When I was very little, I remember having a panic attack at school because I thought the whole world was out to get me and my family, I even thought that I wasn’t my parent’s child but mostly, I thought everything was a conspiracy. I have no idea where, at such a young age, I got such an idea, but it was very real to me.
As I grew up, I experienced nasty bullying because I wore glasses and had acne (I still have those things!). It was really hard for me to make friends as most people didnt want to be around the person getting all the negative attention, so I didn’t trust people and eventually came to believe that all people are nasty and hurtful unless they prove otherwise (I still hold this belief somewhat…).
I was a paranoid kid, I thought everyone hated me and this was just my default setting. I never once thought that I had any redeeming aspects.
One day, this girl started at my school mid-term. We became friends because she was an angel, I’m sure. She didn’t judge me and didn’t mind being friends with me. She was beautiful and calm and I was ever so infatuated with her. She changed my life and it started when she explained to me that most of the bullying happens because I blow up at it, causing a very entertaining scene for the attackers. I was a circus freak by the sounds of things. I do remember smashing my chair over a guy’s head in grade school because he wouldn’t stop kicking my chair!
When I realised that I could control my reaction to the bullying and in turn they would lose interest if I just ignored them, my whole life changed.
Later on, when I was 20 or 21, I had just moved to England from South Africa. I was not expecting the complete culture shock that I received or realising that we South Africans lead a very sheltered life away from the first world mentality. We are still very innocent and naive about many things in this world, which, in a way, is a good thing, but that’s a whole other story.
One night I was at a nightclub in the Midlands with my brand new friends, I was on the dancefloor and noticed they kept going outside, without me. PARANOIA kicked in. All those negative thoughts, “they don’t really like me”, “they think Im weird”, “they’re trying to stay away from me”, etc, etc came flooding in.
Well, maybe it was the ecstasy I was on, or something else, but I suddenly thought to myself, “Lisa, you know how actors pretend they are someone else in movies? Well, tonight, you’re going to pretend you are in a movie, and this is the movie set, and these people are other actors and you are going to pretend that they really do like you and that you are a cool, likeable person”.
So I went outside as this new person and spoke to these people as if they really liked me and there was no reason for them not to like me. This exercise allowed me to let people in and to let myself out. I realised that all that negative talk in my head was completely unfounded and I made friends for life that night.
Every time I felt the paranoia creeping back, I would go into actress mode and pretend the thoughts weren’t true, and every time, I would be free to learn that I was in fact a likeable person and people weren’t living to hate and exclude me.
I grew into myself because I allowed myself freedom from the thoughts that were crippling me.
One of the friends I made that night said something to me once upon a time that has also stuck with me in times of doubt, she said; “Lisa, why wouldn’t they like you?”. That one little sentence has become my go-to phrase when I experience doubt, because when I really think about it, when I think about all the things I have overcome and all the good things I have been able to do for others, I’m not really bothered if they do or don’t like me anymore. I’ve come a long way and I still have much to learn and I can be proud for a lot of things and that’s really all that matters.