Those red shoes she was wearing today were so ugly.
She’s not even smart. She’s so full of herself.
I still remember staring blankly at the computer screen and reading these thoughtless comments. I didn’t know why I still checked this website almost every day. I knew that people took their anonymity to mean that it was alright to make “honest” comments about others. I couldn’t understand why I felt such an inclination to open up my laptop and scour the latest remarks regarding my looks, attitude, or intellectual capacity.
I kept thinking that it shouldn’t hurt so much because I didn’t know the people who were saying these things.
Horrifyingly, I would wonder if I was improving. Why I should ever care about their judgement, whoever they were, never even crossed my mind. All I knew was I would read that I looked fat in my outfit that day, and make a note that I should skip dinner for a few nights.
The anonymity provided by this website made me feel exposed everywhere; I felt like I was constantly under scrutiny. Everywhere I went, I wondered if someone was observing me and taking note of things to criticize later.
It made me question myself. Strangely, I never blamed them; I only wondered what was wrong with me. I berated myself for wearing an outfit that made me look heavy; what was I thinking? I stopped talking to people in class, for fear that I was being annoying, and eventually I just stopped talking altogether. I wished that I could be pretty enough, athletic enough, smart enough, that they could find no fault with me. I never to thought that to just be me, was enough.
I blamed myself for the opinions of anonymous commenters on a trivial website. I was miserable at the time, but I know now that I couldn’t have grown without having this experience.
I began by asking myself to stop checking this website. At first, I felt my fingers itching to type in the all too familiar web address. I still wondered if the outfit I wore today was acceptable, still hoped that I had done well enough on my test, still wished I would be good enough for them.
And, sooner than I had thought possible, I found myself forgetting the people sitting in front of their computers, trying to tear away at me. I forgot those critics who would pick apart everything I did, and I forgot all the things I felt insecure about because of their critique. I remembered that I worked hard at school, and enjoyed my classes. I remembered that I was happy with my company, my traits, and my personality.
I remembered how much I loved those red shoes.
There are some things that you cannot change; the opinions of others fall into this category. And while our inability to affect certain things can be disheartening, it can also be so liberating.
I decided I could not expend any time or happiness on things I cannot change, and it gave me a sense of freedom and lightness that I had not experienced since the very first comment I read.
I asked myself, Do you think you are ugly? Do you think you are unintelligent? Do you think that you are less remarkable than any other human being? And I found that I gave resounding No’s to all these questions. I am now thankful for this experience because it did not shrink my confidence, but rather helped it grow beyond what it had ever been before.
Originally published at medium.com