Liam, one year ago.
I've been thinking lately about one of the most important life lessons that I've learned so far which is:
It's not about you.
No really, it isn't. It's so easy to take everything so personally when the reality is that most of it isn't.
If you aren't happy with the way someone is treating you, yes you do first need to look at what part you might have in that, and whether that part is something you would benefit from changing.
Anything else though, especially anything that doesn't make sense or that you can't figure out? That's not you, that's them. It's all about them. Because everyone really is all about themselves. They are not about you.
I've seen so many friends and loved ones beat themselves up about someone else's behavior for hours, weeks, months, years... myself included. Why did someone treat us that way? What did we do to deserve it? What should we have done differently? Why did they do that? Why?
Take responsibility for your own actions and then let it go. Move on.
It's easier said and done, and I don't always succeed myself, but, when I remember it, this realization brings so much peace and saves so much time and energy. And I've been thinking about it lately in light of the teen suicide cases over the past few months and all the talk about bullying.
If you're being bullied, it's not about you. It's about the bully, who is often a victim themselves in a different situation. I'm certainly no expert on bullying and how to handle it and frankly I'm terrified of the time when Liam becomes old enough for it to be an issue. Hopefully I have a few years to figure out how to deal with it if I have to, but my strategy would be based on this concept - it's not about you, it's not personal. Walk away. And don't let your confidence be eroded. Protect your confidence by knowing that it's not about you.
There are several other aspects to this issue that I'd like to touch on. First of all, I think it's also important to accept the following:
It's ok if someone doesn't like you.
Not everyone has to like you. Not everyone will.
But let people like you or dislike you for who you are, not someone you are trying to be because you think more people will like you that way.
I've mentioned Jasmine Star before and she is big on this - "attract or repel" she calls it. She also wrote a great blog post last month about how to handle criticism on the web... but it applies so perfectly to bullying situations and to criticism and life in general too. Don't engage. Don't react. Walk away.
It gets better.
It does. I love this message that has emerged from all the tragedy and, not to detract from it's importance for GLBTQ kids right now, it's a message that should resonate with any kid who has ever felt bullied or physically threatened, or afraid of being bullied or threatened, or even just hurt or left out... and isn't that pretty much every kid?
It does get better, and I think in part it is because as we get older, we realize some of these things - that it's not about you, that you can walk away. We also are more empowered as adults and have more control over our lives and who is in them in what capacity, to a greater or lesser degree of course, but generally we have more tools and options at our disposal.
We also have more freedom to be independent, to find the friends that we want, and to exist outside of the often damaging group mentality that exists while you're at school.
And finally we learn that difference is not something to be feared but is something to be proud of, that sets us apart and helps us be successful. Do you try and make your resume look like you're the same as everyone else? Of course not! Do businesses try and be the same as their competitors? Of course not!
On a more emotional note, you may have seen it but if you haven't, check out this "it gets better" video of a speech by Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns. It's one of many many touching videos, but this one will make you cry. Ok, who am I kidding, they all make me cry, but this one is particularly powerful.
Lastly, there's one more link I would like to share, to a blog post entitled A mountain I'm willing to die on. I especially like the message at the beginning - that it's not that children are cruel, not especially, but that children reflect the cruelty they see in the adults and society around them.
Bullying is not a problem in our schools, it's a problem in our society.
I know, it's not about you but it is about all of us - it's seemingly contradictory. But just because something isn't about you specifically doesn't mean that you can't do something about it generally.
I don't usually write long blog posts like this but this one just sort of happened. Thanks for listening. You don't have to agree but I'd love to hear what you think.
nyc baby, child and family photographer & architect alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn. she specializes in baby photography as interior design & interior design for babies. view her portfolio of babies, children or families or send her an e-mail here!