This used to be a big issue for me. HUGE.
Now? It's somehow not.
And I'm not entirely sure how it happened.
(AKA, I'm gonna try to figure it out in this blog. In case you haven't figured it out by now, my blog is just one big stream of consciousness. I rarely edit aside from grammar and even then I am lazy some days.)
I know part of it is being holed up along for two years and not having to be performative for anyone.
Or, you know, not needing to mask.
I didn't realize how often I was masking until I didn't have to.
While not needing to mask as often is a big part of helping me to drop this stress over being judged, I think a promise I made to myself at the outset of therapy was also a contributor.
No matter how embarrassing or how judged I felt about things in the past, I would be 100% honest with my therapist. This was so scary at first, but, like I said before, I knew therapy wouldn't work as it should unless I was honest.
So, I was! And, instead of the incredulity or attempts to talk me out of the truth that I was used to getting from the folks that were supposed to care for me, I was greeted with acceptance.
Y'all, that was weird AF and really took some getting used to.
It felt fucking amazing to be accepted wholly as I am, though.
So I started bringing that into my daily life.
At first this was pretty easy, because I was hanging at home alone a lot.
Here's the thing though... even though I was alone, I'd still let all those voices in my head infiltrate my daily life to such a degree that it would keep me from being 100% myself WHILE I WAS 100% ALONE.
I know this seems extreme, but I am being for real. And admitting it is terrifying.
I was such a people pleaser, I let it effect me when I was by myself. I wouldn't sing full out, I wouldn't dance full out, I wouldn't talk back to the TV full out.
Hell, I wouldn't even FEEL full out.
I feel so sad for the me of just a year ago. But then, I grew up hearing that I was wrong, I sounded terrible singing the songs I loved best (Bette Midler), the way I move doesn't look normal, I repeat things too much... this is just the tip of the iceberg.
And they became ingrained in my brain. Like, a lot of times, there is just a loop of all these things playing in the background of my brain so that I don't make a misstep and accidentally do one of them
No wonder my brain was all spun up 99% of the time.
So, once I realized how good it felt to be wholly accepted, I started picking my lifetime of "don'ts" apart.
I found that most of the things serve no actual purpose in my life.
It's so so freeing, y'all.
I'm really good at singing Bette Midler btw. Anyone casting Gypsy? Or a stage version of For the Boys? I wanna audition!
When I started dropping the "don'ts" from my life, I was worried people would judge me more than before, so I was tentative at first.
But, y'all. They absolutely did not. More often than not, I was met with acceptance.
The times when I wasn't met with acceptance, particularly when the roadblock came from someone I cared about, I took a step back and looked at the situation with a critical eye:
Was there anything wrong with my portion of the interaction?
I looked at this thoughtfully from all possible angles my brain could come up with. (That makes it sound like it takes forever, but really, it moves pretty fast in my brain, what with the many streams of words happening in my brain at any given time. I just gotta tune in to the right one, lol.)
If I can't come up with a reasonable, uh, reason for their bristling or judging or whatever, I'll straight up ask them.
"Was there something wrong with that interaction? I'm exploring my neurodivergent traits and don't want to make you uncomfortable."
Most of the time they have no answer for me.
Or if they do, it's nothing more than "Oh, that's just what people do." or some variation on that theme.
Then, if they're willing, I'll pick this apart, too.
"Why? Why do people do this? Does it make sense to do it? Is this something we should continue to do? How does this serve YOU specifically? Will it serve ME to adopt this behavior?"
It's at this point I've discovered some surprising prejudices held by people I know and the ones that I'm still friends with... are also surprised by this discovery, because as open as they are, they still have blind spots.
And I do too! I've realized some really troubling things about some of the values I held fast to for years, most related to competitive feelings with other women. Now that I know they're there, I'm actively working on breaking those down.
There has been the odd (sad) time when I realize a friend wasn't the person I thought they were and have to take a step back from the friendship. Those hurt my insides. But I don't want to surround myself with people who don't treat or even think of other people like humans. It's that simple to me now.
Whew. This is just a very long way of saying that unpicking all these things I've believed to be true.... all of these things I've been doing "wrong"... all of the things I was judged for in the past... has made me feel less judged.
Unless I am talking to someone who is afraid to make a step for fear of being judged.
Here is why I think that is.
They're probably judging people all the time so they think other people are judging them similarly.
I used to do the same thing. I used to judge every single person I met based on my running list of "don'ts" in my head. And I'd get MAD when they were accepted for doing things I'd been told my entire life NOT to do.
I'd be so mean to these people in my head, y'all. Thus, I kept myself from doing things I loved because I was sure other people were being mean about me in THEIR heads.
Welp, that switch has flipped and I celebrate the people who did the things I've been told not to do cause, now? I do 'em too.
But to get here, I had to work on not judging other people myself.
This has just been a long way for me to tell you something I wish I discovered WAY earlier in my life.
If you feel judged, listen to the voice in your head a little closer. How is it talking about other people?
If it's being mean... figure out why and flip it. I've lived a much happier life since I started doing this.
I would LOVE for y'all to skip all the bullshit I went through.
It's been hard, and sometimes I find myself slipping into old habits. Most often in times of uncertainty or stress, much like the times I feel my mask slipping back on.