Damned If You Do, Damned If You Don’t:
The Not-So-Sovereign Empath
As an empath I am very much aware of what others think and how their filters work. To the point where – even when there’s no one around! – I end up getting caught in those filters.
So I may be faced with a choice re my kid and I will hear two ‘camps’ vociferously express their opinions, telling me simultaneously to “Let the boy be!” and to “Sort the boy out!”
Yes, I do mean ‘in my head’. There’s no one actually there. But they might as well be, what with the noise they’re making!
Sound familiar? That you look at your options and you hear ‘others’ chiming in? Others who aren’t even there, yet whose opinions are coming through loud and clear?
In this case, it’s easy to silence one camp: My kid’s only here for the weekends, he’s got exams coming and he’s stressed out of his brain. If I don’t step up as a mother now, what’s the point of any of this?!
But typically, a lot of the times I find myself caught between “Yes, you should!” and “No, you shouldn’t!”
Regardless of the subject.
Imaginary voices in my head, representing my entire environment, past-present-and-future.
I zoned in on this a few weeks ago.
That my life seemed to have boiled down to this perennial “Damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t” -feeling.
When I discussed it with a friend, she said: “Actually, this is always in your energy. You use that expression a lot. So much so that I thought you knew!”
And I guess I did know. Have always known. But I hadn’t previously zoned in on how much it inhibited me. Or on how urgent it was for me to move beyond that.
Because this isn’t just a matter of “Well, you know, they’re imaginary camps in your head, who cares!” A lot of the times those camps represent actual people that I will have to meet later that day, and when I do, my choices will come up. And I will feel the weight of their opinions (judgments!) even as I make my decisions.
And I had really started to feel very caught in that.
But, talking it over with my friend, I realised one thing:
You can never appease people who are out to judge you.
And even as I put this into words, I’m thrown back in time to when I was a teenager, helping my parents out in their business. And no matter what I did, I always got it wrong: There was simply no second-guessing my mother.
She didn’t do it to criticize me (or so I hope, 😉 ). It was her own inability to deal with all the options. Her own sense of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’.
The examples I could list here are endless but the long and the short of it is that she would expect me to do A. And so the next time I would. But the next time she would tell me I should have done B.
Looking at it now, I can see those were her insecurities.
Back then, all it did was feed into mine. Until I sat in a restaurant and no longer knew how to choose from the menu. At which point the entire family would get annoyed with me – or tease me, preferably in front of the waiter – telling anyone who would listen that I was unable to choose. But no matter what I chose, she would invariably ask me, “Are you sure? Wouldn’t you prefer this other thing?”
What she was really doing, was trying her best to keep everyone from being disappointed. Because disappointment might lead to an argument, and conflict was something she wasn’t equipped to handle. Her own childhood traumas. And so she tried to control every possible outcome, thus curbing all possible disappointment – including her own.
Now, she transitioned eight years ago, so it’s about time I let go of the “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” but oddly enough, the thing that I found most helpful, was something that came up during that conversation with my friend. As I said: You can’t appease people who are out to judge you.
But somehow that formed this new thought in the back of my mind, and it’s been there ever since. So next time someone criticizes me (and it’s always the same few people, regardless of what the topic is), I’ll have my answer ready:
“Well, since you’re going to be on my case anyway, I’ve decided to go with something that suits me!”
I haven’t yet had occasion to use it. And now I may never have to.
Because the thought itself adds to the conviction I radiate regarding the choices I make:
They’re no longer open for discussion.