“But they say I’m the Black Sky.”
She screamed in horror, speaking to her partner and trying to reason why she can give in to the evil, for the Black Sky is something evil, apparently.
Seeing the good in her, and believing one is responsible for his own decisions, he told her assertively, yet compassionately, “They don’t get to tell you who you are.”
From there, she started taking a series of decisions that had the good in mind.
This was a scene from the Marvel T.V series Dare Devil.
Away from the fact that we humans can feel empowered and take huge risks when someone believes in us and sees the good inside of us, this scene has another dimension which may hold one of the secrets of having a healthy amount of self-esteem.
And not only that! It may also explain how self-respect can reach the point of developing the sexy, highly sought-after attitude of not giving a fuck.
Let’s break it down.
People Who See the Worst in You
Those are the people who don’t believe in you.
In fact, they believe that you suck, that you are bad, and that you are not good enough.
And they show no inhibitions in making you feel that way.
They expect you to behave and act and breathe and walk and talk as the fucked-up image they have of you in their minds. And should you not do that, you will be reminded of who you really are.
And who you really are?
To them, you are but a projection of their insecurities and anger and resentment and fears.
They see the badness in you because it reminds them of their own badness that they hate (Which is uncomfortable) or because it makes them feel less bad (Which is a cheap way to feel good about one’s self). Or both.
Those people are toxic. And because they are toxic, they want to feel better about themselves by making people around them look small and bad. In my book How to Handle an Asshole as if you were one, I said that bullies and assholes are those who do not accept the responsibility for their own insecurities and project them onto others.
And even –or especially– when you do something good, they show up and keep reminding you of who you really are (according to their perspective, which is governed by their insecurities.). They don’t seem to understand that you have a good side and good days along with your bad side and bad days.
But I do have a bad side; even my good friends tell me that
Heck, even my inner voice sometimes tells me that I have a bad side and that I am bad. So, if I have it within me, maybe it is who I am. After all, look at all the stupid shit I have done throughout the years! Had you been in my shoes, you would have known how bad I am!
Look, I get it. And not ‘I get it’ in a cliché way of telling you that you are good and positive and successful and amazing and great and god-like but you just can’t see that. Why? because you are not; you are none of these exciting things. And you know that.
You are not this series of good things. This is easy to believe with the inner critic voice. But at the same time, you are also not this series of bad things they say you are.
Read that again. My eyes are getting watery as I am writing this and I need a minute.
OK, again. You are not this series of bad things they say you are.
Your close friends are probably aware of your insecurities and idiosyncrasies. But they are aware of more than that and they tend to appreciate you as a person, warts and all. And you, too, must be aware of more than the dark side and appreciate yourself as a person the same way your friends do, if not more.
That is easier said than done, I know. It is an arduous journey and an uphill battle. But it is probably the most worthwhile journey you will ever have. This site you are reading is here to help you with this journey1You can check the page Start Here, and you can check this article, too.
That said, I want to mention something very important.
This, what we have mentioned, doesn’t mean that you can be shitty and act like a victim. Just because your friends are willing to accept the bad side of you doesn’t mean that it is the only side they want to see.
Look, if you turn into a downer who is not only toxic but also not pleasant to be around and not willing to help yourself (more of a victim), people will not like to be around you that much. Some won’t even take you seriously or respect you. And the interesting part is that they won’t tell you that to your face.
Those are the good people. And because of your behaviors, those good people cannot reason with you. Most people don’t like victims and losers, even if they were victims and losers themselves.
So here is the interesting part. Before handling the assholes who want to define you only by your bad side, you need to look within yourself and make sure you are not acting like a helpless victim who is broken and wants sympathy and attention. Hard to admit, I know. But it all comes down to the way you treat yourself in the first place.
Whose Opinion Matters?
So, we have 3 opinions so far about your badness and goodness:
- The assholes who see the badness in you.
- Your friends who are aware of your quirks but still like you and respect you.
- Your own opinion, which is likely to be influenced by the 2 opinions above.
You need to get good at differentiating between the 3 opinions, for it can get messy sometimes.
The assholes are toxic people. Your friends care about you. However, we sometimes have those assholes inside our social circle disguised as friends who are wise and charismatic.
The way you differentiate between those two types of people is by understanding what is healthy and what is toxic.
You do that by working on the third opinion: your own opinion. And for your records, this means one thing: you work on your self-respect.
As ugly as it may sound, the more self-respect you have, the less you will be tolerant of people who are toxic and assholes. And vice versa. Also, the more self-respect you have, the more will healthy people get drawn to you (a.k.a, friends who are sane and who care about you.)
Let’s make this more practical.
Self-respect: The Antidote to Toxicity
I am not going to talk theoretically about self-respect, for I have already done that a lot in this site. Instead, here are practical pieces of advice to work on your self-respect. They focus on the topic of this article, which is not allowing people to define you.
Set Boundaries with Other People
When you set boundaries, you tell people that this is what I won’t tolerate. And most importantly, those boundaries must be aligned with what is good for your well-being. They must demonstrate, to your own mind, that you do respect yourself.
For instance, I don’t tolerate people who always see the worst in me. Those people who, whenever you meet them, notice all the bad things about you and tell you how bad you are progressing. If you are having a great day, they tell you that something is wrong with you today. If you are wearing a nice shirt, they manage to find a flaw with it. If you succeed at something, they find it difficult to acknowledge your success. And they always remind you of what-they-believe-are-your-flaws (how skinny/overweighted you are, how you have no sense of style, how you will always be the same piece of shit that grosses them out.).
I make it clear that I don’t accept this type of treatment. And I walk away from them, usually cutting them out of my life completely if they kept doing that.
And this is where assertiveness comes into play.
Setting boundaries is great; however, without assertiveness, it is nothing. It is like having something valuable, which is good, but you cannot protect it.
You need to be able to protect and maintain your boundaries using assertiveness and boldness. Whenever someone violates your boundaries, which are an embodiment of your self-respect, you must stand up boldly and assertively for yourself. This way, without getting so technical, assertiveness is nothing but practicing the right to respect yourself and walk away from whatever that hurts you.
Set Boundaries with Yourself
Just as you tell other people what you will tolerate and what you will not tolerate, you need to tell yourself the same.
You need to have boundaries within your relationship with yourself. They are as important as the ones you have when it comes to dealing with other people.
But what does that mean?
Boundaries are reflections of your self-respect. And boundaries are also about what is good for you. Based on these concepts, let’s see what kind of boundaries you can set when it comes to your relationship with yourself.
Letting yourself go and indulging in self-destructive behaviors is violating your boundaries with yourself. Neglecting your health and looks is a violation, too. Procrastinating and being lazy and giving in to fear, and thus not pursuing what is good for you and not learning and not growing is another level of violation. It’s as if the disrespect and boundaries violation is not coming from other rude people; it is coming from within you.
I call all this ‘disrespect’ because it is against your well-being and because it will make you look down at yourself in the long run. How? Nobody is happy about themselves without this investment in one’s self. If you don’t invest in yourself, you will invest in self-pity and self-hatred, let alone that you will go out there searching for external sources of approval because you are not happy with who you are. Yes, it takes self-respect to invest in yourself; however, investing in yourself also builds self-respect. Those things are interconnected and there is no need to go down the egg and the chicken discussion.
When other people violate your boundaries, you need assertiveness. When you violate your own boundaries, you need discipline and self-awareness.
Self-awareness is about being honest with yourself. It requires you to open up about who you really are and what you really value. It takes courage and humility. It also takes kindness and self-compassion. All in all, be courageous and kind at the same time.
Discipline is about picking up the slacks and doing the work. It is about investing in yourself. And no investment can be sustained without discipline and grit. You need to commit yourself and do something in the real life that is aligned with your well-being (a.k.a, your boundaries) and then keep doing it.
To close, don’t tolerate disrespect from anyone, not even from yourself. And when you don’t tolerate disrespect from yourself, you will not tolerate it from other people; you will not allow other people to tell you who you are because, at the end of the day, they don’t get to tell you who you are.