Article originally written for The Upstate Clutch.
“Dear Paula / The CLUTCH,
There is a question that has been sitting in my inbox this week that I have been circling – circling in thought and in prayer. Some blog topics come to me and I can write everything out in ten minutes or less, like it’s been sitting in my brain just waiting to be put onto paper. Others just sit. This has been one of those topics.
The Clutch sent me a question from a reader regarding her daughters. Right when I hear that word the question automatically carries more weight. I am a daughter. My three sisters are daughters. In three weeks I will take on a small group of high school freshman girls. All daughters. When I hear the word it makes me stand up a little straighter – ready to go to battle for myself or someone close to me. Being a daughter can be powerful and beautifully fragile all at the same time.
Her daughters are at different stages in life – one in high school and the other in college. One similarity of the two are the tears that they constantly seem to shed.
If we could measure how much we have cried in our lifetime, what would that look like? If we could fill up buckets into different categories over what those tears were over, what would show through? Unfortunately I feel that our biggest buckets would be those that looking back, didn’t matter nearly as much as we thought. The buckets that carried the most weight would probably be the dead weight we should have shed long before the tears. But we don’t know that in the moment. We don’t know that the very thing that’s bringing us down should never have the power to do so. We don’t know that the amount of time we’re spending on the subject won’t matter nearly as much later in life, or sometimes as soon as next week. We just know, within that moment, that it hurts. And the tears seem to come without any chance of lifting.
I feel that if we could look into the eyes of those that have caused us pain, we would see just as much pain staring back. It may not have to do with us entirely, but it’s there. And people choose to deal with that pain in different ways. Sometimes we just get in each other’s pathway.
So when I saw the topic of bullying, and experiencing emotional pain, I felt the weight of my buckets. And while I wish I could say that it comes to a stop at some point, I have yet to reach that point at the age of 28.
I want to make sure that I address your questions specifically, because I know that so far it’s just been ‘I understand’ and ‘it doesn’t really get better.’ But I hope that I can provide some relief in how I look back at experience.
You mentioned that your daughter gets called out for not wearing clothes that are ‘on trend.’ It took me a while to realize that no one knows what’s on trend. Not a soul. Designers and brands make them up and then when they run out they start back over. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten rid of something to then just yell at myself later because my closet needs it again. The oldest thing in my closet is pushing twelve years strong and I’ve decided it’s going no where fast. So if someone tells her she’s not ‘on trend’ she can tell them she is, she’s just five years ahead of everyone else. I respect people in fashion so much more when they discover their own style, their own brand, and their own way of dressing themselves, regardless of what everyone else is wearing. Plus, once everyone has it, is it really that cool? Karl Lagerfeld once said that “Trendy is the last stage before tacky.” Let’s not argue with Karl.
Your daughter that’s in college gets called out for not being in one of the ‘popular’ sororities. As sad as it may be, I could not tell you the last time someone asked me what sorority in which I was a member. Nobody asks or brings it up unless you’re one of those thirty year olds still wearing your formal t-shirt. (Time to let go). All of my college friends came from a mix of sororities and could have cared less which one I was a part of, nor if I was a part of anything. Women that define themselves by the letters they wear (and make fun of the letters that you wear) are hiding the fact that they have nothing else to offer. Don’t let their internal sadness bring you down.
You also asked about ‘frenemies.’ Which is a term that gets thrown around often. I would define a frenemy as someone that you are courteous and polite to in person, but that you truly disdain. Frenemies are exhausting. Don’t have them. Don’t let someone take up emotional real estate in your mind and heart when you can be giving that energy to someone you actually want to invest in and be real around. Be kind to everyone, but don’t get mixed up in a friendship that doesn’t bring out the best you.
Currently we are working through a book called Draw the Circle. You know me and my books, and that a quote was coming somewhere, right? Well here it is – the lines that I read over that prompted the official start of this article.
“I made a determination a few years ago that I wasn’t going to defend myself against any and every criticism that comes my way…
There are some battlefields I am willing to die on, but there are some I’m not willing to die on. I won’t engage in the combat of criticism. It is sideways energy, and it doesn’t have a redemptive purpose. I overlook the offense so I can keep playing offense.”
-Mark Batterson, Draw the Circle
It doesn’t have a redemptive purpose. There are buckets that don’t need to be filled. There are tears that don’t need to be shed over a topic, tragedy or person that had their own pain they decided to push over onto you. Some days you have to give yourself a pep talk and realize that people have issues. You’re probably not their issue. You just got in the way. So take a side step and keep on walking. My daughters, you are too beautiful to let tears fall over criticism with no redemptive purpose. Be okay with who you are. Forget that. LOVE who you are. Confidence will always be worn well.