Haters Gonna Hate, Ain't-ers Gonna Ain't
A coworker recently told me I was quiet and banal and blended into the background. Not sure how to interpret that, my immediate instinct was to get defensive. Fearful that others may view me as boring, I felt this reactive need to prove myself as some kind of fighter or daredevil. I had the urge to explain to my coworker that I am not a wallflower, that I have unique stories and a daring personality, that I am confident and assertive outside of a professional setting. Immediately my mind went to the times when I chased after a hit of adrenaline, brought a reckless idea to fruition, or had the cops called on me, but as I sat there stewing in annoyance and slight embarrassment, a simple yet astute thought came to me. Who cares?
I do not personally consider my existence or my experiences as dull, yet an outsider’s irrelevant, shallow opinion made me question the quality of my life. And it’s not the first time. Too often I have received unsolicited opinions from others about my appearance or demeanor or actions. I have had family members ridicule me for drinking too much or not drinking enough; friends tell me I am too amiable or too derisive; classmates scowl at me for being too smart or too dumb; and now I have a coworker calling me a wallflower. Joke’s on him. My husband thinks I’m too rambunctious.
I am baffled at the number of people who feel entitled to make summary judgments on my life, to make passing comments that offer no introspective value and serve only to make me furrow my brow and wonder why they think their opinions about what I do in my own personal space and time is of any concern to me. Unbridled judgement is rampant, permeating society, impairing our self-confidence and self-worth, and embittering us toward our friends, coworkers, and families. It does not matter how we shift or change or aim to appease others, some people will always be unhappy with what we say and do.
This onslaught of narrow-minded critiques is both aggravating and disheartening. I should be permitted to have a moderate number of drinks at a party without being simultaneously labeled as prudish by those who drink more than me and wanton by those who drink less than me. I should be allowed to be cordial to people I like and avoid people I find adverse without condemnation. It should not be surprising if I excel at advanced dynamics but am atrocious at basic thermodynamics. And it should not behoove a coworker to call me bland to my face simply because I prefer to be more reserved and professional at work.
I do not fit into any one box. I enjoy roller coasters, horror movies, and haunted houses just as much I as enjoy painting, writing, and snuggling with my husband on the couch. I like snakes and hate spiders. I excel at basketball while being horribly uncoordinated at softball. I have an artistic mind but love math, and I majored in chemical engineering but loathe chemistry. So yes, I can be a lively friend and wife but remain reserved in the workplace. What a novel concept.
The point is I am content with my life and the way in which I choose to lead it despite how the world may perceive me. I don’t want or need commentary on subjects as trivial as my messy truck or as sensitive as my hearing disability, and I’m clearly not alone in feeling this way. Yet, as much as I would love to exist free from criticism, I still have to learn to navigate the relentless tide of unsolicited opinions from others. I will always be mischaracterized and misjudged by those who do not know me as well as I know myself, and I will always be subjected to untrue, unwanted interpretations of my personality, of my convictions, of my life. Therefore, as the haters keep hating and the ain’ters keep ain’ting, I must keep reminding myself that as long as I am happy with who I am…
May we all find confidence in ourselves amid the critiques of the world.