Have you ever caught yourself being just ever-so-slightly shady? Ever had a hateful little thought spring into your head? Perhaps directed at someone nearby? Maybe even someone you don’t know, or have never even met. But for some reason they trigger a thought process that is resoundingly negative. Well, I caught myself last Wednesday night and instead of running away on my internalised shade train I stopped and quietly examined the process to myself.
Ya see, there were a couple of women standing near me at a gig. They were laughing and giggling (as I have done a million times…) and I thought to myself that giggling is silly and girls who giggle are silly people and probably empty of genuine, insightful thoughts. WHOA! What the fuck?! Where did that come from? First off; I don’t believe that…but I thought it so it’s in there on some level. And had I not checked myself I would have given that concept some credibility and room in my belief system. Secondly; as a concept is has no truth! Giggling is laughter; an expression of joy and women who giggle are probably having way more fun that the person standing beside them, scowling and judging their fun. There is a commitment to misery in that thought process and I want none of it!
Where the hell did it come from?! As soon as I realised that thought had crept into my head I examined it and tore it all apart slightly. It dawned on me that I had internalised and was replicating an opinion that was repeated to me by an influential family member when I was a child. This particular family member would routinely pit us female cousins against each other by encouraging competition and one-upmanship. Literally; “those girls are so giggly and silly…you’re not silly like them are you?”. Of course I wasn’t! Naturally, as a child, all I wanted to do was impress the “adults” around me and be accepted and loved for my golden, un-giggly, un-silly behaviour.
Wow. So for 33 years I have been sub-consciously carrying around someone else’s bullshit?! Someone else’s hateful baggage was stowed away and got all jumbled up with my own? If all this time I have been subconsciously tearing women down for being “silly” in public, what other thought processes were seeded into my psyche as a child, poisoning my relationship with the world around me?
In Irish culture we have experienced a traumatic history of colonisation, famine, Catholic guilt, war…you name it we’ve probably endured and internalised it. And I’m not sure if it’s this trauma that has been passed down through our epigenetics; but as a nation we are proficient at tearing each other down. For most of us, it is ingrained in our understanding that humbleness is a more valuable attribute than pride. Stoicism is more desirable than joy. And giggling is simply never ok, right?
We are a nation where pride in success or achievement is readily dismissed with one word; “notions!”. We have notions if we love what we do. We have notions if we take pride in ourselves. We have notions if we feel our oats and put a selfie up online. Notions, Ted. They are a terrible thing.
This is me, with some fierce notions about myself…
Since I had this realisation I have set myself a couple of challenges. First off, I am challenging my shady thoughts and trying to be conscious when my sub-conscious wants to tear down another. Especially another woman. We need to stop that shit. Now. I am vowing to be more encouraging to those around me; especially those who I don’t know. I have no right to judge anyone, none of us do. I don’t know your story, so why would I sub-consciously project my bullshit story on you? No one needs that!
Second, I am challenging myself to identify beliefs I may be holding that clearly don’t align to my own world view. This might sound silly, but trust me, I am sure in some way you are doing the same thing. This is a liberating exercise! I now get to go through all my emotional baggage and decide which bits are mine and which bits I no longer have to carry around. It might take time, and I may not always get it right. But I’m going to make the effort.
“Verb: feel one’s oats
To feel energetic or frisky; to behave in a vigorous or bold manner.
To feel important; to be empowered.”
This is my battle cry to you, lovely reader. Embrace your notions. Feel your oats. Put up your selfies. And support those around you who are struggling in this tough little world. When they find a moment of joy or pride…try boosting them up instead of tearing them down. There’s so much out there to be hateful at. Let’s save each other from it when we can.
Here’s a poem from Philip Larkin…I’ve no doubt he had fierce notions…
This Be The Verse
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.
But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.
Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.