Can I be completely honest?
Sometimes I wonder if my voice as a writer is too austere. #GermanProbs
Neither Part 1 nor Part 2 of this series did well on social media likes-wise and I was tempted not to finish it (“Was it too much ‘tough love’? Too focused on my own journey instead of advice-giving? Should I start being a little more fluffy and glittery?!” I asked Stephen.
… but then until I realized how incredibly ironic that would be.
That’s because my last item is:
5. I Stopped Caring So Much What Others Thought of Me (And What They Were Doing With Their Lives)
The thing is, I never realized how insanely much I cared about what other people thought of me… until I no longer did.
Conversely yet similarly, I never realized how much I cared about what other people were doing… until I stopped.
When I was younger, my friends and I could go on for HOURS analyzing whether Kelly and Kyle (fictional couple) were actually happy in their relationship or whether they were faking it for Facebook. I always knew approximately how long other couples had been dating, how many years they were together before she got her ring, etc. I knew what people around me were doing careerwise: who went to grad school and who was a 6th year Senior, whose job title sounded impressive and who was still waiting tables. Essentially, I knew way too much of other people’s business.
I always assumed people were tracking/evaluating my life just as much as I was keeping tabs on theirs. I remember once when Stephen and I had been together about a year and a half, I ran into a very distant acquaintance who asked me if my ex-boyfriend and I were still together. I was literally flabbergasted.
“Have they not Facebook stalked me within the last TWO YEARS?!” I thought, highly unflattered. “Is my life literally not even at *stalk her once every 6-7 months* level of interesting to them? Wow. Glad to know where I stand.”
It never occurred to me that this very distant acquaintance of mine might not use social media, or that they might not care who anyone was dating. Keep in mind that I would have been 20 or 21 at this point, so try not to judge my lack of perspective too hard. 😉
People’s opinions of me—or what I imagined those opinions were—had the power to make or break my entire day. I was crushed if I followed an acquaintance on Instagram and they didn’t follow me back. I was over the moon if one of the high school It Girls or one of my “facey” sorority sisters gave me a compliment (although I was also prideful and highly resentful of the Greek hierarchy, and would have inevitably also felt conflicted over my own over-the-moon-ness. #exhausting)
I was like Sisyphus pushing a bulbous knot of self-doubt up the slippery slope of society.
When You Finally Reach The Elusive “Top” (Whatever That Even Means)
One of the biggest gifts modeling gave me is that I got to be part of something widely regarded as glamorous, exclusive, and aspirational. I needed that. The 14-year-old girl in highwater jeans watching the Miss Wayne County pageant behind a dense mask of acne… she needed that. I needed a chance to be an It Girl in the eyes of others. Not the Sidekick to the It Girl. Not a B-team member of an A-list sorority. A BONA FIDE IT GIRL.
Should I be embarrassed to admit how badly I needed that? I was for awhile, but now I think it’s okay. (So many things in life are okay if you let them be okay.) I had a deep, flawed human desire and God fulfilled it because He knew I needed it.
So what does having been “cool” for the first time in my life have to do with caring LESS what people think? Well, there was the redemption aspect. And there was the temporarily gratifying feeling that I had some form of social power, the feeling that, “Whoa, wait a minute, maybe others should care what I think about them!” But those feelings won’t make you happy long-term.
When It’s Not So *Hot* Being Cool
At the height of my “coolness,” I was also incredibly lonely, anxious about finances, and anorexic. I was the embodiment of the “be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it” cliche.
When I was younger and jealous of other girls, my mom always told me, “You have no idea whether these girls are happy. Everyone has their problems. No one’s life is what it seems from the outside looking in.”
Finally I got to see this reality from the other side. Many people were fascinated by my life, but I was so hungry and strung out on caffeine and nicotine that I sometimes couldn’t see straight. On days I didn’t have a shoot or other obligation, I often slept until 1pm. When I was awake, I felt shaky and crazy. I had no body fat and therefore no sex drive or period. I felt detached from the things that made me a woman, the things that made me human.
When You’re Too Busy and Stressed To Care About Anyone Else
The modeling phase of my life was more enthralling and more excruciating than anything I’d been through before— by a mile. For the first time ever, life was moving too fast for me to give a moment’s thought to anything besides keeping my head above water. I didn’t think about Kelly and Kyle’s relationship, and I didn’t care whether they were happy. I was too busy wedding planning, missing my fiancé, and navigating the challenges of my own relationship. I didn’t care what my high school acquaintances or sorority sisters were doing. I was too busy trying to appear cool and skinny and just the right amount of aloof to casting directors. I was too scared of calories, too scared of the plunging number in my bank account. My own life was all-consuming.
I guess you could say I was self-absorbed that year, but it was the very first time in my life I wasn’t other-people-absorbed. And, though an overcorrection, it was progress.
Long term, I obviously don’t want to be so busy, stressed, and exhausted that any brain cells I’d have otherwise devoted to my peers have been beaten out of my head. But, for that one year, it was good to have those brain cells completely and entirely beaten out of me.
After this beating, I realized I’d also been robbed: robbed of my crippling fascination with people who were “cooler” than I was, and robbed of the binoculars I’d been using to inspect my acquaintances’ lives. I ended 2015 and spent much of 2016 feeling like a broken woman. But simultaneously, my load was lighter and my vision was clearer.
When You Take Life Lessons With You So They’re Not A Waste
After all this went down, I became a happier person because I started to put together a life with a healthy focus on myself and those I love most. I even wrote about it! (Ugh, I used to be even more long-winded than I am now! It’s a good post, but why did it not end 4 paragraphs earlier lol?)
I asked myself, “What do I want?” instead of “What makes me look good?”
I tried for “What makes me happy?” instead of “What would Mrs. Jones do?”
I realized that if you spend your life trying to impress people (whether it’s the Homecoming Queen or Alexander Wang) you’re NOT EVER going to be happy.
To be happy, you have to live for yourself.
If you’re thinking, “Okay Maya, it’s cool you had that coming-of-age experience and all, but that’s just your story. How do I stop caring as much what others think of me and what they’re doing?” then I would recommend the following tips:
- Take a social media break or decrease your time on it. (Remember this post? A social media break was actually part of how I got focused enough on myself to start modeling in the first place!)
- Take into account how much you talk about others. Evaluate how many minutes of a conversation you spend telling your friend about what cool, compelling things you’ve been up to and asking them what cool, compelling things they’ve been up to vs. “Did you hear So’N’So is on husband #3 before age 34?!” Disclaimer: I’m not saying I’m such a purist that I’m *above* a glass of wine and some gossip (BECAUSE I’M TOTALLY NOT) but, unlike when I was younger, I start to get bored after X amount of minutes have been devoted to So’N’So’s coworker’s cousin’s love life.
- Constantly and kindly self-correct. More on that in the paragraphs below.
Of course, I still have plenty of moments of weakness when my insecurities and jealousies and nosinesses creep in.
If I ever get too obsessed with what others are doing in their careers, I remind myself of what I can achieve if I channel those brain cells and feelings into my own career path. If I ever wonder, mid-instastalk, whether Kelly and Kyle are happy in their relationship, I tell myself to put my phone down and see if my own husband in the next room could use a kiss and a glass of water. If I ever get too down on myself because That One Girl looks incredible in her bikini and I haven’t been to the gym in 3 days, I say a prayer of gratitude that I’ve finally healed my eating disorder and/or take a step back and decide to be gym-spired in a positive way.
Also, you want to know a bonus that comes with caring less about the Joneses? I’ve actually found that I get more genuinely excited for other women’s engagements, pregnancy announcements, grad school graduations, promotions, etc. than I did when I was super hung up on others’ lives. It may sound like an oxymoron, but it also makes sense when you think about it. Feeling confidently focused on my own life allows me to celebrate others in a healthy and appropriately detached way.
Being a healthy amount of focused-on-yourself is work. Not constantly
comparing yourself to others is work. Not feeling “behind” in some way, shape, or form is work. Not worrying about what people might be saying behind your back is work, and not minding other people’s business can be work.
Social media makes it more work. Heck, being human makes it more work.
Happiness, as a general rule, is work. But if you work hard enough at it, you might just become even better at Happiness-ing than Mrs. Jones! Kidding 😉
Hope you all enjoyed this series!
I do genuinely care about what you think, dear readers, so let me know whether you want to hear more personal growth stuff or ya just want to know more about my anti-cellulite routine lol. I always love feedback! One of my goals for future posts is to focus less on modeling-related anecdotes because I don’t want my past to dictate my entire personal brand… We’ll see what I can come up with!