The Super Power Inside
By: Rasa Puzinaite
After almost half a year of working with and retooling this piece, I’ve finally figured out how to write it. After writing my previous article about shame, I wanted to write about self-victimization, but I really struggled to finish this piece. As time went on, I began to realize two things: that digging into one heavy topic after another was a hefty undertaking, and that I was not ready to talk about self-victimization while I was doing it myself. Once I started to really examine and break out of my own destructive way of thinking, I was able to take on the topic from a different perspective and, in the process, found out that I have a superpower.
This summer, I started a summer language program and met a bunch of new people. Every conversation began with introductions. These followed a pretty standard list of topics, such as why I was studying the new language, where I’d studied at university, where I’m from, and so on. My answers were:
“I’m Rasa, I come from Lithuania. At the moment, I live in Berlin, and I’m doing my second Master’s.”
“Your second Master’s?”
“Why do you need a second one?”
Then I would list the reasons why. After doing so for the tenth time, with people still wondering why and suggesting that it would be wiser to make a decision about a career path because, ya know, time is ticking away, I fell into an uncertainty about my choices and almost had an existential crisis. Luckily, this time, I was simply too tired and stressed out with my language learning to fall into this hole entirely. From my past experiences, I knew very well that going all the way down and back up again takes a serious amount of energy-- energy I was already sorely lacking in.
I knew I needed to change my thinking or I’d find myself struggling with the same self-defeating thoughts I’d had so many other times. In the past, I’d had people close to me call me out on my self-victimization, asking, "Are you sure you’re not victimizing yourself right now?" Most of the time I would say, “No, I’m not. Don't you see how I feel?,” but after calming down, I would eventually realize that, perhaps, I had, in fact, been doing just that. After several experiences like this, I became more and more conscious of my reactions and feelings. I accepted them, yet asked myself if they were really accurate, and if I didn’t think so, I worked to stop the chain of destructive thoughts. Usually such thoughts involved thinking or talking about how other people were unfair to me, how they hurt me, that their actions were purposely done against me, and so on. In reality though, it seems that other people just do what they do and it’s me who reacts to them in a certain way.
So, when it came to my summer school classmates, I took a different direction and told myself, “Okay, these people are not my enemies. They’re just nice people who react to my choices, and if those reactions make me feel confused, it means that some part of me isn’t sure about what I’m doing with my life.” After classes were over one day, I took a long walk in the park near the summer school. I found a bench in a beautiful and quiet place and took my journal out. I wrote down the questions that I was being asked and that made me feel uncomfortable. This time, I answered them for myself and was completely honest. The reasons I came up with were half logical and half coming from my insecurities, but I had the feeling that I was on the right track with my thinking. Studying and learning overall makes me happy. I figured that this is a good enough reason for me to continue doing it, whether or not others understand it, accept or like it. Finding the certainty within myself made it easier to leave other people's opinions to themselves.
Perhaps, as with this summer school, it’s not crucial for my career, but it might present me with a situation in which I can confront and deal with my self-victimization, or any other part of myself. Perhaps I like education because of the way it challenges me to think about myself and my life. That’s much more important to me than being logical all the time. I know it’s still a long way to mastering how I think about myself in relation to others’ opinions of me but now I have the confidence in myself and a tool with which to handle this issue. I feel more prepared to handle my own self-victimization.
It is my own uncertainties, insecurities, lack of self-confidence, and acknowledgment of others that get triggered and come out into the light to defend themselves. These things come out, not to hurt us more, but rather to teach us a lesson about ourselves and our thinking patterns, so that our lives can be easier, happier, and freer. In retrospect, I came away with many gifts from this language program, but the most important one is the realization that I actually have a superpower, and so do you. The superpower is the freedom to make my own decisions and choices of how to react (or not) to the environment. I am getting better and better everyday in learning how to use it.