perspective

A back to school tip for aspiring teachers and academics

If you’re confused in school now, you can use that confusion to become a better teacher later. You can write detailed notes about what you’re confused about and and why. Doing this may help you to figure things out now, and it will definitely help you to teach well in the future. 

Teaching is hard, and teaching beginners is often harder. Knowing a subject well isn’t the same as knowing how to teach it. Teachers need to be able to explain things in a way that will make sense to beginners. They also need to be able to figure out why students are getting confused, and find ways to help them understand. This is much easier said than done.

Right now, you’re probably confused about some things that will feel completely obvious in a year or two. Many things that are hard to master feel completely natural once you’ve learned them. It can be hard to understand why something that has come to feel completely natural to you is confusing to your students.

As a student, you’re likely confused about your subject; as a teacher, you are likely to be confused about your students. If you write down what you’re confused about as a student, you will be doing your future self a huge favor. The notes themselves may be helpful when you teach. Beyond that, writing notes about yourself as a student can help you to start thinking from a teaching perspective. The sooner you get into the habit of thinking about your subject with teaching in mind, the better off you’ll be in the long term.

Tl;dr If you’re confused in school, you can use your confusion to be a better teacher in the future. Consider writing down what you are confused about and why. In the future, you will have students who are confused. Understanding your own confusion now can help you to understand theirs later.

Mean people who aren't mean all the time

Mean people aren’t necessarily mean all the time. Mean people aren’t necessarily mean to everyone.

I think most people who are mean are nice to at least some people at least some of the time. It can be hard to understand that they’re mean to other people in ways that matter if you don’t see it.

One example of this is that many men who are awful to women treat other men well. Some men don’t know this. They often assume that a man who treats them and their male friend group well is basically well-intentioned — and may have a lot of trouble understanding why their female friends think he’s dangerously creepy.

That happens in a lot of contexts. Some of which have to do with socially marginalized groups like gender or race or trans status or disability or religion or any number of other things. Some of them aren’t like that.

Sometimes it’s about in groups and outgroups in ways that aren’t otherwise connected to privilege.

For instance:

  • Jesse is mean, but not mean to everyone.
  • Jesse is nice to people who they like
  • Mostly, Jesse likes people who admire them and don’t contradict them about anything important
  • Jesse is mean to people outside their circle
  • People who are in Jesse’s circle and really admire Jesse might have trouble believing that they’re ever mean to anyone else
  • On the logic that “Jesse has never said anything like that to me; I can’t believe Jesse would say that”. Or something else like that.

It’s not unreasonable to base some of your opinions on what’s probably going on in a conflict on your personal experiences with someone. To an extent, it’s *necessary* to do it that way, because you can’t find out what’s going on by disregarding what you know. But it’s also important to remember that the way someone treats you might not be representative.

For instance:

  • If you’ve never contradicted someone, you might not know how they handle being contradicted
  • If someone’s never been mad at you or someone you respect, you might not know much about how they treat people when they are angry
  • Everyone gets into conflicts.
  • Everyone gets contradicted.
  • Everyone is wrong sometimes.
  • Nobody handles this perfectly. Some people handle this more-or-less reasonably; some people handle it horribly.
  • If you haven’t seen what someone does in those situations, it’s hard to know whether their reactions are reasonable

tl;dr It’s easy to misunderstand conflicts by assuming that people who have always been nice to you are always reasonable with everyone. It’s important to consider what you know about someone *and* to consider the possibility that your experiences with someone may not be representative.

Thoughts on symbol support and picture support

People with certain kinds of disabilities often need more than words in order to be able to communicate. One thing that can be helpful is the use of symbols or pictures.

Using symbols can expand and support someone’s expressive vocabulary. (For instance, picture symbols on a communication device can enable someone to use words they couldn’t use by typing or speaking).

Symbols can also expand and support someone’s receptive vocabulary. For instance, symbols can be used to illustrate materials, or to explain something to someone. They can also be used in things like powerpoint presentations in various ways.

Symbol support can do a lot of other things that make communication more possible for people with a wide range of disabilities. It’s not just about literacy; literacy-related things are just the easiest to explain.

Something I’ve been realizing matters is that everyone who uses symbols to communicate is a symbol support user. Even people who normally communicate in words; even people who only use symbols to communicate when they are talking to people with disabilities or listening to people with disabilities.

It’s important to remember that communication in symbols is happening on both sides of the interaction.

If someone is communicating with you by showing you symbols, then you are using symbols for receptive communication.

If you are using symbols to explain something to someone, then you are using symbols for expressive communication.

It’s important to keep this in mind.

If you’re using symbols, the symbols are part of the communication. Even if every symbol is attached to one word and only one word. The symbols don’t just tell people what the words are. They also have content, and it’s important to pay attention to what you’re saying with the symbols. They might not mean the same thing to the person you’re talking to that they mean to you. Particularly if they understand picture-concepts more readily than they understand word-concepts.

For example:

Sometimes people might select symbols on communication devices based on what the symbols mean rather than what the words they’re associated with them mean:

  • If someone is putting together phrases that don’t make obvious sense to you, they might mean something by it
  • It might *not* be stimming, random exploration, or that kind of thing
  • It might be intentional communication based on what the pictures mean to them
  • I think it is important to take that possibility seriously (even for someone who also speaks, or also uses words)
  • And *especially* important to take seriously if they’re indicating with body language that they want you to look at the screen)
  • (This is also true if someone is using PECS symbols in a way that doesn’t appear to make literal sense. It might be because the pictures mean something different to them than they mean to you)

Similarly:

  • If you’re using symbols to explain something to someone who needs symbols, the symbols matter
  • It’s not always enough to just pick words, then pick symbols that go with those words one-by-one
  • The content of the symbols can matter beyond literal word-by-word meaning
  • The way the symbols combine can also matter. (ie: the fact that a sentence makes sense in words and each symbol corresponds well with a word does *not* necessarily mean that the symbol-sentance makes sense)
  • The symbols also might not mean the same thing to the person you’re communicating with that they mean to you
  • If someone finds symbols easier to understand than words, they may derive more meaning from the symbols and your tone of voice and body language than they do from the words themselves
  • It’s important to pay attention to what you’re communicating with the symbols you choose as well as the words that you choose

Some considerations for symbol use:

  • Consistency between symbols matters. Symbols combine in ways that make more sense when there’s an underlying logic to the symbol system.
  • Symbols should not be childish or cutesy, even for young children.
  • Because nobody, not even young children, wants to be forced to communicate in cute ways.
  • And some really important topics (eg: abuse, boundaries, sexuality) are decidedly un-cute. People with disabilities need and deserve respectful communication about things that aren’t cute or shiny-happy.
  • Symbols should be comprehensible at a variety of sizes. (Eg: overly complex symbols don’t work well for small buttons on a communication device).
  • Symbols should be respectful, especially when they are symbols of people doing or thinking or being things (eg: protestors should look powerful rather than cute; adults should look like adults; symbols for “choice” should either be abstract or be age-neutral)
  • Symbols should be accurate. (eg: the symbol for anger should not be a smiling person; the symbol for diabetes should not be the same as the symbol for “no sugar”; wheelchair users should have the kind of wheelchairs that individuals own than hospital wheelchairs; the symbol for intellectual disability should not be the same as the symbol for the special olympics)
  • In all of these ways and other ways I’m not sure how to explain yet, I think that SymbolStix is the best existing symbol set.

tl;dr Symbols can be really helpful for supporting communication and comprehension. If you’re using symbols to help someone else communicate or understand, it’s important to keep in mind that the symbols and the words both matter. Pay attention to what you’re communicating in symbols and what they’re communicating in symbols. Sometimes there are things going on beyond the literal meanings of the words that someone decided to associate with the symbols.

knowing what you think - tools for thinking for yourself

Anonymous said to :

When I’m around people who disagree with me, I have trouble remembering that my own thoughts and opinions are valid, and I start thinking I must be wrong about whatever they disagree with me about.

Do you know any ways of getting more confident about disagreeing with people?

realsocialskills said:

To an extent, it’s a matter of practice.

Learning to distinguish between what you think and what others think depends on a few different skills. Some of them will likely take time and practice to acquire.

Some thought about what to work on:

It can help to get into the habit of noticing when your opinions change suddenly. If you’re susceptible to excessive influence by other people, it’s likely that this happens way more than you realize. Even just noticing it can make it easier to tell what’s your opinion and what’s someone else’s.

Eg, let’s say Susan and Jane are eating out together, and they’re looking at the dessert menu:

  • Susan: I want chocolate ice cream.
  • Jane: Chocolate is a disgusting flavor and it’s way too high fat. Raspberry smoothies are a million times better.
  • Susan: Ok, that does sound better. I’ll order that.

In that instance, Susan wanted chocolate ice cream, then suddenly changed her mind when Jane said it was bad. If Susan does this a lot, she may not even have noticed that it happened. Noticing this kind of sudden opinion change could help Susan to realize when it’s happening against her will.

That leads to another skill that can help: Remembering the question “Why?”:

If you just changed your mind suddenly, why did it happen?

  • Did someone say something you found persuasive?
  • If so, what?
  • Are you responding to the force of someone else’s personality?
  • Are you afraid?
  • Did you hear a new idea that sounds like it might be right?
  • Do you need time to think about it?
  • (It’s ok to not know right away.)

Asking other people “Why?”:

  • If someone says something, you don’t have to agree
  • And you don’t have to assume they have a good reason
  • If they’re saying something that is your business, it is ok to ask “Why?”
  • (Sometimes it isn’t your business and “Why?” might be a rude question. Eg, if someone says that they feel sick when they drink milk.)
  • (But if it’s something like: “Republicans are evil”/“Democrats are ruining America”, “Why?” is a completely ok question.)
  • Getting in the habit of asking for reasons can help you to understand and to think for yourself
  • Some other ways to ask for reasons: “What makes you say that?”, “Can you say more about that?”, “I hear a lot of people saying x, but I don’t really understand why they think that… Would you be willing to explain?”

Remembering that it’s ok to need time to think about things:

  • Sometimes you hear a big idea or an unfamiliar perspective and it makes things feel different
  • Even just knowing that someone thinks something can make the world seem different
  • (Or meeting someone who thinks something)
  • That can feel really weird and confusing or disorienting
  • That’s ok. It’s ok to be disoriented and need time to think. Some words that can help (either by saying them or thinking them to yourself):
  • “I never thought about that before.”
  • “I never thought about it that way before.”
  • “That’s interesting.”
  • “I’ll have to think about that.”
  • “Thank you for telling me that.”
  • “This has given me a lot to think about.”
  • (Sometimes it feels like people are asking you to immediately agree with them when what they’re really asking is for you to listen to them. Saying one of these things can help in that situation.)

Paying attention to fear

  • Sometimes people are afraid to disagree with someone else’s strongly held opinions
  • Sometimes it’s because they’re afraid someone will hurt them
  • Sometimes that’s because they’re afraid doubting someone would make them a bad person
  • Sometimes it’s both
  • It’s actually ok to think for yourself. Reflexive agreement out of fear doesn’t help things.
  • Even when there’s a clear right side and wrong side, it’s *still* important to think for yourself and understand things
  • Agreeing reflexively won’t get you the kind of understanding you need to meaningfully be on the right side of an important issue
  • (And you can’t know what side that is without thinking about it, anyway)
  • Thinking about it until you understand will make your agreement much more meaningful (and actionable)

Paying attention after the fact to what you think:

  • Some people have personalities that loom very large
  • Some people are very good at sounding right
  • It can be very hard to tell what you think in the presence of these people
  • Sometimes it may be hard to tell what you think in the presence of other people
  • The effect tends to wear off after you’re away from them
  • If you’re having second thoughts after you’re away from someone, take those second thoughts seriously
  • Sometimes you will have really good reasons
  • (And even if you ultimately end up agreeing with them, it was *still* important to take your second thoughts seriously so that you can understand for yourself)
  • If you know that you have that reaction to someone, try to avoid agreeing to anything binding in their presence.

Remembering “maybe”:

  • It’s ok not to be sure what you think
  • It’s ok not to be sure what you want
  • Saying “maybe” can be really powerful.
  • If you get pressured into things a lot, it might help to default to maybe
  • It’s usually a lot easier to say “Maybe”, or “I need to think about that” than it is to say “Yes”, and then “I thought about it and I changed my mind”.

Journaling or blogging can also help:

  • If you write things down, it can be easier to track changes in your opinion
  • It can also be really helpful as a way of processing and figuring out what you think
  • (Tumblr *can* be good for this, but it can also attract hostile attention that makes thinking for yourself harder. Sometime more private like Livejournal or Dreamwidth might be better.)

Another thing that can help is paying attention to how people are treating you:

  • Are there particular people you’re afraid of contradicting?
  • If, so, why?
  • Do they treat you badly when you contradict them?
  • Do they treat others badly in your presence?
  • Do they spend a lot of time aggressively mocking people for not understanding, for disagreeing, or for asking questions?
  • If a lot of people in your life act this way, thinking for yourself can be really hard.
  • Seeking out people who treat you and others better can help a *lot* in making it possible to figure out what you think.
  • Not everyone with passionate opinions or commitments is a jerk
  • (Related: It is entirely possible pursue justice and other important causes without being horrible to everyone who disagrees with you or has an imperfect understanding or things.)

Learning to hold on to your thoughts and sense of self is going to be hard at first. Realizing that it’s going to be hard can make it more possible. (Especially since some people are really, really skilled at making people feel that their thoughts are invalid.)

As you get more experience intentionally paying attention to what you think, it gets easier. It will still be hard and confusing sometimes, but it won’t be as hard and confusing all of the time.

tl;dr It is important to think for yourself even when you’re uncomfortable or others don’t want you to. There are a lot of reasons this can be hard. There are some skills that can make it easier. Scroll up for concrete suggestions.

Getting social feedback without losing your ability to trust your own judgement

nemesissy:

realsocialskills:

xulsigae said to realsocialskills:

Is it common to feel a lack of inner ‘social ground’ to stand on with Aspergers?

I’ve kinda lost a sense of knowing when something I do is actually right or acceptable after years of thinking what I did was right, but then finding out it was inappropriate.

I know I have a strong moral compass, but my social one is wonky. Now I rely on the feedback of others to know when I’m doing okay.

Are there any ideas for how to create an inner knowledge of what is right without using others?

realsocialskills said:

That’s complicated. I’m making a lot of guesses about where you’re coming from which may or may not be correct.

It sounds to me like maybe you’re figuring out that it’s important to get feedback, and having trouble figuring out how to do that without losing yourself.

I think part of what would help is to keep this in perspective:

  • Everybody makes social mistakes.
  • Social learning is a lifelong process for everyone (including people who are not autistic)
  • One of the most important social skills is figuring out how to get good feedback from others, and how to learn from what they tell you
  • This is true of everyone. Needing feedback is not a flaw. Everyone needs feedback.
  • Not everyone knows they need feedback; your awareness that you need feedback is actually an important social skill you’ve learned

Also, people who say that you’ve done something inappropriate probably aren’t always right. It can be hard to keep that in mind when you know that you make a lot of mistakes, but it’s important. The point here is to develop and improve your own judgment, not to abdicate it.

Learning how to manage feedback can be hard. Here’s a basic outline about some ways feedback should work:

  • You realize that you’re not sure about something
  • You figure out whose perspective you’d value about that thing
  • Or someone else tells you what they think about something you did
  • You ask them about the thing
  • They tell you what they think
  • You listen to what they think
  • You think about whether you agree
  • You might decide that you agree, or that you disagree
  • Or that you partially agree
  • Or that you need to process more
  • All of those are fine

Dealing with feedback involves several skills:

Noticing situations in which someone else’s perspective might be helpful, for instance:

  • If people are reacting in ways you don’t understand, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective on what’s going on
  • If you’re saying things that aren’t being heard, it might be worth getting someone else’s perspective
  • (eg: Is the problem that the people you’re talking to are jerks? Are you saying things to them that are invasive? Are there ways you could be communicating more effectively? Do you need to find different people to interact with?)
  • If you’re really uncomfortable with something that’s happening, it might be worth getting someone else’s feedback on what’s going on (sometimes this is really helpful in realizing that it’s ok to object to something or have boundaries)

A more concrete example of a situation in which it might be helpful to look for feedback:

  • You’re having trouble understanding what you’re supposed to do at work
  • When you ask your boss questions, you don’t get helpful answers.
  • You might ask a friend or coworker who you respect what they think is going on
  • (eg: They might tell you that the boss hates email and that you need to ask questions in person, or vice versa. Or that the boss doesn’t know how to answer that kind of question and you have to find the answers elsewhere. Or any number of other possibilities.)

Figuring out whose feedback is valuable:

  • Not everyone’s feedback is valuable; it’s important to figure out for yourself who you want to listen to and when
  • Some people know what they’re talking about and can tell you valuable things about how you’re interacting with others
  • Some people really, really don’t know what they’re talking about and will give you terrible advice
  • A lot of people have good feedback on some things but not others
  • Some people are really good at sounding right whether they know what they are talking about or not
  • It can be hard to figure out who to listen to, especially if you’re new to realizing that you need feedback

Listening to feedback, and evaluating it seriously:

  • If you value someone’s opinion, it’s important to listen to what they have to say
  • And to figure out why they think it
  • It doesn’t mean you have to agree; no matter how much you respect someone, they will be wrong some of the time.
  • It does mean that it’s important to listen to them, and to make sure that you really understand what they’re saying and why, before you decide what you think

Avoiding some feedback-avoidance defensiveness pitfalls:

  • Some feedback is hard to hear
  • It can be easy to react defensively, as a way to avoid engaging
  • One way to be defensive is to immediately say “no, that’s not true” or “no, I’m not the kind of person who would do that” without first listening to the person
  • Another way of avoiding painful feedback is to panic-apologize out of fear.
  • That can be a way of avoiding the feedback too because you can feel like you’ve dealt with it by apologizing even if all you’ve really heard is that someone is upset with you

An example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: But I was just trying to be nice!

Another example of not listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry. What gives?
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You (without really understanding the problem): Oh. I’m a terrible person. I can’t believe I would be so insensitive.
  • (If you just emote about guilt without figuring out what they think the problem is and whether you agree, that’s not listening; it’s a defense mechanism)

An example of listening:

  • You: So, I was telling Mary how great my awesome dog is, and she looked really angry.
  • Them: Mary’s dog just died. It was kind of insensitive to go on about yours.
  • You: Really? I was trying to be nice and connect around a shared interest.
  • Them: When people are mourning the loss of a pet, they don’t usually want to hear about how great things are with someone else’s. It can feel like rubbing it in.

Sometimes it can feel like everyone else has it all together, that everyone else knows how to act, and that only you make major mistakes. That’s not true. Everyone is getting things wrong; everyone has social skills they could improve; that’s not unique to autistic people.

It might help to keep in mind that you don’t have to be socially infallible to be ok. You have a moral compass, and you know a lot about how to interact with people. And you also make mistakes sometimes, and have areas you could improve on. That’s an ok way to be, and feedback can make learning and improving easier.

nemesissy said:

*jazz fingers* to all of this

though I would add the caveat: emotional responses work on their own logic, which may not be clear to others. if someone appears to be responding badly to you, sometimes it’s because they have hang-ups or various emotional weirdnesses- which may actually include, like, giving off signals that can read as disinterest/negativity when there’s no such intent behind them! And, while it’s your responsibility, up to a point, to be generous about their motivations being valid and deserving of respect, it doesn’t mean you did something necessarily wrong or bad; it just means that that interaction didn’t go well, for various reasons.

(I point this out because, for YEARS, I was convinced that if someone responded in a weird way to something, it was because I did something wrong; later I realised that, you know, I’m not the only one bringing my emotional issues to conversations, and that allistic[-presenting] people sometimes also have shit going on that I couldn’t know about and that might be hard to navigate for anyone.)

realsocialskills said:

That’s a good point, (and part of what I was getting at in my post Stop Romanticizing Neurotypicality.) Thank you.

Not everyone is mean

Mean people take up a lot of space.


Mean people often make their voices heard the loudest.


If you are around a loud mean person, it can be hard to remember that kind people exist.


It can feel like the world is all mean people, and that they’re all yelling at you.


But, not everyone is mean. A lot of people are kind and caring.


When you notice the kind people, and make an effort to listen to them, it’s much harder for the mean people to drown out their voices.

Illegal doesn't mean uncommon

So, sometimes when I talk about disability or racial or sexist or religious discrimination, people will be like “but isn’t that illegal?!”.


If you’re inclined to react that way, consider this list of things that are also illegal in the United States:

  • downloading copyrighted movies without paying
  • uploading someone else’s copyrighted content to YouTube
  • Scanning a whole book and putting it on Blackboard for your students to download 
  • smoking marijuana
  • shoplifting

You may have done one of these things in the past week, and you almost certainly know someone who did at least one of those things within the past week.


Illegal discrimination is like that too. It is against the law, but people don’t always follow the law. And, while serious consequences are sometimes imposed, a lot of people get away with breaking those laws without facing any serious penalty.


People who are discriminated against know this. You should keep that in mind when you talk to them about discrimination and the law.


You are allowed to think for yourself

People pointing out problems with things are not always correct.

Sometimes they’re right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The fact that someone is yelling at you, using social justice terms, and calling it a call out, does not in itself mean you have done something wrong. It just means that someone is angry at you, for reasons that may well be justified, and may well be completely off base, and may well be partly right and partly wrong.

Sometimes people calling you out are right, and sometimes they’re wrong.

The only way to figure out what’s true is by thinking about it. There’s no algorithm you can use to mechanically figure out who is right. You have to think for yourself, and consider using your own thoughts whether you think the things someone is telling you are true or not.

It's ok to have mixed feelings about Christmas and other holidays

On television and in books, Christmas is often potrayed as a magical time when everyone is nice and loving to everyone, and everything is amazing. (This is actually true of most holidays.)


Real Christmas is not like that, even for people who absolutely love Christmas. Christmas is a difficult time of year. The time leading up to it is often stressful, overwhelming, and expensive. All of that is mixed in with some things that many people find amazing and wonderful (and that other people don’t so much care for.)

One aspect of Christmas that is often stressful is getting together with family. Even if everyone really wants to get together on Christmas, some aspect of it will suck. Because family is hard, even when everyone loves on another dearly. Holidays don’t heal family dynamics or make everything easy; people are the same people no matter what time of year it is. It’s particularly hard if you have relatives who are mean to you or bigoted towards you, but family gatherings have difficult and stressful aspects no matter how wonderful a family is.


No matter how much you like Christmas (or any other holiday), some aspect of it will probably suck. That’s ok. It’s not your fault. It doesn’t mean that you’re doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean you’re the Grinch. It just means that life is complicated and that holidays aren’t always easy.


tl;dr Christmas and other holidays have difficult, unpleasant, and stressful aspects as well as the uplifting and enjoyable parts. It’s normal to have mixed feelings about holidays and to find some aspects unpleasant. (It’s also ok if you dislike holidays altogether.)

a perspective on doctors and therapy

thegreatgodum replied to your post “thoughts on good therapy”

I think of doctors/therapists as expert consultants, like a tax agent. their job’s to do a lot of specialised research & be able to summarise it for ppl who don’t have the time or ability to do it themselves so those ppl can make informed decisions.

realsocialskills said:

I think that’s a good way of looking at one way doctors and therapists can be helpful. There are also a few other things:

Good doctors and therapists often have a lot of experience working with a lot of people who have similar problems.  That can lead them to develop a lot of useful intuitions that you can’t get just from reading research even if you have a lot of time to devote to it. 

They also often have access to supervisors with more professional experience and wisdom who can help them to check their perspective. 

(The intuitions of the doctors and therapists you might consult are not infallible and can go badly wrong. The same is true of their supervisors. But they can also be very, very useful).

Also, if you have a chronic condition, mental illness, or neurological disorder, you will probably often deal with doctors who are less familiar with the current research on your condition than you are. This is particularly the case if your condition is relatively rare. Doctors/therapists can still have useful expertise in other ways in that situation, for instance:

  • Someone who doesn’t understand why an IUD is necessary treatment for your condition may still know how to insert one safely
  • Someone who doesn’t know anything about autism might still know useful things about recovery from trauma
  • Someone who doesn’t know why one medication is a better treatment than another for your condition might still know how to monitor for toxic side effects and interactions with other drugs

In any case, no matter why a doctor or therapist is helpful to you, they’re an expert you’re consulting. If they start acting like a brain slug and try to prevent you from thinking or acting for yourself, that’s a major red flag.

Perspective in the face of other people's anger

This is a thing that happens with some people:

  • People get angry
  • They tell you off in mean ways that make you feel horrible
  • Or their anger scares you, even if they’re not actually being mean
  • You feel like the way you’re feeling is evidence that you’ve *done* something horrible
  • Or you’re afraid, and feel like you have to grovel for forgiveness in order to be safe

It’s really, really hard to tell whether you’ve actually done something wrong when someone is being mean to you. (Or when you’re terrified by anger or conflict.)

If you’re afraid or hurting, or especially both, it’s hard to have perspective. Especially if you feel like acknowledging that you’ve done a horrible thing might make that person stop hurting you. *Especially* if you’re really good at reading what someone wants to hear.

This is doubly true for people who have been abused. If you’ve been hurt by someone who demanded that you stop thinking in the face of every conflict, it’s hard to think when other people are angry with you. 

There are countermeasures. It’s possible to learn to deal with anger and conflict without falling apart.

Countermeasure #1: recognizing feelings that indicate that your perspective is off, and creating distance

  • If you’re panicking and feeling inclined to make an abject apology, it’s probably time to step back
  • Even if it turns out that you were in the wrong, a panic apology is unlikely to make the situation better
  • Because when you’re panicking, you’re not really capable of apologizing sincerely anyway
  • It’s ok to need time to think
  • It’s ok to realize that you’re panicking and need to back away from the situation to be able to think
  • Someone who won’t let you do this is probably not someone you should trust

Countermeasure #2: considering reversal:

  • Think about what you did, and how the person who is angry at you is reacting
  • What do you think you’d do if the situation was reversed?
  • In light of that, do you think their reaction is reasonable?
  • And do you think you actually did something terribly wrong?
  • (The answer to this might be yes even if you think you would have reacted differently. But thinking about reversal can still make the situation easier to understand)

Countermeasure #3: Think in concrete terms:

  • What, specifically, does the person who is mad at you think you did?
  • Do you think you actually did that thing?
  • If not, do they have a reasonable basis for thinking that you did that thing?
  • Are they understanding correctly? Are they listening to your explanation of what you think you did? (eg: if they think you said a slur and you actually said a different word that they misheard, are they screaming at you and saying you are just making excuses?)
  • If you did do the thing, why are they angry about the thing?
  • Do you think it’s reasonable that they are offended?
  • Do you think it’s reasonable that they are *as* offended as they are?
  • (Think about this seriously, especially if they think you are being racist, sexist, transphobic, ableist, etc towards them. Your initial reaction to this kind of thing is likely to be off base. But it is also possible to be wrong about these things, and ultimately, you have to think for yourself about whether you think you’re guilty of what you’re accused of.)

Countermeasure #4: Considering the perspective of someone you respect:

  • Think of someone who you know well and respect as someone who treats people well
  • If you’d done the thing to them, how do you think they’d react?
  • Does that match how the person who is angry at you now is reacting?
  • If you’d hurt the person you respect in a similar way by accident and they were upset with you, how do you think you’d be reacting?
  • Does it match how you’re reacting here? (Eg: are you more afraid? more inclined to panic-apologize? more defensive?)
  • In light of all of that, what do you think about what’s happening now?
  • Do you think that you did the thing you’re being accused of?
  • Do you think it was wrong? 
  • Do you think that the way they are reacting to you is unjustified or otherwise objectionable?
  • Do you think you should apologize? 
  • Do you think they should apologize?
  • (These are all real questions. Considering the hypothetical perspective of someone you know doesn’t give you automatic answers, but it can be helping as a way of getting unstuck when you’re afraid and inclined to panic about something you’ve been accused of. You might find that, even after you’ve stopped panicking, you still think that you have done something wrong and that you should apologize for it.)

Countermeasure #5: Outside perspective:

  • It can help to discuss the situation with people who know you well (especially if they’re not parties to the conflict)
  • Particularly if they are people who you can trust to tell you when they think you actually *have* done something wrong
  • Some friends are mutual check in people for one another. 
  • Some people get outside perspective from therapists. 
  • When you’re panicking, it can be hard to tell from the outside that you’re panicking. Panic in response to conflict can feel like you’re just accurately recognizing that you are terrible or something. 
  • It’s much easier to tell from the outside when that is happening
  • So, if you have people you trust to help you check your perspective, it is tremendously helpful in staying oriented and figuring out what’s actually going on

tl;dr: Some people find other people’s anger terrifying. If you experience that, it can be really hard not to automatically try to fix things by conceding that you are terrible and did a terrible thing. There are countermeasures that can help. It helps to work on noticing how you are feeling so that you can get distance when you need it. It helps to think about what you’d do if the roles were reversed. It helps to think as concretely as possible about the specifics of the situation. It helps to think about what you think someone you know well and respect would do (and what you would be doing if the conflict was with that person). It helps to get outside perspective from people you trust about what’s going on. 

"You're not willing to accept criticism!"

Accepting criticism is important. Everyone’s wrong about something, and it’s important to be open to the possibility that you’re wrong about things. If you’re never persuaded by something someone says that you need to change your actions in some way, something is going seriously wrong.

But sometimes, when people say that you’re not open to criticism, what they really mean is that they’re angry because you don’t agree with them. Or that you’re refusing to change in a way that you want them to change. And sometimes, you will be entirely correct to disagree with them and to refuse to change.

For example:

  • “You’re a terrible writer and should not ever write anything ever again” is not criticism you should listen to
  • “If you’d just try a gluten free organic diet, you’d be cured” is not worthwhile criticism
  • “No one is ableist, you’re just imagining it because you want to feel special” is not worthwhile criticism

And there’s any number of other examples, many of which are far more complex and subjective. Everyone gets criticized in ways that it’s completely ok to reject.

And sometimes, it’s ok not to want criticism, even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with the criticism, eg:

  • It’s ok to make art without wanting to go through an art school style critique
  • It’s ok to write a story, post it somewhere, and decide not to read the comments about it
  • It’s ok not to want to discuss the problematic aspects of a show you like
  • It’s ok to not want your father’s input on who you should date

It’s possible to be insufficiently open to criticism, but that doesn’t mean everyone who accuses you of that is right. No one is, or should be, open to all forms of criticism from all people.

Sometimes people who criticize you are wrong. Sometimes they’re so wrong that they’re not worth listening to. Particularly when they’re saying the same thing over and over that you’ve long since considered and rejected.

It’s important to be open to criticism some of the time from some people. It’s also important to be selective about who and what you listen to, and when. You do not owe everyone who thinks that you are wrong your unconditional attention.

Sometimes things suck

Sometimes things suck.

Looking on the bright side doesn’t always help. Positive thinking doesn’t always help. Gratitude and mindfulness don’t always help. Those things help in some situations, but they’re not a universal cure that will fix everything.

Noticing that things suck isn’t what makes them suck, and pretending that things are ok will not make them better. 

Sometimes people act like it’s your fault for noticing, like if you’d just have a positive attitude, nothing would be bad. But it doesn’t work that way. Taking a positive attitude only fixes things when your attitude is the problem. Sometimes it isn’t.

Sometimes things really are that bad, and it’s ok to acknowledge that they are that bad. When things are actually bad externally, being realistic about what’s going on can make things a lot easier to manage. 

(Even if, right now, you can’t see any way to make them better.)

ischemgeek:

realsocialskills:

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now…

ischemgeek said:

Yes on distorted thinking and gaslighting being not-mutually-exclusive. I had distorted thinking when I had situational depression as a teen and I thought everyone in the world hated me (literally everyone. And that I deserved it). At the same time, my parents were being emotionally abusive and they were gaslighting me about it. At that point I was also getting very angry/frustrated with their utter lack of action on the bullying front and was calling them out a lot about it and they were always, “no, that’s not what happened” even though it was.

Journaling is really useful for this, too, I found. Just write down the conversation and come back to it a while later after the heat of the moment is gone and look over it again. Future-you can reality-check now-you. Plus, journaling helps if they’re prone to denying that conversations even happened, like my parents are. If your abuser says, “No, you never told me that Jonas was bothering you! If you told me, I would have done something!” you can go back to your journal and if you find an entry that says you told them about Jonas and they laughed at you, you know you’re right. In this way, past-you can also reality check now-you.

realsocialskills said:

Those are good suggestions.

One thing though: I think the main point of accumulating evidence is to figure out for yourself what’s going on. It can also be good as a way to show other people what’s going on.

It’s worth being a lot more cautious about using evidence to confront an abuser. People who are gaslighting you already know they’re lying, and they’re already committed to tricking you. When you gather evidence and figure out for sure that they’ve been manipulating you, that will shift your perspective considerably. But for them, it will not be a perspective-shifting revelation because they already *know* that they’re gaslighting you.

So, be careful about thinking that you can find arguments and proofs that will convince someone to stop gaslighting you. If you’re in that situation, the most important thing is probably to find ways of protecting yourself.

slashmarks:

realsocialskills:

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now they say they’re not judging you which means you can’t trust your own perceptions)
realsocialskills said:
  
One thing that’s important here is that distorted thinking and gaslighting are not mutually exclusive. When you know that you have distorted thinking, gaslighting abusers sometimes exploit that to get you to doubt your perceptions. Even when you are having an episode of actively distorted thinking, that doesn’t mean that the things someone else wants you to believe are necessarily true.
  
I think there are a couple of things that can help to sort out what’s really going on and what’s distorted thinking: outside perspective, and paying attention to your perceptions over time.
 
Regarding paying attention to your perceptions over time: Even if you have depression, you’re not always going to be equally depressed. Even if you have anxiety, you’re not always going to be equally anxious. If you still don’t like what someone is doing to you even when you’re not actively anxious or depressed, it’s probably not distorted thinking.
  
Also, if every time you object to something someone does, they consistently convince you that it’s distorted thinking, something is probably wrong for real. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you’re both depressed *and* reasonably objecting to something. If someone consistently uses your mental illness to try to make conflicts go away, that’s gaslighting and wrong even if your perspective actually is distorted.
   
 (That said, if you’re actively anxious or depressed, it can be hard to tell in the moment whether or not something is a pattern. It’s possible to feel like it is a pattern when it isn’t, due to distorted thinking. That’s a reason why it can be really helpful to pay attention to how you feel over time.)
   
One way to keep track of how you feel over time is to write a journal. If you write a journal, you can pay attention to how you felt yesterday and whether you still feel that way today. Writing down your perspective is a more reliable way to track things over time than relying on memory. It’s hard to have accurate memories of how you’ve felt over time, and it’s particularly difficult to have accurate memories of what you thought when your thinking was distorted. (That said, journaling does not work for everyone, and if you can’t do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure things out.)
  
Outside perspective can also help a lot. That’s one reason that therapy is very helpful to a lot of people who struggle with distorted thinking. If you can find a therapist who you can trust to have a good sense of when you’re probably getting something right and when it’s probably depression/anxiety-related distorted thinking. This backfires horribly if your therapist *isn’t* trustworthy. I don’t really have any advice about how to find a good therapist (I wish I did, and if I ever figure it out, I’ll post about it), but I know that for many people it is both possible and important to find a good therapist. 
  
Personal blogging can also help as a way to track your perceptions over time and get feedback, but be careful about that. Personal blogging attracts two kinds of people who can create problems for those who struggle with distorted thinking: mean people who try to make you feel awful about yourself, and people who unconditionally offer you validation no matter what you say or do. Neither of those kinds of perspectives are helpful for sorting things out. In some ways, unconditional validation is particularly dangerous, *especially* if there’s a possibility that you’re abusing someone.
  
Friends and relatives can also sometimes be really helpful, particularly if they know the people involved or observe things.
 
If you have a sibling you can trust (not everyone does, but some people do), you might be able to have this kind of conversation:
  • You: Sarah, when Mom made that face, was she judging me or was I imagining it?
  • Sarah: Yeah, that’s definitely her judgey face. 
  • or, depending on what she thinks:
  • Sarah: Actually, I think she probably didn’t mean it that way this time. She just talked to me about her obnoxious boss and I think it was her pissed at my boss face.
Similarly, friends sometimes have a really good sense of what’s going on. 
   
The caution about blogging goes for consulting friends/family and other forms of peer support. Be careful about people who offer unconditional validation of all of your thoughts and feelings no matter what. That can end up reinforcing distorted thinking, which is not going to help you learn how to improve your perspectives and trust yourself when your perceptions are accurate.
  
People who are offering you useful perspective will sometimes tell you that they think your perceptions are off base, and they will not be jerks about it when they are critical. They will also not try to coerce you into adopting their perspective. Sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes you will disagree with them and be right. You are allowed to think for yourself, even if your thinking is sometimes distorted. No one else can think for you, even if you go to them for perspective and help sorting things out.
tl;dr: Gaslighting and distorted thinking are not mutually exclusive. It’s common to experience both, even simultaneously. If you have distorted thinking, people inclined to gaslight you tend to exploit it. Tracking your perceptions over time, and getting outside perspective, make it much easier to sort out what’s actually going on. Sometimes therapy is helpful. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes friends and family are helpful. Be careful about trusting people who are mean to you or who offer unconditional validation. 
 
What do y’all think? How do you protect yourself from gaslighting when you struggle with distorted thinking?

slashmarks said:

What I did when I was trying to figure out if I was being psychotic or my mother was actually being horrible was, right after something upsetting happened, I would text or IM my partner and describe what happened (not just how I felt about it; what she said, what she did, things that aren’t really a matter of opinion.) I had both a second opinion of things and, in the case of IMing, a record of everything that had happened right after I sent it.

This also meant that when I was trying to figure out if my memories of something were real or not, I could ask my partner and she would remember me telling her about it right afterwards.

how do you tell the difference between when someone is gaslighting you and when you’re doing the distorted thinking thing from anxiety/depression? (for example you KNOW they’re judging you because they’re your parent and you’ve learned what that LOOK means but now they say they’re not judging you which means you can’t trust your own perceptions)
realsocialskills said:
  
One thing that’s important here is that distorted thinking and gaslighting are not mutually exclusive. When you know that you have distorted thinking, gaslighting abusers sometimes exploit that to get you to doubt your perceptions. Even when you are having an episode of actively distorted thinking, that doesn’t mean that the things someone else wants you to believe are necessarily true.
  
I think there are a couple of things that can help to sort out what’s really going on and what’s distorted thinking: outside perspective, and paying attention to your perceptions over time.
 
Regarding paying attention to your perceptions over time: Even if you have depression, you’re not always going to be equally depressed. Even if you have anxiety, you’re not always going to be equally anxious. If you still don’t like what someone is doing to you even when you’re not actively anxious or depressed, it’s probably not distorted thinking.
  
Also, if every time you object to something someone does, they consistently convince you that it’s distorted thinking, something is probably wrong for real. Nobody is perfect, and sometimes you’re both depressed *and* reasonably objecting to something. If someone consistently uses your mental illness to try to make conflicts go away, that’s gaslighting and wrong even if your perspective actually is distorted.
   
 (That said, if you’re actively anxious or depressed, it can be hard to tell in the moment whether or not something is a pattern. It’s possible to feel like it is a pattern when it isn’t, due to distorted thinking. That’s a reason why it can be really helpful to pay attention to how you feel over time.)
   
One way to keep track of how you feel over time is to write a journal. If you write a journal, you can pay attention to how you felt yesterday and whether you still feel that way today. Writing down your perspective is a more reliable way to track things over time than relying on memory. It’s hard to have accurate memories of how you’ve felt over time, and it’s particularly difficult to have accurate memories of what you thought when your thinking was distorted. (That said, journaling does not work for everyone, and if you can’t do it, that doesn’t mean you can’t figure things out.)
  
Outside perspective can also help a lot. That’s one reason that therapy is very helpful to a lot of people who struggle with distorted thinking. If you can find a therapist who you can trust to have a good sense of when you’re probably getting something right and when it’s probably depression/anxiety-related distorted thinking. This backfires horribly if your therapist *isn’t* trustworthy. I don’t really have any advice about how to find a good therapist (I wish I did, and if I ever figure it out, I’ll post about it), but I know that for many people it is both possible and important to find a good therapist. 
  
Personal blogging can also help as a way to track your perceptions over time and get feedback, but be careful about that. Personal blogging attracts two kinds of people who can create problems for those who struggle with distorted thinking: mean people who try to make you feel awful about yourself, and people who unconditionally offer you validation no matter what you say or do. Neither of those kinds of perspectives are helpful for sorting things out. In some ways, unconditional validation is particularly dangerous, *especially* if there’s a possibility that you’re abusing someone.
  
Friends and relatives can also sometimes be really helpful, particularly if they know the people involved or observe things.
 
If you have a sibling you can trust (not everyone does, but some people do), you might be able to have this kind of conversation:
  • You: Sarah, when Mom made that face, was she judging me or was I imagining it?
  • Sarah: Yeah, that’s definitely her judgey face. 
  • or, depending on what she thinks:
  • Sarah: Actually, I think she probably didn’t mean it that way this time. She just talked to me about her obnoxious boss and I think it was her pissed at my boss face.
Similarly, friends sometimes have a really good sense of what’s going on. 
   
The caution about blogging goes for consulting friends/family and other forms of peer support. Be careful about people who offer unconditional validation of all of your thoughts and feelings no matter what. That can end up reinforcing distorted thinking, which is not going to help you learn how to improve your perspectives and trust yourself when your perceptions are accurate.
  
People who are offering you useful perspective will sometimes tell you that they think your perceptions are off base, and they will not be jerks about it when they are critical. They will also not try to coerce you into adopting their perspective. Sometimes they will be wrong. Sometimes you will disagree with them and be right. You are allowed to think for yourself, even if your thinking is sometimes distorted. No one else can think for you, even if you go to them for perspective and help sorting things out.
tl;dr: Gaslighting and distorted thinking are not mutually exclusive. It’s common to experience both, even simultaneously. If you have distorted thinking, people inclined to gaslight you tend to exploit it. Tracking your perceptions over time, and getting outside perspective, make it much easier to sort out what’s actually going on. Sometimes therapy is helpful. Sometimes blogging is helpful. Sometimes friends and family are helpful. Be careful about trusting people who are mean to you or who offer unconditional validation. 
 
What do y'all think? How do you protect yourself from gaslighting when you struggle with distorted thinking?

The point is to build

Your last post mentioned “coming to terms with how awful the world is.” When recognize that injustice is everywhere, and that you personally benefit from it, is it ok to find joy in the world even though it’s awful? Things like (in the US) visiting a national park and having a fun hike, when the land was taken a long time ago from Native Americans; or watching a good movie that’s problematic; or enjoying sledding after a snowstorm that was responsible for a few deaths?
 For me it is impossible to keep injustice in mind all the time. So whenever I have fun, or feel happy, I feel guilty later because that fun indirectly came out of injustice, and instead of fighting that injustice I was enjoying it. How can you keep in mind that the world is a horrible place without neglecting your right (is it a right even?) to joy?
realsocialskills said:
 
The world contains much, much more than pain and injustice. It’s important to acknowledge and fight evil. It’s also important not to become so consumed by the fight that you can only see the horrible things.
  
The point is to build and to love. (And, sometimes, to fight battles that need fighting.)
   
Sometimes, people try to seek out some sort of purity by cutting out everything tainted by injustice. That doesn’t work, because everything is tainted in some way. If you go down that road seeking purity, you get stuck cutting out more and more things and not being able to find anything pure enough to like without shame. That doesn’t help. Everything is connected to something destructive. Sometimes particular kinds of destructiveness are dealbreaking, but it can’t be everything that has any connection to something bad. You can’t become pure that way, but you can do a lot of harm to yourself and others trying.
 
Liking things is good. Misery isn’t a moral accomplishment. If you want to make the world a better place, treat people right and build something good. The point is not to be miserable at the horrors of the world. The point is to build.
  
This is not about attaining moral purity through abstinence and misery. It’s about doing the work of making things better and building worthwhile things, and loving others more than our culture hates them. Your purity will not help anyone. Your work can.
   
To use some of the examples you gave:
  
Regarding the snow: it didn’t snow so that you could sled. Enjoying the sledding will not hurt anyone. Just don’t brag about sledding to people who are really upset about the snow. People who have been harmed by the snow might not want to hear how much you’re enjoying the snow, but that doesn’t mean that enjoying it is wicked, it just means it’s important to be considerate.
   
Watching a good movie that’s problematic: All movies have horrible aspects to one degree or another. It’s ok to ignore them and like something; *that’s the only way anyone ever gets to like anything in the media*. 
      
But it’s also important to be willing to acknowledge that the problems are there and not be obnoxious about other people not wanting to hear about the thing you like. Everyone’s patterns of what’s deal-breaking are different. If the ableism in a movie is dealbreaking for someone, respect that, and don’t talk to them about how great you think it is. If someone got badly injured in the snow, don’t talk to them about how wonderful the snow is. Being considerate of other people’s boundaries, and their right to decide what is and is not personally dealbreaking, goes a long way.
 
You are allowed to be happy. It’s good to be happy. There’s a lot that’s wrong with the world, really really wrong, even. But…
  
The point is not to be constantly miserable about it. The point is not to wallow in shame. The point is to build. 
  
Some building is activism and advocacy and fighting injustice. Some of it is just… building. All of it involves identifying situations in which you have the power to act, and finding things you can do that make good things more possible.
  
You can like things; you can love; it is good to like things and enjoy life. Refusing to ever like anything impure will not make the world better; your work can.

When people you love are mean

So, in a recent post in which I referenced “You’re ok, they’re mean” as a response to ableism, I got responses along the lines of:

“But what about when it’s my parents? Or people who are really nice in other ways? Or my friends? Or people I respect? How can I say they are mean?”

The short answer: people are complicated. 

It’s possible for someone to be mean sometimes, but not always. Actually, most people aren’t mean all the time. (Even if they are mean to *you* all the time).

Hateful aspects of someone’s personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are loving and respectful. They coexist.

And it cuts both ways - the loving or respectful aspects of their personality or behavior don’t cancel out the parts of them that are mean. 

When they are being mean, it’s important to recognize that they are being mean, and that it’s wrong for them to be mean to you. Even though they aren’t mean all the time and you respect them in other ways.

Sometimes, when people who you love are mean, it’s possible to talk to them about it and show them that it hurts you. Sometimes they don’t realize they’re being mean, and sometimes they stop once they realize. But not always. Sometimes they don’t believe you, or don’t care. You have to use your judgement about which kind of situation you’re in.

And in any case, it starts by recognizing the mean behavior or attitudes as mean. If people think less of you because of your disability, or who you love, or anything else like that, they’re being mean. It’s a reflection on them, not you.

You’re ok. They’re mean.

Empathy With Storybook Villains

Does it say something bad about me that I empathize with storybook villains?
realsocialskills said:
I doubt it. There are a lot of good reasons that people emphasize with storybook villains, for instance:
Storybooks can be very simplistic.
  • They don’t tell the whole story.
  • The things villains do often don’t make apparent sense
  • They’re crying out for an explanation
  • And if you make up a backstory of a character, it’s likely to be a sympathetic read of them. Because people create characters they like, more often than not
  • In that case, it’s very likely that you’ll sympathize with your version of the villain over the canon version of the hero
Sometimes the villains seem to have more agency than the heroes in storybooks.
  • Sometimes, villains make choices and do things, while it seems that the hero just sort of has a lot of things happen to them
  • Eg: the hero wanders into the enchanted forest and shares his lunch with a witch, or doesn’t, according to how he’s accustomed to behaving. The witch had decided to hang around that part of the forest, and decides in fairly creative ways how to curse or bless the hero.
  • That’s sort of.. more personal, somehow?
  • So it’s possible that you have more empathy for the villains because they seem more like people and less like simplistic embodied morals of the story
The heroes are sometimes not actually in the right.
  • You don’t have to like the hero just because the story says they’re the hero
  • Eg: in Jack and the Beanstalk, the hero steals all the giant’s stuff and then kills him.

It might have to do with your experiences being treated as bad:

  • If you’ve been taught to think of yourself as bad, it can be easier to identify with villains than heroes
  • If everyone treats you like the wicked witch, ogre, giant, or evil queen, you’re likely to identify with the villain than the people who kill the villain
  • When you’re bullied by a mob a lot, it’s not so appealing to cheer on a mob that rips someone apart
  • The story may call them the villain, but so do the people who call you the villain
  • And the villain may have had the chance to defy them, or come close to winning, in ways that you’ve never been able to do

I think the only way it might say something bad about you if it’s part of you convincing yourself that it ’s ok for you to treat others badly. Or, if it’s part of building your identity as a person who is intrinsically destructive of everyone, and seeing that as a good thing. If you’re doing that, you should stop. But that’s probably not what’s going on.

Perspective

You don’t have to love yourself to be worthy of love.

You don’t have to love yourself to be capable of loving others.

You don’t have to think you’re beautiful to be worthy of respect.

You don’t have to have perfect self esteem to do worthwhile things.

If you don’t feel good about yourself, it’s worth working on that. (Including, sometimes, by changing some things you feel bad about). But don’t make self esteem or body positivity into yet another stick to beat yourself with.

You matter, no matter how bad you feel about yourself.