Irritation and Other Fire Starters

I have been described as a lot of things in my life, some of which are blog-appropriate and some of which are not appropriate for any situation at all, including the situation in which I was called them.

Overall, I’m not really one to give much weight to other people’s opinions of me – the only time I’m really at all invested in what you think is if I consider us close enough for you to have a well-formed idea of who I am. Let’s be real; there are like ten people total in my life who know me well enough to make any judgements that are rooted in reality. I am far from a perfect person, but to put it quite plainly: there is very little to be said about me that I have not said about myself, because I literally do not do anything ever.

I get that this isn’t typical for everyone, and is a challenge for most. I used to be incredibly wounded by rumors and insinuations and being excluded. I’ve always had small core groups of friends, and often smaller subgroups within those groups that I have actually felt close to. I was bullied pretty badly in middle school and for the last few years of high school (though I can pretty much guarantee that the perpetrators wouldn’t call it that), and yet it still took some time for it to stop bothering me.

I’m still hyperaware of small mannerisms that are typical of bullies, even if they’re not directed at me. It gets under my skin just enough to make me a little feisty. Some of my (least) favorite examples include:

  • That quick but deliberate eye contact with their cohorts, usually accompanied by a bad attempt to pretend they’re not smirking
  • Approaching their target in a group or entirely isolated, so that the playing field is unbalanced
  • The phrases “well I’m just saying” or “you know what I meant” whenever they’re questioned
  • Use of the word “crazy” to describe anyone who disagrees with them
  • Getting immediately defensive when you ask them to clarify something they’ve said
  • Comments that are deliberately mean but are phrased or worded in such a way that it only makes sense to the victim, who can’t explain it without being dismissed as “sensitive”

Because the thing is, bullies are more aware of what they’re doing than we may give them credit for. That’s why they’re so good at it. It’s easy to convince people that you’re a nice person while simultaneously tearing someone else to shreds when you have the ability to change your personality like a slide on the world’s worst viewfinder.

I’m not sure when specifically I stopped feeling the barbs, but I have noticed that since I stopped reacting to them, they’ve decreased significantly. Some bitter or angry person is a lot less likely to send you nasty messages if all you respond with is, “you’re entitled to your opinion, but if you keep contacting me privately I’m going to post the screenshots”.

I’ve also found that, as my self-preservation skills have deteriorated from disuse (mostly due to me just literally not caring), my defensiveness of others has gone up significantly.

This was largely cultivated by working in retail; it’s rare to make it through a week without at least one mildly traumatic customer experience (oh the stories I could – and will – tell). The longer I was exposed to it, the less likely I was to accept it, but only when it came to my coworkers.

I’ve been told that something in my eyes becomes very alarming

People who laugh when they’re mad are absolutely terrifying, and I say this as someone who has (mostly) stopped being the kind of person who cries when mad and instead became the kind of person who laughs.

And maybe this is something that has become visible in my personality, and that is part of why people tend to leave me alone. On several occasions, I have been told by friends that they were scared of or intimidated by me before they knew me. When I ask why, the answer is always, “I have no idea”.

I mean, look at me.

My family once unanimously (yes, myself included) voted me “most likely to physically fight someone” despite the fact that I have never once physically fought anyone (except my siblings).

It’s strange to have both debilitating anxiety and an overwhelming need to protect people who may not even need protection. I will go from quietly taking/ignoring someone to growing ten times my size with fury the instant the ire is transferred to someone else.

Now, I am in no way, shape, or form saying that I have ascended beyond judgement or criticism or even that I am entirely unfazed by it. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bug me sometimes. But that “sometimes” is only when it comes from people who’s opinions I care about already. That list is fairly short. So I feel fine.

What I am saying is this: if people find you unpredictable and a little spicy, they are going to give you space.

One of my retail coworkers/best friends once described me in what is still one of my favorite ways: “you are one of the nicest people I know, but you have a rage burning deep inside you and anyone who deserves that rage really should be scared”.

It’s true that I do my best to be a nice and approachable and nonjudgmental person. It’s made my life a whole lot less stressful and generally kept me in a better mindset. It’s super easy to not worry about other people’s gossip or snide remarks when you simply do not care. But I also think that somewhere within me is a cache of fury that is being constantly manufactured but is now going mostly unused. I would not want to be the person who triggers that long-dormant volcano.

Some people just suck. That’s the way they are, whether they can help it or not. And sometimes you have to accept that others don’t realize they suck, and that you exclusively are burdened with that knowledge. It’s not about you. It’s about them. You can only control your response to it. Be the person that young, bullied you needed, or wished they could be. You can do what you need to do and move on, or you can fight fire with fire and burn the whole world down.

The best revenge is success. So get out there and be good. And also vaguely unsettling in a way that people cannot quite put their finger on.


One thought on “Irritation and Other Fire Starters

  1. I like to think that though I project niceness I too am spicy and unpredictable. And am very defensive of my friends. Must be why we get along so well…

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