A Misconception Of Strength: The Other Perspective

Listen to Mahalia while reading.
LONDON1
Text by Amuna Wagner
About stories experienced by Hannah Wolny and Amuna Wagner
Photo by Naomi Freudiger

My cousin has always been my role model. I look up to her and take inspiration from how she views the world. When she started interesting herself in politics, I did, too, and she was one of the reasons I decided to study in London. However, I have never admired her or compared myself to her. I don’t want to be her, I simply appreciate her a lot.

Appreciation helps us to develop positively and grow into a person that we feel comfortable being and being with. Comparing on the other hand is a sickness, a frenzy of self-doubt that results in us projecting these doubts onto other people. Consequently, someone who is busy comparing themselves to others stops focusing on themselves, which is crucial for self-improvement. Instead, their confidence weakens and they enter a vicious cycle of constantly feeding their low self-esteem. This can have catastrophic consequences. Girls have ended friendships with me because they were not able stop comparing themselves to me. I have even lost friends because they felt sorry for the girl who was comparing herself to me. Strangley, they did not feel sorry for me though. To them, I was the strong one, the one that was being admired and the one that therefore did not have anything to complain about. Except that I too went through what felt like a breakup and was left to deal with the resulting trust issues. I too started doubting myself and was plagued by a bad conscience whose origins I could not even define. This feeling of helplessness grudually harmed my confidence alongside theirs. It was not my fault that my friend felt she was something less in comparison with me, however this did not stop people from blaming me for the situation. They just assumed that I cannot get hurt because I “can take it anyways”. This misconception of strength forbids me to tell my side of the story: Just because I don’t cry does not mean that I am not upset.

Comparing has many ways of wrecking relationships. My first experience was at the age of 15 when one of my close friends started avoiding me for no apparent reason, telling me that “a girl like me could never understand”, let alone help her. For months I tried to find out what was wrong, both from her and from our mutual friends who knew but would not tell me. They did this out of respect for her feelings. My feelings were not considered, my worry whether I was a bad friend who did not even realize that I must have upset her so severely that she could not even tell me. When she finally did, she informed me that she could not be friends with me anymore because she compared the way we walked, talked, looked and were perceived by other people. In her mind she was always the less attractive and the less interesting one and it took such a great toll on her that she could not even bear being in the same room as me. I, being someone who had never felt this way, struggled to understand how this would be a reason to end a good friendship. Rather than sympathy I felt confusion, sadness and also anger. Anger because she had been telling our friends all along and unlike me, they seemed to understand her and accept the situation without ever consulting me. Furthermore, she not only involved our mutual friends but even people who didn’t know me and therefore were only aware of her side of the story, which painted me as this bad person they should stay away from. There were boys and girls that I had never talked to who were talking behind my back and spreading rumours. It seemed like she was desperate to have people around who liked her better than me because she felt like usually it was the other way around.

Another time, a girl who I then considered one of my best friends took the fact that she thought that in comparison, my life seemed to be better than hers, so seriously that she actively attempted to take it from me. She made me feel bad about my boyfriend tried to destable our relationship, as well as friendhips I had with other people. She even took my belongings, starting with nicking my underwear and other clothes and eventually stealing my iPhone. There was no reason for her to treat me like this except for the fact that she apparently had such a strong and unhealthy admiration for me that she could not value our friendship for what it was. However, why did she make me suffer alongside her? It isn’t fair that I struggled to trust new friends after what she did.

Most recently, I started spending a lot of time with a new friend. We would stay over at each other’s house, share clothes and secrets and over time also friends. I loved the fact that she made friends easily and she admired that I choose my friends wisely and dedicate all my time and energy to a small amount of people. Apparently, this admiration made her want to copy both my attitude and the way I looked, because it gave her the illusion of having overcome her insecurities. This took up a lot of energy and after some months, she became tired of it. Her admiration turned into a great dislike for me and she decided that it would be easier to take me down rather than to keep “uplifting” herself. She would use my weaknesses against me and furthermore successfully turned some of our friends against me, leaving me heartbroken and angry and confused. As a result, I find it very difficult to trust people. I find it even more difficult to open up and be vulnerable around them when I know from experience that it is outside my control to keep them around. Because I seem so strong, they take away my right to defend myself as they don’t feel the need to listen to me, always assuming that I am the one that’s not suffering/suffering less.

In year 5 I had a fight with my best friend that upset both of us to the point that our teacher got involved and asked our parents for a meeting, in which my mum mentioned how sad I was. All the teacher could do was stare in disbelief and ask “really??”. When I spoke out for myself I was told that I didn’t have the right to victimize myself when really it was “the other way around”. While I might have coped better with the situation than my friend, this should not invite people to take my patience for granted and expect me to deal with the situation quietly, especially if noone tells me what I have done wrong until it is too late. Strength is relative and our understanding of it subjective. If my actions upset you, how will I know unless you talk to me? Furthermore, you will not know how I really feel. You will not know that I am suffering, too. There are so many articles that tell you why comparing yourself to others if harmful to your confidence. This article is supposed to show why it is also harmful to the other person, the person you’re involving without their knowledge or consent. Stop comparing yourself for their sake, too. Women should not drag each other down, but instead uplift one another. Comparing yourself results in broken hearts and trust issues, whereas open communication leads to strong women who carry confidence within themselves. Don’t make other people suffer for your insecurities.

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