Your opinion of me is none of my business

by Chloe Jeffreys · 31 comments

in Women in Midlife

I wish I had made that title up, but I must credit Anne Lamott for saying it first.

I think some people think I’m gutsier than I really am. I’ve simply learned to hide my fearfulness behind a a decent vocabulary and poised self-confidence. The ruse seems to be working quite well.

I was bullied as a child. Living across the street from me was this nasty kid who would come out and threaten to beat me up when I walked by his house.  Unfortunately, that just happened to be the only way for me to get to school.

I had no choice. I had to walk by that loathsome kid’s house every day.


No. I never told my mother. She wouldn’t have done a thing about it anyway. Parents didn’t mess in the business of kids in those days. You were expected to work out your own problems. I do remember once begging her not to make me go to school. She pried my desperate fingers off of the doorknob, pushed me out the door, and slammed it in my face. There was going to be no rescue there.

I suppose most everyone has experienced being bullied in their life. If you haven’t, then you ought to look deep within yourself because that probably means YOU were the bully.

In a recent conversation over on Penelope Trunk’s blog, there was a long discussion about homeschooling and I was shocked at how many people think that bullying is GOOD for kids, and that somehow we’re all more socially well-adjusted for it. That’s the biggest load of bullshit I’ve ever heard. And I’m 100% certain that Jamey Rodemeyer would agree with me. That is if he were still alive.

I’ve never fully recovered from being bullied. Have you?


Your tummy doesn’t grow just a little tight when you remember what it felt like to be called names or have your person threatened? Mine sure does.

But it isn’t the memory of the fear of physical violence that haunts me. The worst part of being bullied is wondering, “What if what they are saying about me is true?”

What if I really am as short, fat, stupid, weak, ugly, pathetic, weird, queer, or whatever, as they say I am?

The old children’s rhyme that was supposed to help us cope with bullying should have gone: “Sticks and stones may break our bones, but hurtful words stick with us forever.”

I think people look at me today and think, “Oh, she’s a pretty, little blonde. She must have always been popular.”

But I wasn’t. I was a weird, Mormon girl who smoked a lot of pot. I read the The Harrod Experiment, Catcher in the Rye,  all the works of Carlos Castaneda, and, probably the book that had the most profound impact on me as a teenager, The Scarlet Letter.  Living with my own secret sexual shame not of my own making–all the while blaming myself for it–Hester Prynne was a personal hero to me. I can tell you with supreme confidence that if Hester Prynne is your personal hero in high school, you are definitely NOT one of the cool kids.

Tawny Kitaen sat at the Cool Kids’ Table in high school. Not me. I rarely sat with any of the kids. I had a 22-year old boyfriend who came and picked me up for lunch until I graduated early at 16 and got the hell out of there. I couldn’t function within the system, so I left it. That’s how I roll.

That nasty kid who bullied me on the sidewalk? He had nothing on my father. My father, bar none, was the biggest bully in my life.

When I was 16, my father held me up against a wall and screamed into my face all the things I secretly feared were true about me. One day maybe I’ll write about the horrible things he said, but for now it is enough to know that the things he said, said more about him than it ever will about me.

I also know this: I won’t ever be held up against any wall again. Not anywhere. And I won’t allow someone else’s opinion of me to shame me or dictate my own opinion about myself. But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that it is hard for me to do sometimes.

I’m thinking about this song by Meredith Brooks as I go about my day. May it inspire you to let go of what others think about you, or have ever said about you, and set you free on your own path of authenticity.


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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Brenda August 4, 2012 at 7:40 am

I had my shoes thrown at me by my neighbor friend in early elementary school. She was “done” playing with me that day and I still don’t know what precipitated it. But I clearly remember my shoes flying at me on her front walk on Orval Way.

In the sixth grade my female classmates teased me mercilessly about my large nose. It grew before my face caught up and I have “the Ray nose” from my Dad’s side. The thing that saved me was my Mom sitting me down on the side of her bed and offering to go get a job (she was a sahm) to pay for a nose job. She made me know that what they said didn’t matter but what I felt did. I walked out of her room, passed the picture of my Dad’s dad in his police uniform. There was “the nose.” And I realized, at the tender age of 11, that it would be unfair and awkward to explain to MY 11yo dd why I had a perfectly cute, small nose and she had her Great-Grandfather’s shnoz. So I told my Mom no thanks but got a whole lot stronger from the ordeal.

But I think I had a lack of estrogen in jr hi because I totally developed a “stuff it” attitude towards what other people thought about me. I was New Wave before everyone else. Lol

And now, in the year following my 40th birthday, my theme is “SO?” I unapologetically love my unbelieving husband, exercise on a stripper pole and go to rock concerts and ENJOY MYSELF.

You got a problem with that? 😉


Danny April 29, 2012 at 2:10 pm

Thank you for this post. I’ve encountered being bullied singled out and hated while I was making pretend that other ppl saw me in a good light as someone else. I started feeling anxious around everyone and felt inferior, always worried about being laughed at or verbally abused and embarassed. Boy was I wrong. I went through many self help books but it wasn’t until I came across this saying that really made me think of all the ways that it is true. I realized most ppl judge for the most ridiculous things that serve no benefit at all. Lately, I’ve been adopting this quote. And hope to continue.


Amalia October 2, 2011 at 4:51 am

My bully had an ironic name – Bambi McBee. Yes. Truly. And she was large. And she was scarey. And somehow, I, the tall, skinny cellist with glasses was supposed to meet her in the vacant lot after school for a knock-down-drag-out. I couldn’t not go, everyone informed me. I absolutely had to go. It was a matter of honor. I could not, for the life of me, figure that out. What the heck did honor have to do with letting a large 6th grader pound me into the ground? All the way there, I asked my friends why I had to be there, sick to my stomach. When I arrived, the ritual circle of children surrounded us, and she began to taunt me.
“I don’t have any reason to fight you,” I said. “I don’t really care what you think of me.”
“Fight, fight, fight…” the chant started around us.
She slapped me lightly on the nose. It was a dry New Mexico Fall, and I was already prone to nose-bleeds, so…floods away!
I punched her. I have a big brother.
She put her tree limb like hands to my arms and held them to my sides. My friends tried to get her to let me go by pounding on her arms.
Then Mrs. O’Quinn showed up. The band teacher. Our neighbor. My parents’ good friend. Sigh. We march to the principal’s office. He was out, and would have to see us the next day. Bambi suggested we get our stories straight, you know, so no one gets in trouble.
Bullies. God loves `em, too. Mine taught me plenty. But, for the life of me, I still can’t quite articulate what it was.
Amalia recently posted..The Guilt Trap: Escaping and Embracing the AbyssMy Profile


Chloe October 2, 2011 at 8:43 pm

lol. Yes, Amalia, bullies teach us something, but what exactly is it?


Cat von Hassel-Davies September 30, 2011 at 12:25 pm

I can relate in so many ways to your post. Instead it was my Mother and she did just about the same thing as your Dad. Only thing was, I was 16 and had enough of it, I turned around and put her up against the wall and told her to never, ever lay her hands on me ever again.
I was also bullied but didn’t tell anyone.

Thanks for sharing, it makes it easier somehow.

P.S. I completely agree that it is total bullshit that it makes one stronger.



Cheri Steele September 29, 2011 at 10:05 pm

I have bully memories too. Yuck. But I am thankful for the good memories that stuck too. It has emphasized the importance of speaking words that build up though.


Robin September 29, 2011 at 5:36 pm

I love that quote!! I saw it on a bumper sticker a few weeks ago and thought, “Now THAT is a bumper sticker I’d actually put on my car.” I wish I lived it regularly.

I dont’ mean I want to go around being obnoxious and shouting, “Deal wit it!” But I do want to confidently be ME and stop fretting about those folks in my life who don’t really want me to be ME but some contorted image of the Church Lady. They’re already disappointed and a little afraid…and I don’t care (much).
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Kristi September 29, 2011 at 1:28 pm

I can still remember, word for word, the unkind things that were said to me in junior high. Why can’t I remember all the encouraging things? Why do we replay those negative tapes, rather than all the great things people have said about us? No idea, but I don’t like it.

You may not think you’re brave, but everything I’ve seen in you in evidence to the contrary.


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:08 pm

I don’t know why those mean things stick with us and the good things slip away. That’s not right.

These wounds run deep for lots of people. Even after we’re grown we can continue to view ourselves through the eyes of the wounded child we once were. Overcoming those wounds is a challenge, maybe THE challenge of our lifetimes.


Magnolia September 29, 2011 at 11:34 am

I’m telling you……menopause will bring the tiger out of you. I never in a million years would have believed you had you told that I would have the audacity to say what I say freely today.

I would never have believed you if you had told me I would have the gall to march right into graduate school at 55 years of age and dare to stay there until I get my PhD at 60.

I would have laughed out loud had you told me I would have the cahones to negotiate with “the big boys” for the money I want for the work I do.

Middle-age and menopause is amazing.

And we’re ALL good at hiding things. 🙂
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Kristi September 29, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Oh, good, Magnolia! There are some things to look forward to!


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:14 pm

I can’t believe how much the decline of estrogen is affecting every single aspect of me. It is sort of amazing to think how much about us is hormones. I don’t feel like being uber-pleasing anymore, that’s for sure.


Magnolia September 30, 2011 at 2:48 pm

And isn’t it grand? 🙂 Now I know why older women just say what’s on their mind with no apologies whatsoever. It used to freak me out. Now I find it hysterically funny.

My mother is 80 years old. You wanna talk about someone saying what’s on their mind???? My sisters say that her edit button no longer works.

I say after 80 years, surviving WWII and Hitler’s Blitzkrieg, raising 4 kids and taking care of a disabled husband she’s due to speak her mind.
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Jamie September 29, 2011 at 11:29 am

I really wish I could convince my ex husband that bullying is NOT good for kids. “That’s one reason they should be in public school… toughen them up.” Please. Give me a break.

As for the song: I smiled remembering singing this song in my dad’s truck when I was just out of high school.


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

It really was eye-opening to me how many people thought that parents were doing their child wrong by homeschooling them and keeping them away from bullying. Maybe there are people who do benefit from it? I just don’t know. I don’t think the bullying I went through made me tougher. I was scared shitless. The boy did hit me a couple of times, but mostly it was taunts and threats. It was not a good thing.

I’m glad you liked the song. I like it too.


Julia September 29, 2011 at 11:23 am

I was beaten when we lived in Belgium by a schoolyard bully who screamed at me in French (I didn’t even understand her when she first started beating on me!) and who kicked me with her wooden clogs. I guess the verbal stuff didn’t stick completely (due to the language difference?), and the bruises have faded. I can still repeat some of what she said…hmmm.

I did learn how to be a chameleon in cultural settings….and there are multiple cultures even within the USA.

I think that some things that were said to us, whether through bullying as a child or through the office put-downs that are so reminiscent of high school, are like targeted weapons that find our weak spots. And it is our job to exercise our weak spots and protect our weak spots and (if possible) not react.

Be who you are. Be who you want to be. Be yourself — not the perfect homeschool mom or the perfect nurse or the perfect church lady. Those who really love you will love you even with bumps, bruises, and weak spots.

I do! 🙂


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I’ve found that honestly looking and evaluating whether the thing is true or not has been the best way to work through it. And then asking myself, is this something I can change or not. Some things a person can change and other things they can’t or they won’t be who they are anymore. Knowing the one from the other and learning to have peace with the things one cannot change is the road to peace with oneself, huh?


CJ aka Shorty September 29, 2011 at 10:46 am

Bravo- well said! I still deal with the same issues- I was the recipient of some intense bullying in middle school; but even more pervasive was the invisibility cloak I learned to wrap around myself. Like how to blend in enough to never stand out- to never be noticed… I was very good at it. At 17 I dated a 27 year old MAN- yikes- and, bless her heart- Mom let me. Dad had died earlier that year – he would NOT have allowed that. But I made my own path, and it took years to find real friends- and they are mostly other homeschool moms- moms who ‘get it’ that life is relationships, not grades and class standing and artificial measurements. Real women- like you. Thanks, my friend.


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:27 pm

I’m so glad you found my blog and I get to chat with you. My parents didn’t allow my romance, and as terrible as it sounds, that guy helped save me in many ways. I escaped from my parents and also made my own path. It’s been windy, but it has been a good one. I have also found that the quality of life one lives is found in the depth of the relationships one has.


CJ aka Shorty September 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

Ditto that- I enjoy our chats! I also think my ‘inappropriate’ relationship saved me from what may well have been worse decisions. By being consumed in my relationship with him I avoided what may well have been worse…nonetheless, it was what it was and I am who I am. And to Diana, who put bubblegum in my hair is 7th grade, and to Wendy, who upon achieving popularity pretended she never knew me ( yes, I remember it all) God on his Throne loves me- even ME!- and nothing I do will ever change that! Hallalaujah! And he loves Diana and Wendy too, darn it all but he does!


Chloe September 30, 2011 at 7:35 am

It is good for me to remember that often the darkest times have led to the brightest. It is hard to remember that when you’re feeling your way around and slamming your toe into the proverbial coffee table.


Susan in the Boonies September 29, 2011 at 10:37 am

I do care what people think about me, if/when I happen to run into hearing about it.

But, then, ultimately, I am who I am.

And while I hope I will continue to grow in this life, the likelihood is that who I am is not going to change all that much, fundamentally.

Yes, indeed, I am a bundle of contradictions.

I feel sad about certain qualities in me that I don’t think are particularly admirable, but I also recognize that they are not ALL that I am: there’s good stuff in there, too.

So, I try to not dwell on any shame that may crop up inside of me from time to time. After all, Jesus paid already paid the price for my sin – I’ve been forgiven.

I sort of liked that song, and sort of didn’t, for that reason (the line about how she would not feel ashamed). Sometimes I think the world would be better off if more people felt a little shame in regard to their bad behavior.
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Chloe September 29, 2011 at 4:28 pm

I think there is a difference between guilt over wrong-doing and being ashamed of who one is. The first can be productive to change behavior, but the second has only ever led me to depression and self-loathing.


Wendy (RRR) September 29, 2011 at 10:18 am

I was bullied too, mostly in my middle school years, at school and in my boonie neighborhood. I get what you are saying here. I wonder if those “Automatic Negative Thoughts” I have are the voices of the bullies. Did I believe them? Do I believe I’m not good enough? hmmm…


Chloe September 29, 2011 at 10:27 am

I think this is the crux of the matter. How much do those voices influence how we feel about ourselves today? What choices do we make based on faulty information we took in as a child?

Information taken in during emotional distress is powerful. Fear is powerful. If someone says something to us while we’re in a heightened state of fear, that something is more likely to impact us and for a long, long time. I’m just figuring it out now how much, and for how long.


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