Years ago, in an attempt to jolt me into taking responsibility and to motivate me into making something of myself, I was told that I was an aimless and unambitious young woman, incapable of achieving academic success and lacking the back bone and drive to amount to much. I was frightened into compliance and submission by a close and trusted family member, which saddled me with the idea that I was nothing if not highly educated and thoroughly professional by my mid 20’s. All this despite the fact that I entered high school, having sat out for two years, in a brand new country without having much knowledge of the language spoken in school, and ended up graduating in less than four years as a straight A student and with high honors.
But, I disregarded the facts of my life and my achievements and I chose to believe the manipulative, hurtful assertions of my family and deemed myself a failure who would amount to nothing. These terrible thoughts became so ingrained within that they propelled me to go on to getting an undergraduate degree in an area I was ill-suited for and to further punish myself by going to law school and becoming a lawyer, just to prove myself worthy and good and a success, none of which I could ever accept as the truth about myself.
After graduating from law school, successfully moving across the country with no financial or moral support, passing the California state bar, the most sought-after, competitive and difficult bar exam in the nation, and working my ass off trying to break into the highly saturated Los Angeles legal market, I finally began working as an associate attorney in a fairly well known immigration firm in the city. But, the firm was being run into the ground by fat cat, lazy lawyers past their primes, who offered very little training, zero professional perks and no personal support and I was not only underpaid, I was also not paid on time. Nonetheless, my clients loved my hard work, sense of responsibility and professionalism and I became the associate who was given the toughest cases, the most complex litigation matters and the most demanding clients. I persevered and kept working hard, all the while feeling unsuccessful underneath it all. How could be I a success if my employer didn’t value me enough to pay me a fair wage? Or fuck, to just pay me on time?
As a way to whip me into shape, remake me into something more “acceptable”, or perhaps to just bully me long enough so that I would give up and leave, I was called every name under the sun by the father of the man I’ve chose as my life partner. I was labeled entitled, lazy, unambitious, unsuccessful and flat out failure. I was hounded, strong armed, harassed, intimidated and tormented for years about every single immutable quality of my life. From where I was born, to what my ethnic background was, to how much wealth I was raised with, to my personal beliefs— everything was fair game. And my employment situation in particular was deemed a topic to expound on and dissect. This relentless abuse eventually led me to the brink of a mental breakdown and finally cost me my job. I was forced into actions that eventually led to my dismissal from that sorry excuse of a firm. Imagine that! I was a damn good employee and a great attorney. I worked my ass off, was undervalued and underpaid, was bullied because of it and then got fired because a man who knew nothing about me and my situation bullied me into acting hastily before having secured another position with another firm. Wanna talk about a blow to the ego?
And what did I do? I took the abuse I was subjected to and turned into evidence of my incompetence. I called me unambitious and incompetent and wrong and bad, despite knowing the truth. I began to see myself as unworthy and a failure as a human being. And I’ve berated and shamed myself for having been fired by some asshole for nearly 15 years now.
I saw people around me judging me as human being by the amount of my ever shrinking paycheck and my non-existent law practice and I adopted that judgment of me. I used how much money I did or didn’t make as the measuring stick for my worthiness in life. Since there was not much of a paycheck, the reasoning went that I must not be worth anything and my existence must be immaterial and of no consequence. I have even had times when I have thought that if I were to die, no one would be affected for better or worse.
Every time I attempted to try something new, whether it was making a new friend or launching a blog, or quit lawyering for good and do something creative, some opinionated know-nothing shut me down with some bullshit arm-chair diagnosis of depression, egg-shell sensitivity, or just plain bitchiness. And I took every single unkind word into my heart and gave it a home. I must be unfit for every job out there. I must be incapable of making a go of any idea or passion I might have. More fundamentally, I must be worthless simply because I don’t know what a fuck I want for a job. No job, no life.
Soon, the walls got thinker and taller still. I am ill-suited for the practice of law—something I have known since the first hour of the first class on the first day in law school in JANNUARY 1997. And that is something deserving of being punished for all eternity. It shows weakness and lack a spine. And I, and only I, am incapable of leaving my field study behind in order to pursue some other kind of profession. Every other person is capable of this, but not me. I am nothing without financial success. I am an unsuccessful attorney, therefore I am nothing. I screw up everything I touch, so why even try? This one extends to every single area of my life, including taking a fucking writing course or running for a board position for the Mom’s Club I’m a member of.
And finally, I would be better off if only:
- I could move to France;
- I were 20 years younger, 40 pounds lighter and American born;
- I had never gone to law school;
- I hadn’t married into a family who never accepted me as I am;
- I had moved back to Texas after law school;
- I could go back to school for an arts degree;
- I were well connected and supported;
- I were braver;
- I Had been bolder;
- I had pursued a creative career in the arts;
- I had stayed in Iran, in Italy, in Texas, in utero;
- I had chosen a different undergrad school or even a different law school (though I still don’t want to be a lawyer).
These are the walls I have built around myself. These are the limitations I place on myself every damn day of my life. These are the ways I put myself down and abuse myself with on hourly basis. Add to that the instinct to always save face and act as if I am happy, satisfied and confident, just so no one else would begin to judge me for being open and honest. Add to this the obsession to always look good and “with it”. After all, as the Persian saying goes, to admit that you feel like shit about yourself is as if you spit directly up in the air, because it will eventually come down and hit you in the face.
I have lived with self sabotage and abuse and a perfectly narcissistic sense of misery for nearly the entirety of my adult life. I have taken every external negative feedback and turned into a list of trial exhibits in support of the prosecution of my own self as a useless, terrible, immaterial, unsuccessful human being. I have used every shitty thing any shitty person has done to me to torment myself with it over and over and over.
In the process, I have managed to bring me nothing but pain and misery and loneliness in addition to a type of complete paralysis. I have done all this to myself.
I am fully responsible for my feelings. I and I alone.
Because having an asshole call me a failure shouldn’t have turned me into a failure in my own eyes. Because having a trusted loved one try to manipulate and guilt me into a career that has made me miserable shouldn’t have actually made me stick with this path for twenty years. Because I always had a choice to say: “I don’t want to be a lawyer anymore and from today on I won’t be”. Because having been fired by a fat, old, incompetent, embezzling, has-been lawyer from a job that sucked in a profession that I didn’t want to begin with shouldn’t have erased the truth of the type of lawyer I was (a damned good one), and more importantly, the kind of human being I am (a pretty decent one).
So, why did I write this piece? I mean, I haven’t blogged in so long that just getting into my blog today took 30 minutes. Who remembers a damn password that hasn’t been used in two year? Why write now? Why write this? Why confess? Well, because I needed to do something in order to get myself going. I needed a step one.
I’m reading a book by Mark Manson, called “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”. It’s made me look back and really see what I have done to my self confidence and my life in general. I have given so many fucks about so many unworthy human beings who’ve crossed my path. I’ve given fuck after fuck to every un-fuckworthy stupid thing that every moron has said to and about me and my life and I have internalized these shitty, hurtful and UNTRUE things as if they were worthy of my time and attention and fucks given . I’ve given fuck after fuck until I’ve painted myself into an impossible emotional corner and robbed myself of living a more fulfilling life. I’ve believed the sucky and sickening American truth: that I am only worthy if I am lucrative. That I have no other intrinsic value beyond how much money I make. I am not allowed to quit and change directions. Fuck, I am not allowed to say: “I don’t want to work at a job right now other than the job of raising my daughter.”
I have bullied myself and beaten every creative idea I have ever had out of me, because of my belief that I am a failure. I even stopped blogging, the one thing I have always been so passionate about, because a woman with her own emotional baggage once labeled me depressed after reading one of my pieces. I am a snowflake: fragile, weak and aimless, too afraid to just finish one journey, call it quits and move on to find her next endeavor because she’s too afraid to fail.
So, I write these difficult truths because I am sick of being stuck. And because Mark Manson says that in order to get unstuck, one must just “do something”, despite every mental roadblock and every reason against doing it. And this blog post, my first in more than two years, is my something. This is my step one in the journey of learning to be more selective with my fucks. This is my action in search of inspiration and motivation.
To anyone who might read this:
If my words resonate with you, I urge you to find energy inside you to “do something”, too. Do anything. Whatever. Just to start your new journey of tearing down the walls you’ve put up to keep yourself stagnate and safe from life’s rejections.
If my words offend, bore or amuse you: if you’re moved to label, judge and categorize me as this or that—I don’t give a FUCK. I am done internalizing things clueless people say about me and what I have to say. I am learning to how not give some many fucks and I start with not giving fuck about your opinion.