Certain things stay with you forever. Even something spoken offhandedly by someone who isn't a large part of your life can cling to your brain. A prime example is an instant from my freshman year of High School that I probably think about once a month, yet I bet the other people involved don’t even remember.
It was in English class and I was in a small group “working” on a poem about Tigers or something along those lines (not the main focus of this story but something that I remember vividly). I was partnered with was one girl and one guy, neither I had spoken to much but I had been in class with once or twice before.
Practically my whole English class was also in the next class together. So, instead of actually working on the poem, my small group was talking about the presentations we would be giving next period. The teacher for our social studies class did something where everyone got to vote for a different group's project, and the group that got the most votes would get extra credit.
Now, as a 20-year-old, I find Miguel de Cervantes pretty interesting. However, as a 15-year-old I thought he was the most boring guy in the world (what high schooler wants to read a book about windmills, come on now) and did not think I had any chance winning with him as my topic.
So, I shared that sentiment with my group. I told them there was no way I could win the extra credit because my guy was so boring. What was said in response is why I'm telling you this story.
The other girl in my group just turned, looked me dead in the face, and uttered the words I can still hear crystal clear today.
“Well, actually no one is going to vote for you because no one here likes you.”
… Harsh right?
I sat there just not knowing what to do or say. The guy in our group chuckled once out of complete shock, before awkwardly realizing she wasn't joking. And the girl just went back to highlighting the poem like she hadn't said anything impactful.
How does one bounce back from that? "Oh my god yeah I totally agree! No one here likes me, now back to this tiger….”
So, with this fresh in my mind I went on to present next period. *Spoiler alert* I didn’t win the extra credit. I couldn't tell you today who did, or anything else in particular about that class in all honesty (sorry Mr. Howard), but I remember barely being able to focus during the presentation.
I swear I told no one about that incident until months, maybe a year later. I was embarrassed out of mind, totally confused because this girl and I had barely spoken outside of that conversation– yet she had the gall to tell me to my face that she (as well as the rest of the class apparently) didn’t like me.
Now, I don’t believe this girl had a vendetta against me or anything like that. After this, we went on to interact many more times throughout High School and had many pleasant conversations.
If you were to ask her, she probably won't even remember that moment. But I do.
I tried to not let her words affect how I went on with my day-to-day life. I continued to be authentically myself, but I won’t lie those words were always in the back of my mind and made me a little uncertain whenever I interacted with someone new or that I wasn't that close with. Even now as an adult, three years removed from high school, that moment makes me a little self-conscious.
This brings up two pieces of advice that I want to share with you:
Number one. Be conscious of what you say.
Something that could totally be an off-minded comment that you didn’t think much of could be something someone six years later still think back to every so often. Even if you don't mean it harshly, even if you were "joking", people will interpret it how they will and it could have lasting impacts.
The flip side though is this also applies to good things. A compliment you say could be something someone else cherishes – I have a few of those moments from High School as well that I remember fondly.
More importantly, Number two. Take what people say about you with a grain of salt.
I had a great friend in that class that I knew didn’t “not like me” and there were many other people in that class that I knew probably didn’t like or not like me. People sometimes say certain things to get a reaction out of people, to make them feel as crummy as they do. While it may sting, remember that what they are saying probably doesn't hold as much merit as it feels like it does.
You also can use those words as fuel to prove them wrong – neither that girl nor myself back in high school could have guessed that I'd be Vice President of a whole sorority (a position I had to be voted into so HA it seems like people do like me enough to vote for me).
I wish I could go back to Emma at that time though and convince her that one mean sentiment shouldn’t carry as much weight as I allowed that too at one point. I also wish I could always be as genuine as I am now and remind myself what people think about me shouldn’t mean as much to me as it does.
I am someone who, though I try hard not to, let what people think about me affect how I think about myself. I am someone whose self-confidence has grown immensely, yet still tends to glance to others for reassurance, even though accepting compliments isn't my strong suit. I'm working to be better, but it's hard to break old habits.
But, just because it is hard doesn't mean it's impossible.
As I grow and mature I see myself getting much better with this. So from friend to friend, blogger to reader, me to you - I promise people like you here, yet what is more important is that you like yourself.