How many times in your life have you experienced rejection? How many times have you felt little in front of people that you met? Why did you feel little in the first place? Why are you letting other people affect your mood when they don’t see your great potential? What should you do when people act in ways that imply you are not good enough? I am far away from being a self-help guru or any sort of personal couch, but I recently had a negative experience that affected my emotions and the way I felt within me, that’s why I decided to share it with you, hoping you can cope better with your feelings and the people who can look and treat you as an outsider, outlier or as an inferior.
I come from Latin America and I have been living around two years in Oslo, making Norwegian friends is not easy. Our culture, to put it bluntly, is way too different (perhaps Latinos are too extroverted). Even dough the newspapers can say very good things about his country, every foreign have to address that even if in the official speech Norway is an inclusive country, where all nationalities are “fit in”, reality is that we don’t and to be integrated there is still a long way to go.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet up with three Norwegian women, this was the first encounter and I was happy to meet new people. When first interacted, I immediately felt out of place, an awkward sensation telling me I was out of place, not belonging. To punt it boldly –they looked at me in a sort of “mean & cruel” way– my ethnicity, my looks was (and still is) very different from the nordic type. I felt racism towards my appearance, as if having brown skin and black hair was a sort of negative feature, a qualification I lacked.
So there I was, politely smiling and taking the disparaged look of the less humans, if humans at all. While interacting, I remembered my highschool years when the popular kids were mean to the less approved and favored children. Funny as it seems, that’s the way the interaction with these three women felt for me at the time.
Truth to be told –When feeling the racism toward me, I decided to step aside, took some distance from my judgment and ignored the unpleasant sensation. I went in and took part of the conversation, –get to know them before making any judgment–. Maybe it was the negative social stereotypes projecting into myself, after all I’ve been white-washed since I was born.
After around one hour, the situation was almost the same, there was still tension between us (taking in consideration that Norwegian people aren’t great at socializing), we could not really communicate. I felt excluded and several times they just saw me in a way that I had to admit -they were looking down on me.
I couldn’t ignore the situation any more, the interaction was tense and I felt rejected, as if they preferred me not to be there, period. I excused myself and went to the bathroom/loo, I was trying to cope but I felt like a building crumbling, still I refused to pity myself. Instead I looked at my reflex in the mirror. I have a little baby girl and I never ever I’d like her to feel little, unimportant, worthless, inferior, less of, not good enough –you name it. I looked back again to the mirror, there it was, my reflex, I could see my imperfections and defects, but that wasn’t going to stop me. No one can break me unless I do, racismo, sexism, speciesism, clasism, elititsm, homophopia, malechauvnisim & many other -ism will exist. Total eradication of those maladies are impossible, in a free world, people decide what to think, believe, say and do. I will keep my head up, for all of those who were once the underdogs and felt betrayed by their own family, friends, community & society.
Keep my heap up, following the example of those who never allowed themselves to be totally defined by their time and the cruelness they faced. People like Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, Rigoberta Menchú & Carlos Monsivaís, all those who never gave up and kept their value no matter what. That is the people I look up to, that kind of individual I want my daughter to become: a strong, confident, resilient, hardworking & beautiful woman, that one day she will become. We all lead by example, my words are empty if I don’t do what I preach.
When I finally decided to leave the place, because I was the first one to go, just a few steps away I started feeling bad about myself and internalized the feeling of inferiority, thinking –I am not good enough and I don’t belong–, but rapidly I caught up myself in the negative self-talk act and slowly, bit by bit started to let those thoughts go. I reminded myself –I need to walk the talk. Emotionally injured, with my energy low and feeling like nothing, still I kept my head up, for me, for my daughter, for those who sometimes still struggle and face rejection.
Still, I had two or three days feeling belittled, and having an internal battle about my value, I understood that I let them influence me and move my beliefs about my own worth. To be honest, I don’t think they are not to blame, their ignorance, their racism and their mean behavior is something that didn’t allow them to see me more than a foreign with little or no value, they didn’t appreciate my human side, we all deserve to be treated with respect, but unluckily they didn’t know any better.
I came to reflect, -some people will be racist and exclude others, some not, some individuals in one way or another will look down on you, BUT you should never take them seriously, you are the one that establishes your value and your worth. Never ever allow others to measure your potential or compare you against anyone, listen to me, -NEVER.
If in a job interview or socializing with locals you find yourself in a similar situation, just mentally repeat -I am the one that decides how much I’m worth, I won’t let anyone dictate how I should think or feel about myself. Repeat it as many times as you like because it is true.
It is okay to feel bad sometimes but always move on and keep it up, socialize, talk to others, send that C.V again, show up for that interview, smile even in the toughest circumstances, persevere and be sure you will make it (you are putting in the work, it is not wishful thinking). You don’t have to be accepted or approved by others who don’t even know you, -by the way! Again and again: stand up, look at your target and keep working, know that you will make it. Thrive and conquer, you are marvelous, simple as that.
Remember Nietzsche’s words: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, -and you will be immortal!!