Someone once told me that I was bad.
Not that I had done something bad, but that I was bad. And the worst part? I believed him. I believed him because I didn’t know any better. I believed him because I had recently lost someone very close to me and was too fragile to know any better. I believed him because he was in a position of authority. Because teachers (and professors, mind you) are supposed to know better. So I got quiet. Really quiet. And I believed that. And I thought that if I kept my head down and stayed quiet, that it would get better. That I would be better.
But you know what I learned?
That some people are jerks. They just are. When someone criticizes or attacks you for the hell of it, it says a lot more about them than it says about you. And I’m actually glad I went through that horrible situation because it made me speak up. I stood up for myself, for once. And it created this snowball effect of becoming more assertive and setting boundaries.
And I’ve been thinking about boundaries a lot lately.
And how some people just feel the need to bulldoze all over them. And I thought about it just the other day when I was listening to a podcast interview with Danielle Krysa, from the Jealous Curator. She was promoting her book Creative Block and told this horror story about how her inner critic was born. She was blindsided by a her college professor who had complimented her work one day and bashed her the following week in front of a famous visiting artist while critiquing the very same pieces he had given a positive review just a week before. He basically told her that she should never paint again. And she didn’t, for many years.
While she talked about a lot of other things and her book is amazing (filled with interviews with other artists sharing their creative blocks and how they overcome them), that one topic really hit home for me. My heart went out for the 20-year old Danielle. And for the many other people who get thrown in situations like that. And there are many of those people out there. I know that because just like in Danielle’s story I had other students coming to me saying they had been through something similar with that professor as well.
I was definitely not the only one blindsided by a jerk.
That’s what jerks do. They consciously or unconsciously project their own shit onto others in the hopes of feeling better about themselves. It’s not personal. It’s almost like a sport sociopaths play. The thing that I learned is that:
|You can not like someone all you want (and that's fine), but it doesn't give you the right to treat them like crap|
Especially if you are in a position of power. And especially if you are paid to encourage and help people… not to crush them.
The good thing is that going through that made me speak up and forced me to stand up for myself. It made me face my own inner critic and I’m actually grateful for it. I'm not grateful to that professor though. I would never, ever, not in a million years, give him credit for that. Because it would be sending a message saying that what he did was ok. If anything, I would give credit to myself (and my therapist - bless her heart) for making freaking tequila with the lemons that were thrown my way. But I'm grateful for going through that situation and finally learning to fight back.
And I hope people going through something similar know that it gets better. You don’t have to believe in nasty things thrown your way. And you don’t have to let it stop you. Feel whatever you’re feeling, cry if you have to, but pick yourself back up again and keep going… in absolute defiance. Don’t apologize or feel bad for something you believe in. Don’t let jerks destroy you or your dreams.
I'm really glad that I stood up for myself. That I've found that I actually have a voice. And by all means, I made myself heard. Loud and clear.