The below post was originally written October 27, 2012, on my Goodreads blog. I’m posting it here on my wordpress blog now in case anything ever happens to my Goodreads account, so I don’t lose it.
First, I should clarify my previous entry: I posted that I might be absent because I hadn’t been on social media for about a month already and I didn’t want anyone trying to contact me and thinking I was ignoring them. So just FYI in general, if I ever seem to be ignoring you I probably just didn’t see it. I go in waves of being involved on social media and taking a break, because I’m an introvert so sometimes social media feels too, well, social for me. But my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) is where you can always find me.
On to the main point of this post:
I love Ellen DeGeneres’ talk show. Is that what this post is about? Not at all, actually, except that youtube clips of her show are some of the things that first got this topic going in my mind and over the weeks it’s been snowballing. Especially after I read Unbearable Lightness. And especially after I’ve been reading some book reviews that have pointed out some pervasive negative themes in stories.
And that is this: all too often, people are made to feel like crap just for being who they are. All too often, people are bullied. All too often, societal expectations exceed what should realistically be asked of anyone. And all too often, it’s easy for people to fall into a state of depression or unhappiness as a result.
If this topic stands out to you as something you have experienced in your life– recently or long ago– first I want to say this to you:
I’m sorry that people or society failed you. I’m sorry that you were ever made to feel less than perfect as you are. I’m sorry that you were ever hurt.
What we all need to remember is that gender identity, sexual orientation or lack thereof, age, body shape, ethnicity– none of these things MATTER. None of these things say anything about the person themselves. How much money you have to your name doesn’t matter, whether you have a prestigious title or you’re a peon like the rest of us–
It doesn’t MATTER.
What matters is who you are.
What matters is what you do.
What matters is you make up for it if you make a mistake and stand strong when you don’t.
What matters is you help others if they’re down.
What matters is you won’t let someone be hurt in front of you if you have the opportunity to do something to stop it.
What matters is you care.
Not everyone can express themselves in the same way. Some people (like myself) really don’t like confrontation. Some people do. Some people feel more comfortable on the sidelines and some people like to stand out as the hero. Some people really care but are too shy or uncertain to say anything and some people care so much that they are continually brash or headstrong.
We are all different and that’s okay. One person’s way of life is not better than another’s; they’re just different.
We are also all alike and that’s okay. We’re all human and we make mistakes, we get scared or angry, we get uncertain or indignant. We say things we don’t mean and mean things we don’t say. We speak up too early or too late and miss opportunities to make a difference at the right time.
It’s okay. You’re okay.
You have to be yourself, that’s the most important thing. Beyond that, it’s a work in progress. Sometimes, even being able to BE yourself is a work in progress, because who you are might be something that causes you to be the target of negativity. In some places, just being who you are could be lethal or extremely dangerous. So if you have to hide for your own safety, that’s okay.
You aren’t a terrible person for being yourself and you aren’t a terrible person if you can’t BE yourself because circumstances force you into hiding.
Maybe there’s no one else out there who ever feels that way but I know I did when it came to the idea of coming out.
I felt like I was flawed and wrong for not being “normal” like so many other people. I felt like I was defective. I feel like I have to hide who I am in some circumstances but in others I can be forthright. Constantly being on guard and having to consider context before comments can be stressful and, at times, distressing. Even just a couple of weeks ago I felt that distress rather clearly, and at the time what made me feel better was people telling me this:
It’s okay. You’re not alone. You’re not wrong. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re okay.
I’ve been thinking about it and I feel very strongly about saying the same thing to others. Because one thing that Youtube has reinforced to me is that people can be wonderful, but they can also be incredibly callous; they can be rude and spiteful and sometimes downright vindictive or mean. They can bully others because of their opinion, or insult entire continents, countries or cultures for something they don’t even understand. They can rush headlong down a path that will end in heartache for someone, and it could be that they don’t care or it could be that they just don’t understand.
Because words are powerful, and they can build a person up but they can also break a person down.
So please take these words as much to heart as you may have ever been depressed by negative ones:
You are beautiful. You are handsome. You are a good person. You are and can be loved. You deserve to be. You deserve good things. You deserve happiness as much as anyone else.
I don’t care what your ancestry is or where you live, I don’t care what your body shape is or whether you meet the impossible ideals that may be set forth by your society. I don’t care if the gender you identify with matches the gender you were born with. I don’t care if you’re asexual, homosexual, bisexual, heterosexual, or any other variation beyond. I don’t care what you believe politically, religiously, culturally, or whether you don’t believe anything at all.
I don’t care because all I need to know is that you’re there.
We may spend time on a virtual world of social media and websites and intangible ideas made visual, with our words spelled out on a screen and not spoken by voice. We may never meet in person and may not recognize each other even if we were in the same room.
But it doesn’t matter.
Because when I sit down and type to a screen, I know that a human being is on the other side of that communication. I know that out there, you get upset, you get happy; you get excited, you get down; you get curious, you get resigned.
You have a range of emotions like I do, and you have a life like I do, and you’re a human being like I am. And I know that because of that you’re important, and I know that because of that you deserve a chance at happiness and inherent respect the same as the rest of us.
Scientists currently estimate there are 8.7 million different species on the planet, and 7 billion humans.
There are a lot of us out there, and with such a large number maybe it does mean that there is a percentage that will hurt others without regard. Maybe it does mean that there is a percentage for a lot of variations, but that also mean there’s bound to be a percentage out there like you.
If you’re ever hurt, if you’re ever sad, if you ever feel alone in what you’re going through, remember that even if you’re in a vast minority, even if less than 1 percent of the world’s humans are like you, that is still up to 70 million people.
Remember that even if someone hurts you, there are others who won’t and who only want to help you. Remember that even if you’re sad, there are others who would want to make you happy. Remember that even if you ever feel weak or scared or vulnerable, it’s okay to process those feelings and it’s okay to take a break, but when you’re ready to come back there are others who will stand by your side.
Maybe these people aren’t always evident or easy to find. Maybe there are a lot of things that keep going wrong. Maybe you’re tired of fighting. It’s okay. You’re okay. You’re not wrong to have emotions and you’re not wrong to need time to work through them.
But you aren’t alone.
Because no matter what else may change, we’re all human. And with 7 billion of us in the world and counting, there’s bound to be someone out there who understands.
THAT is what matters.
That is all that ever mattered.