Content warning: possibly triggering content bellow.
Also I don't know if that title actually makes sense, but I'm gonna try it for now.
Since I can remember, I have been taught to care about people. Perhaps this has been the same for you. Since childhood, I have not only been taught to be caring but I have also been taught to care for those who have been cruel to me and/or who don't care about me. When I was a child, I was expected to care, to look after others. Before anything else. And I do mean literally care emotionally for others, in this case my parents who neglected and abused me (I know. What fucking morons). The main things that I remember being a child was their fights and being forced to be an adult, I was forced to 'help', to try and manage them, and these situation for hours of my life. This and the general situation was so bad that by the age of 12 I distinctly remember practically deciding that because I was obviously worth very little, I would dedicate my life in service to others. That I would put their needs first before anything else.
As an adult, bad behaviour and cruelty is something that we need to protect ourselves from by creating strong boundaries, by not caring about those people, so you can exist with some confidence and peace. But as I was a child, I couldn't. As my boundaries were routinely abused, crossed, I got very used to this. This happens to lots of people, and they are forced to put up with appalling behaviour continually throughout their lives because that is what they are familiar with. This history has meant is has been hard for me to not care about people who don't care about me and/or people who are nasty to me. And frankly when you care about absolute fucking morons (peheh), it can really, really mess you up. Although caring can be a lovely quality in people, it can be taken to such an extreme that the person no longer puts their needs first. They are not confident in their needs and selves. For me, there can be a deficit of awareness and of the importance of my own needs, and a quality of not knowing who I am.
As a femme, we are conditioned to care for people, historically that's literally what we have been for. Recently, I made the mistake of assuming that some queer men understood the experience of being conditioned as a woman and being taught 'to be subservient' or 'to serve'. The (foolish) assumption was that queer people understand power dynamics because of their experiences. Being confident they would understand, I was using that (fact) as a prefix for another point, but they stopped me right there and plainly informed me that I was wrong. That they didn't agree with my experience of sexism - which of course, they understood better than me. They also said this about an experience of sexism I had, they said that didn't agree that that had happened. Wow. Thanks for gaslighting me fellas. Time wisely spent. You can imagine that that ended well. I still cared about 'me upsetting them' even though it was the other way round, and I put their experience first and saw it as more important than mine initially. And then I was like, actually no, I know what happened and that was really messed up. I'm so fucking tried of this shit. I'm so tired of people being dickheads and me caring about them when actually I shouldn't give a fuck about people who behave like that. What a waste of my precious time.
By I now, I am learning to just know and trust in my own experience. I have no other option. But my own experience (as you can see above) is something I have been told my whole life is not valuable and is not 'real'. Many people have had the same treatment. But I'm resisting that and I'm getting to the point where I know it is important and valid. I even took an MSc in power dynamics to uncover the root of what I have experienced, but people still treat me like I don't know what the fuck I'm talking about when I refer to this field. As many femmes experience, I get dismissed and put down so consistently (including things I am an expert in) especially by male (and sometimes female) peers that it is honestly rare if I don't. Femmes are taught to care for mainly men and everyone else in general. If you look at simple history, that's why we were taught cooking lessons, how to fold a tea towel, how to care for children, and so forth. (it's so fucking obvious that we are taught to serve.) That's why self-care and making boundaries is a radical act.
Being a femme, you are expected and taught to be less vocal, to say what you think, that being (at all) angry is wrong. We are expected to conform and serve rather than to assert and be listened to. This is true, no matter how much those that have no fucking idea insist it's not happening. It is. We know that. Research reflects that. Research shows that people get frustrated at assertive women far faster than they to at men, that women get punished for speaking their minds. Recently, I said to my dad how much I get dismissed, and he immediately said defensively, dismissively "Not all the time!" >_< (I wasn't even talking about him, just generally). And I was like -_- great dad you just did it right then. It is maddening to be devalued so constantly, to be dehumanised every day. Many don't notice it, but oh god is the madness real when you actually are noticing it. Oh gahd. You can never unsee it. It's a joke that my own experience is denied by people who are not living my life. Fuck you. Oh yeah 'cause you are the 'King of Objectivity'. Give me a break. This happens all the time for people, and why should we waste our precious energy and emotional reserves on this bullshit?
Recently, whilst visiting a very good friend of mine, we were examining some patterns in my life. He told me that it's vitally important for me to start actively not caring for people who treat me badly and/or who don't care about me. It's obvious in a way, but I've never been taught how to actively not-care. This may be obvious to some of you [lucky you :)]. But I was never given these tools. I was never taught how to put my needs first, because I was taught that that wasn't valuable or important and many others are in my position as well. People say don't care about what others think - but how do you put that into practice when you've been conditioned to to the exact opposite? So friends, family, colleagues who have mistreated me and have bullied me, no matter how much they are in my life, I have just started to emotionally stop giving their words and actions any emotional significance. He said that you can't really change the situation, you can't really change people, but you can change your response to things.
Frankly, I have come to this out of sheer desperation. I can't really survive continuing in the way I have been, caring for morons and about people who mistreat me. My life isn't worth living like that. Out of pure necessity, I cannot afford to waste my precious time and be so distressed over fucking idiots. But it doesn't work to directly say to someone 'I don't want to talk to you anymore' because they react in response to it. I have had people literally insist on being in my life when I have asked them to get out of it. (I know, creepy). But this is what you can do: learn to emotionally distance yourself so no matter what is happening on the outside you don't fucking care anymore. People who don't care about you and/or are cruel to you - why should you take seriously what they say? Why should you respect that? They don't respect you, so why would you listen to that crap?
So, to make clear what you do:
1. The people who love you for who you are, who haven't been cruel to you and who appreciate you and make you feel strong - keep them very emotionally close to you. Take the time to think about them a lot, and to spend time with them.
2. Anyone who does not care about you and/or treats you like shit, whatever is happening on the outside, however much you see them, however much they are or aren't in your life, you can choose to give less emotional importance to what they say and the impact that has on your life. You can start to emotionally distance yourself from these people. Because, they do not deserve to be close to you. Their shitty opinions do not deserve to be taken seriously by you.
With some people who you think can change, it would be good to put up clear boundaries with them. Some may react badly to this, but try not to care about that. They are doing that because they are not used to it and want to continue the cycle. The more you stop caring as well, the more you can relax, including if you are around them. You are not here to only please others. You are important too and you should put your needs first. As soon as I started to do this, so much about what I used to care about started to slip away and I started to feel so much better. I have cared so much about the needs of others that it has made me very sick in the past. But now, it has meant so much stress is dropping away. Where I worked, for example, people who would say rude, nasty and/or condescending things to me and as soon as I started doing this, it just didn't affect me as much as it used to. It is so important, learning this technique. It will take a while and a lot of practice as I have spent most of my life putting the needs of others first, including the very terrible relationships. But I'm getting there, and my MH has immediately started to improve.
A huge thank you to the amazing man who taught me this. You know who you are! :) You're the best and such an incredible friend. Thank you!