I got some harsh negative feedback about my writing today. The person who gave it is someone I’ve heard from before, and she is never hesitant to say what she thinks. Sometimes her comments are low-key, even passive-aggressive; other times she just lets loose on me. Today she pulled out all the stops.
She warmed up by attacking my reasons for beginning to write. She told me that I’m deluding myself in thinking that my words can help anyone else; that this whole project is only a fancy way for me to be self-absorbed and try to make myself look better. She said my opinions will never be taken seriously by anyone because I am not a licensed therapist. She accused me of trying to use this writing (also known as this waste of bandwidth) to hide the truth of my worthlessness.
Moving on, she described in great detail the amounts and types of (in her words) “real suffering” in the world and how pathetic it is that I am doing nothing about them. In a tirade of images and words, she bombarded me with thoughts of hunger, homelessness, war, rape and oppression of all kinds. My stomach knotted and shame rose into my throat as her voice rang in my ears, describing my struggles as “fucking First World problems.”
Sensing the gap in my defenses, she dove in and began to turn things more personal. Even if my passion is a worthy one, she said, I’m completely incapable of serving it. She said I haven’t really changed; not where it counts, and soon I will prove it by failing. She pronounced that I will, without doubt, betray the trust of any who come to think well of me. Dripping with disdain, her sneering voice described how I will be just another story of a brief improvement followed by a return to the status quo, leaving behind loved ones hurt more by the withdrawal of hope given.
Her closing argument centered on the “you might as well” theme. Since I’m doomed to fail, go insane, relapse and die eventually, surely this daily effort and pain isn’t worth it, she said. Even if I keep doing everything right, I’ll probably get cancer or something next year. A falsely consoling tone crept into her voice as she pointed out that I’m being foolish not to just seek comfort where and when I can. A few pills, she whispered, would put this debate to rest. Nobody would need to know…oh, and
she just happens
to have some
Oh, my friends. Are you enough like me that you suspect whose voice this really is? Who has really been saying these awful things to me? Why I can’t simply cut her out of my life the way one might advise for a toxic relative or friend? Why she can’t be reasoned with; why she has no mercy in her?
She lives inside of my psyche. How she was shaped isn’t important right now; how she can be fought is. I’ve developed weapons that help, but I’m not always strong enough to wield them. The most useful thing I have learned is that her voice can’t be silenced by my will alone. It can, however, be replaced with a better voice if I am able to hear it.
I will leave you with a secret. As she’s been watching me type all of this, I’ve been using her own narcissism against her. She’s been drifting in smug pleasure at the venom of her words, not realizing that by giving them form and reality I have acquired more power over them. That even though they were her words, MY voice used them paradoxically in refusing their command to silence myself. By reading these words, you are participating in a victory, because for this one moment: I win.