I used to be moved easily as a child. Sadness would swoop down like a tidal wave and crush me. In my eyes, there was always a reason; to others, I was being unreasonable. I could not explain that feeling and I could certainly not understand why it was not seen as legitimate. There were moments when it could have been though, as when time came to say goodbye to my mum’s family after a month in Macedonia. I could feel everybody’s sadness, mostly my mother’s. I did not know it was empathy back then, nobody did. To me, the feeling was overwhelming and the only way to express it was to cry. Every time, I would be compared to that one aunt who got emotional about just anything. I hated the comparison, my tears were justified: my family was sad, my mum’s, my grandmother’s and my aunties’ eyes welled up, I couldn’t shake the thought “Will I see my grandparents next year or will they die before?”…. how could I not react to that? But I was deemed “too sensitive”.
I remember the first time I was referred to as talkative. I had told my kindergarten teacher about what we had eaten on Sunday. When our mum picked us up, my teacher asked her about that meal; she didn’t know what that traditional dish was. Mum explained and my teacher said:
– She told me all about it and I didn’t know what it was. She’s talkative, that’s for sure. A real janitor.
In French, a “janitor” is used to refer to a gossip. I was 2.5 years old, I had no idea what talkative or janitor meant but I understood it was not a good thing to be as they laughed. I am sure she did not realise but I never told that teacher about our meals afterwards.
Growing up, many of my high school reports would state “Good notes but talks too much.”
By then, being bullied was still on my agenda but it was nothing compared to what I had been through at 9. One day, when I was 11, I felt comfortable enough to bring up the subject and asked one of my bullies why they always picked on me.
– It’s because you always get offended. It’s funny.
– I don’t get offended, I exclaimed while trying to hide the offence in my voice.
– But you do! You’re too touchy.
I was not offended by their bullying, I was hurt. They could not tell the difference between me being mad and me being sad, something that would remain true through my adult life. It was not that I was being too touchy, it was that they were too inconsiderate.
At work, I have never shied away from speaking up. You know that moment when everybody seems to understand what is being talked about but you have no idea so you don’t dare ask not to look stupid? Well, it does not happen to me. I love learning and I am not ashamed to let people know I am not omniscient. The need for everything to make sense prevails over pretending to be bright. This craving for logic can be annoying to others as I will not let go if something seems nonsensical. In the work environment, this will translate into an unwillingless to complete a task if I do not see its point. Many questions and plenty of arguments as to why the idea does not suit the long run later, I always hear one of the following;
– You’re taking this too seriously.
– Why are you taking this so personally?
– It is too complicated.
And I never answer:
– No, it’s you who isn’t taking this seriously enough.
– I’m not taking it personally, I am being passionate about my work. Don’t you want that as a boss?
– No, it is this that is too simplistic.
I also have been told I was too emotional but that is a can of worms I will not open here; I would not have been considered that had I been a man.
With age and self-knowledge, I have learned to voice my opinion (because I cannot shut up, you know, being talkative and all) and let it go. Not that I matured and choose my battles; I just gave up.
Recently, I opened up to a friend about that time when we were much younger: him and my other male friends hurt my feelings more than they knew because I never voiced it (because I would have been judged too sensitive, something that I could only be blamed for; I was too chatty, why bring that up in the first place?!). In the end, he concluded:
– We just said those things without meaning anything. There was nothing to it. But you… you think too much.
I smiled at this statement, I had heard it many years ago. I thought to myself “Or maybe you guys were thinking too little” but refrained myself from saying it out loud; I did not want him to hear “You were too stupid” as it was not what I meant.
Whenever we utter words such as “Asking that woman/man out? No, she/he is way too pretty/handsome or smart or self-assured…”, who are we actually comparing them to? The rest of the world? No. To ourselves. It is because we think too little of ourselves that we believe that some are too much of something. It is for that reason that we accept their defining our traits as “too much”. We live in a constant comparison and convinced ourselves that we are comparing ourselves to everyone else. We are not: we are comparing everyone else to who we believe we are. The problem is that who we believe we are has been hammered in by others… who compared themselves to us. How messed up is that?
When I launched these websites, I felt liberated. I had finally admitted who I was, I had told the world I was a writer. In an instant, everything else that defined me became a flag I bore with pride: I am sensitive, I am talkative, I am passionate, I am… me. I am me. Wondrous.
Self-doubt crept in 10 days later. Cracks are numerous and some (well-intentioned) comments still seep through and munch at my core. I am on the path of self-acceptance and cannot negate an entire life of second guessing myself. I am a work in progress and I am allowing myself to be. I am not too impatient, too crazy, too naive; I am done comparing. I am not too much, I am enough.
Originally published at cestlavi.be