I’ve always considered myself a very open minded person, but the truth is that I have hypercritical tendencies. Having opinions is important but I can be opinionated in excess— especially around social, spiritual, religious, cultural, economic, and political topics. While I only climb up on my soapbox in private about random people who have no effect on my life, I don’t like this person I expose to my partner and myself. Recently I realized I was closing my mind.
It’s important for me to understand why I do the things I do and I can easily identify the originations of this critical facet of myself. Throughout my childhood I felt my thoughts and opinions didn’t matter, and when entering middle school I began associating with ‘the guys’. I’ve always been very androgynous and before coming to terms with my nonbinary identity, I had internalized a lot of insecurity around gender presentation. I felt I had to keep up with ‘the dudes’ but in order to keep my integrity, to be in any way respected by them, I had to challenge them. For a while it was physical fights but soon I found it more effective to argue.
Many of the people I surrounded myself with were transphobic, homophobic, misogynistic, predatory, and all around mean and critical people. I refused to bend to their abuses but rather than find a different social group, I argued. I had only one actual friend for most of my life so I was desperate to be around people who wanted to be around me, even if my only value was to provide entertainment and a challenge to their egos.
Though I’d prove to them by sticking around that I accepted their behaviour, I refused to let them see me as ‘weak’. I’d already been through far worse than anything they could do to me so I put on a front and the only emotion I would express was disparaging irritation.
I would physically threaten, I’d rant sardonically, I’d demean, and because they were a bunch of rude and ignorant middle school boys who would torture me anyways, whether we were friends or enemies, I didn’t feel bad. I felt good. For the first time in my life I felt proud of myself when I could prove someone wrong, or make someone feel like shit, who was trying to dominate me. I felt accomplished.
Though I would continue to suffer cruelty and abuses, the feisty and antagonistic persona I adopted who was a know-it-all and was never emotionally affected when ‘riled up’ (sexually harassed, groped, beaten, dehumanized, or belittled) could keep me from falling apart. My mental health had been in the shitter for years and my interpersonal relationships were another source of self harm. The person I presented to my friend group was unemotional, intellectual, able to physically fight, but was a punching bag in every way.
In high school after somewhat coming to terms with my traumas and coming out as queer, I managed to separate myself from most of the company I had kept before. I was still argumentative— I was the only student out as transgender at the time and schools didn’t have any of the support in place that they do nowadays, I had to argue my right to exist. Some bullying got better and some bullying got worse, and I still faced insidious comments in my limited social circles.
I’ve fought hard to know what I know and to have the experience that I do, even out of high school before settling into the I’ve I live now, all the strange and terrible situations I’ve been through have built up a repertoire of understanding.
The broken and defensive parts of myself use this as a weapon.
Fact is, I get triggered. When I hear a centrist opinion, I feel my life is threatened by an unwillingness to see that there is a right and a wrong, threatened that someone believes that the right and the left are equal in morality. Cognitive distortions such as dichotomous thinking run rampant and I view the world in black and white. I will never agree with centrists or right leaning politics, but ranting alone in a room with my fiancé who agrees with me does nothing. It only feeds my trauma response.
I can’t ignore red flags, but I can’t be spending this much energy pointing out problems I don’t have any capacity to fix by just getting heated. My soap box doesn’t lend me any power. I think it’s time for me to finally step off it.
I won’t step down from my opinions and values, but the way I express myself in my personal life is hindering and could easily become toxic. There are better ways to use this energy. I love researching, reading, listening, it’s the basis of most of my hobbies and interests and is the basis of this blog, and time spent venting about someone annoying opinion online can be spent better understanding my own opinions and their contexts.