self worth through acting as the “Cool Girl”. I disagree with girls who do this, because they end up putting down our entire gender for their own self gain.

Because I am generally clueless and unobservant, I come across as being very laid-back and generally agreeable. I know that I can be very easy to talk to. I have heard before that I am a Cool Girl. However in the context of this post, when I think of the Cool Girl, I generally think of girls who self-identify as this. I would consider myself therefore as an imposter. As an “imposter Cool Girl”, I felt like self-identifying Cool Girls would constantly try to out-Cool-Girl me back in the day. It was weird. On a more serious note, I truly do believe that the notion of the Cool Girl can be damaging and can set unrealistic expectation for girls. These standards that are set cater to the male interest, and this can be a slippery slope.

In Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, there’s a brilliant monologue about the “Cool Girl” that left me with my jaw on the floor after reading it. It is long, but the entire thing needs to be quoted here.

Men always say that as the defining compliment, don’t they? She’s a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.

Men actually think this girl exists. Maybe they’re fooled because so many women are willing to pretend to be this girl. For a long time Cool Girl offended me. I used to see men – friends, coworkers, strangers – giddy over these awful pretender women, and I’d want to sit these men down and calmly say: You are not dating a woman, you are dating a woman who has watched too many movies written by socially awkward men who’d like to believe that this kind of woman exists and might kiss them. I’d want to grab the poor guy by his lapels or messenger bag and say: The bitch doesn’t really love chili dogs that much – no one loves chili dogs that much! And the Cool Girls are even more pathetic: They’re not even pretending to be the woman they want to be, they’re pretending to be the woman a man wants them to be. Oh, and if you’re not a Cool Girl, I beg you not to believe that your man doesn’t want the Cool Girl. It may be a slightly different version – maybe he’s a vegetarian, so Cool Girl loves seitan and is great with dogs; or maybe he’s a hipster artist, so Cool Girl is a tattooed, bespectacled nerd who loves comics. There are variations to the window dressing, but believe me, he wants Cool Girl, who is basically the girl who likes every fucking thing he likes and doesn’t ever complain. (How do you know you’re not Cool Girl? Because he says things like: “I like strong women.” If he says that to you, he will at some point fuck someone else. Because “I like strong women” is code for “I hate strong women.”)

The last solid friend group I had in high school happened to be mainly guys, with a smaller group of girls. My best friend at the time were separate from these girls, but I thought we all got along fine. I started dating someone in the friend group. Unfortunately, he happened to be extremely manipulative. A selfish, compulsive liar. He caught me in a time in my life where I was struggling a lot with my depression, and what later was diagnosed as BPD. My self esteem was nonexistent. I never felt very pretty or interesting. I felt worthless. My only external validation was that I was a Cool Girl. I was told that I “wasn’t like other girls” as if this was a compliment. As if it was terrible to be like other girls. These compliments never made me change the way I thought about myself. My self hatred ran too deeply. However, I figured if I could make other people think that I was “Cool”, that might be close enough.

Unfortunately, I believe this reliance on the “Cool Girl compliment” mixed with my atrocious self esteem made me even more vulnerable to abuse. It’s a very clever tactic for some guys, to turn girls against each other. He always talked about his ex, and I felt like that was a bar that I needed to reach. So I was easily coerced into doing things I didn’t want to do. I was easily guilt-tripped into doing things I didn’t want to do.

In the Cool Girls monologue, what hit me the hardest was this: “Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.” Hi, I’m the Cool Girl. Cool Girls are docile and mild mannered. Cool Girls don’t let anything hurt them. Cool Girls aren’t like those other psycho, jealous bitches, right?

I used to be very worried that something was wrong with me because I never seemed to have a lot of female friends. I would condemn myself for being so difficult or so unlikable. Thankfully, I did not let my experiences sour my view of women and I now have many girlfriends that I can talk to whenever I need to. Many of the girls who judged and excluded me in the past actually apologized, and I am now friends with some of them. I believe that it is extremely important for women to stick together.

I think that this (very patriarchal) Cool Girl concept affects lots of women. Some women believe that being the Cool Girl empowers them. I think that these women fail to see the negative consequences of perpetuating the idea of a Cool Girl. I think that many women are afraid of setting boundaries, speaking out, or having meaningful conversations in their relationships because there’s this Cool Girl status that is supposed to be coveted. They let guys walk all over them and pretend to be okay with things that actually really bother them. The entire concept of a Cool Girl drives women apart and sets us back decades. All I can do is to urge females to support females. Have compassion for other women and girls because in a lot of ways, we are all in the same boat.

And finally: know that you don’t have to be the Cool Girl. It’s okay to be bothered by things. You should be able to have an adult discussion with your significant other. If they call you a psycho bitch then there is something wrong with them, not you.

Self hatred and BPD

I read somewhere that most psychiatrists don’t like using the term “self hatred” and prefer to descrive a person as having low self esteem. I agree that I have low self esteem, but when things are particularly bad, self hatred is much harsher sounding, which I think fits. 

My self hatred chips away at different aspects of my life. Usually my relationship is first to get hit, since that is a weak point for me to begin with. I’m afraid I will be abandoned. If I hate myself so deeply, how can I ever expect anyone else to love me? And so, usually without me even realizing it, I push and push until they get frustrated with me. This is often achieved by angry outbursts, oversensitivity, accusations based on nothing but my irrational fears, and splitting. 

Right now the self hatred is so bad, I hate myself for even writing this. I’m stigmatizing my own situation, even though I would never think to do that to someone else. I can’t bear to write any more.

“Best friends”

You never liked change. You hated the idea of leaving the safe confines of high school and starting a new chapter in university. You hated change so much that you drifted away from me, your supposed “best friend” after I broke up with an abusive, manipulative asshole. He remained in the friend group and I tried to distance myself, for reasons that I thought were obvious.

I wasn’t ready to tell you or anyone about the manipulation, the lying, and the hurt. Even so, I expected you to be there for me. Because we were “best friends”. It was easier for you to stay safe in your nice little comfort zone than to be there for me. I’m not blaming you, but I am angry and hurt at how everything panned out. I am also thankful that I found out who my real friends were.

You and our other “best friend”, we were a solid trio, or so I thought. But you both pulled back. I thought I knew who would be there for me and I was wrong. Friendships are tough like that, because when they end it can be harder than ending a relationship. After breaking up with my boyfriend, I thought I could turn to my friends. After breaking up with friends, who do you turn to? The end of our friendship, where you two went off and I was left alone, still hurts me today whereas the pain of ending my relationship no longer does.

What I mean by “ugly”

You have to understand how I see people: outward appearance is insignificant in determining how beautiful I think someone is. When I say I’m ugly, sure sometimes I do dislike my outward appearance, everyone does once in a while. But I don’t inherently like myself. When I say I’m ugly, I mean I’m not a good person, I’m not a worthy person. I’m ugly.

I’ve met people who are outwardly considered good looking, but they’re awful people. I am not swayed by looks. If you’re manipulative, arrogant, or rude, I’m going to think you’re ugly. Ugly means “unpleasant or repulsive” and it does not always mean in appearance.

Sometimes I do think I’m pretty good looking, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think I’m ugly. And maybe when you say I’m beautiful you aren’t only talking about outward appearance, but that is how I interpret it. Maybe we need to clarify. So yes, I believe you when you say I’m beautiful in terms of a pretty face. Yes, I do believe you. So I will smile and nod when you say I’m beautiful. I will accept your kind words and I will believe you. I love hearing you say it, I really do. But I still think I’m ugly. And I think I’m the only one who can change my mind.

Personal Experience: Eurocentric Beauty Standards

I’d like to say that my thoughts and actions aren’t dictated by race, but that would be a lie. That would be a lie for anyone. I was recently reminded of an old text post: “the first thought that goes through your mind is what you have been conditioned to think; what you think next defines who you are,” which made me forgive myself for the subconscious judgments that sometimes arise. What we have been conditioned to think could be what society tells us, what our peers tell us, and our past experiences. (These are not mutually exclusive categories, as one always affects the other, but they are good landmarks to look for.) I am always harsh and critical towards myself, and often will ruminate over a judgment I made towards someone, judging myself for having the thought in the first place. This is counterproductive, however, because thoughts are just thoughts.

Societal Beauty Standards:

The environment a child is surrounded by greatly shapes their views of themselves later into adolescence and adulthood. Offhand comments that may not seem like a big deal can have a huge impact on a child, especially when said by an adult. Being Chinese and born in Canada, I was exposed to many confusing experiences when it came to my self-worth, self-image, and ideals of beauty as it related to my race.

Living in a Western society, we subscribe heavily to Eurocentric beauty standards. This is ingrained into kids since birth. Representation matters. Growing up, I rarely saw role models or actresses who looked like me. I was mostly surrounded by other Caucasian kids but I never really thought much about it until someone pointed it out to me. It was unfortunately pointed out by a teacher, when I was only about 8 years old. We were doing an art project as a class, where we would stand in front of a light so the teacher could trace the silhouettes of our side profiles, then we would decorate or paint the picture. I remember in our there were only 4 Asian kids, all Chinese – 2 boys and 2 girls. The teacher was doing my tracing and she made a comment about how flat my nose was, and how full my lips were. I remember her laughing, and I really do not think it was malicious, but this stuck with me. Later, my friend compared my silhouette with hers and commented on how much flatter my face was compared to hers. This was the first time that someone pointed out I was different.

When I was 10 I got my first pair of glasses. The lady working at the shop seemed amused by how difficult it was to find a pair that fit me and didn’t slide down my nose because of my low bridge. In the end they had to insert nose pads into the frame so they would fit me. She was very friendly and good-natured about it, however I felt awful. It was another reminder that I was different, driving the wedge even further. I felt like I was an inconvenience for having my facial structure, and reprimanded myself for not being “normal”.

When I was 14, I was getting my makeup done for grade 9 grad. I went with a small group of friends and I was the only Chinese Canadian kid. The woman doing my makeup commented on how full my lips were compared to my friends. She told me not to worry, it was a good thing, and I was very lucky to have such big brown eyes. Although these words were kind and likely only had good intentions, I only felt like I was being singled out. As a very shy and sensitive kid in the first place, I hated being reminded that I was different. I didn’t want to look white per se – all I knew was that I wanted people to stop pointing out that I was different.

I do not think any of these people were being racist or trying to be hurtful intentionally. In the end, though, this took a toll on my self image and self esteem. I think that these experiences I went through are simply what happens when you are a minority. However, Canada is becoming increasingly multicultural, and I do think it is important to work towards a shift in attitudes that will reflect our multiculturalism. I think this can only be beneficial. The idea, however, is not to put down European/Caucasian beauty standards. They can still be embraced, while at the same time embracing the unique features found in different races and learn to measure our self worth with other means, not solely on beauty/appearance.

To read about my further confusing experiences of Asian beauty, see: Fetishism isn’t flattery

Recovery is constant resistance 

I wish I could see what you think you see in me. Just once I would like to be at peace with myself and look in the mirror through your rose-coloured glasses. But then you would have to take them off and see me for who I really am. I don’t think I want that quite yet.

Above is an unfinished draft I wrote a while back. On the 18th of September, specifically. This was written on a bad day.

I used to deflect compliments and praise because I strongly believed that to love myself, the love had to be intrinsic. It couldn’t rely on other people’s opinions of me. While I still believe this is true, I now realize that I took that sentiment too far… As I tend to do with most things.

My emotions and thoughts shift from one extreme to another. On bad days, I think I’m worthless. I think I’m a failure. Sometimes, I even feel like I hate myself. On good days I am confident, easy-going, and full of positive energy. Obviously the good exists. It is there, and it is intrinsic. However, the habit of refusing compliments is so deeply ingrained in my psyche that even on good days I cannot accept them. On bad days it’s even worse.

What I am starting to realize is that if I open myself up and let some of the positive in from the people around me, it can help coax out the self love that already exists. This is an important realization especially for the bad days. I’ve been living so long believing in this delusion that everyone who loves and cares for me must be wrong or mistaken. I could go on like that forever, if I allowed it. I could stay miserable forever.

It’s hard to let go of those thinking processes. They’re hardwired into my brain like a bad habit; no – like an addiction. I know they’re bad for me, but I’ve lived with them so long; I’ve lived with them all my life. It’s a constant effort to break free. I improve, then relapse. Improve. Relapse. Repeat.

I’m fighting against biology and brain structure. I’m resisting the pathways that have been ingrained within me. Through my studies, though, I know that it is possible to change. The brain is surprisingly plastic and the body is surprisingly adaptive. It’s possible to override these patterns. It’s not easy, but just like anything else that takes work, it will be worth it in the end.