Awwnnn… I can almost hear my faithful blog readers sigh with relief as they read this post. Where has Hailey Brown been? They ask.
Not to worry: Hailey has been putting into practice all the wonderful things she blogs about!
Away from all that… Here’s why I chose to write on this topic. It’s to ask you, Dear Reader:
Are You Hiding From The World?
I sure know I was! I could be found prowling in chatrooms, feeling fly that I could hold my own there but in real life, I was the reserved type of young lady.
Truth be told, I was fast becoming reclusive but one thing made me bounce back. It was deciding to be visible!
Being visible? Do you mean going out more often? I almost heard you ask. No, that’s not what I mean and I think I’m safe to assume you know that’s not what’s on my mind!
Anyway, if you’ve been following my blog posts faithfully, you’ll probably know I write for a living. Previously, at home (working remotely, freelance stuff).
But in the recent weeks, I landed a new job in a company and I am required to show up every day to the office. Work hassles have made me somewhat unable to keep up with my blog.
In the course of my going to the office, I showed up larger than life, lively, flitting about everywhere and I’m pretty sure not everyone in the office was happy about this.
In Nigeria, it is not seemly for a woman to be larger than life itself. I was blissfully oblivious to this until one day…
I actually approached one of the workers in the office to ask for his social media handle. For business purposes, all y’all mutterers!
Anyway, the response I got from the man in question was sarcastic at best, hostile at worst.
Reclusive Hailey was floored, her confidence shaken. She turned away in dismay, astounded at how a human being could be so hostile when nothing had transpired to warrant his hostility.
Four things were in my favour, though.
- It was a Friday, so I had time to mull over his statements;
- I had read up on Toxic Shame in between working hours during that week;
- I began the job confident of my ability to take care of my feelings in any interpersonal interaction;
- Prior to working there, I had resolved to bare my hurt emotions in interactions with people instead of acting like a stoic who never felt pain.
It was a Friday, so I had time to mull over his statements.
I have observed the wisdom inherent in giving myself a time-out during conflict with someone. This way, I can replay the scene in my mind.
Not like a person living with PTSD, Dissociative Personality Disorder, or Depersonalization Disorder!
I applied my perception-shifting method as I tried to think up the likely reasons the man (and me too) felt and acted the way we did.
I came up with some interesting conjectures.
I had read up on Toxic Shame in between working hours during that week.
Toxic shame is a most intriguing concept for me. I discovered the existence of such a word last month and since then, Hailey has been doing lots of active reading, listening to TED talks on the subject.
I understand it to mean Feeling you’re unworthy of connection with another human being. A person living with toxic shame would have a poor self-image (as she feels lucky) to have so-and-so associate with her.
This makes such a person put up with less than satisfactory treatment, as she feels basically unworthy (bad, defective, unlovable, inadequate, unattractive,…).
Conversely, toxic shame can make a person act towards others (statements, mannerisms, behaviour, appearance) in ways highly likely to keep others away, as she feels unworthy of connection with either a specific person, a specific group of people, or humanity as a whole.
The bad thing about toxic shame is that it is applied to the whole self, which can lead to depression.
I began the job confident of my ability to take care of my feelings in any interpersonal interaction.
Although I felt shamed and put-down in my interaction with the man, I knew I wasn’t Queen Cleopatra whom everyone had to dance around, walking on eggshells in a bid to avoid hurting her feelings.
This made me apply my coping skill of mindfulness and radical acceptance.
This conviction made me resolve that no matter whatever transpired between me and the man in future, I wasn’t going to fly off my handle, triangulate, go on a social media rant or think of how to quit the job just because my perception of his behaviour hurt my feelings!
Prior to working there, I had resolved to bare my hurt emotions in interactions with people instead of acting like a stoic who never felt pain.
I had had a few experiences in the past that convinced me that a physical and emotional bully was highly unlikely to let up until he saw an expression of pain.
The bully needs the expression of pain to be convinced that his machinations worked, so acting all stoical wasn’t going to help me and would expose me to more of his hostility.
Here’s what I did.
On Monday, I asked the man to spare a few minutes for me to talk with him. When it was granted, I thanked him for his frankness as I have realized that coming on strong (and being seen as ingratiating) can be repelling.
And I promised him it would never happen again. Not towards him, not towards anyone else.
The man was visibly uncomfortable as he tried to make excuses for my behaviour. I shook my head sadly and solemnly declared that coming on strong, acting unduly friendly (the friendlies), and being seen as ingratiating has never helped me.
So it was something I would abstain from.
Did I succeed? I believe so. The man and I are on cordial terms now, and we talk occasionally as he seems the cautious type who isn’t used to self-disclosure.
That’s not my fault, though! Here in Nigeria, most people are heavy on self-presentation.
In happier news, I have been seen in the office, work closely with my teammates, who unfailingly wait for me when it’s lunchtime and close of work; and have been invited specially to office parties.
So, yeah, it sure helps to have a well-defined sense of self, and be willing to disclose this well-defined sense of self to the world.
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