What maturity (and the internet) have taught me

I have always said that aging has its benefits, although some people may not realize that. Yeah, aging can bring gray hair, wrinkles, weight gain, and a memory that it is not so strong anymore, but, at the same time, aging brings us something unique and precious: maturity. And maturity, for me, means wisdom. “If we had the power to go back in time, no one would ever commit mistakes,” that’s what I told a friend of mine some days ago when she was questioning herself about a decision she had made in the past. I told her she had taken the best decision she could knowing what she had known at that time. And realizing that, is also part of being mature. We just know what we know, and our decisions are the best at the moment we make them – because we don’t know the future. 

Maturity makes you realize this. It helps you to accept things that you can’t change – like your past – and also to be kind with your past self.  Yeah, it is hard not to judge yourself, but it is like they say: you learn something from your mistakes. That’s the beauty of being alive. You know you are evolving when you actually learn from the “wrong” decisions you have taken. We could call them “regrets,” but regrets is a strong word.

I have had a lot of failures in my life. I believe one of the biggest ones has been – and, sometimes, still is – caring a lot about what other people think about me. I have always given value to my family and friends’ advice.   But I don’t know exactly why, I’ve always cared a lot about what other people thought about me too – people that are not necessarily my friends or close to me. This tendency just got worse when I started to create content on the internet. 

One thing that you should know about me is that I’m a very practical person. Maybe for Americans this is not hard to understand, but Brazilians are used to being too kind to say something. See, I’m not rude – my parents have always taught me how to be polite and treat people well, but, unfortunately, women like me are usually seen as aggressive. For a long time, I have had to read nasty comments about me – saying that I was “too rude.“ People have just expected me to be very delicate, always excusing myself and, when I haven’t behaved the way they want, they call me rude. I can’t remember how many times I have cried and blamed myself and, the worst part: I have tried to be someone that I’m not. Luckly, after many years doing therapy, I’ve realized that I don’t have to change my personality to please people that don’t even know me. And also, that I will never please everyone, so, isn’t it just easier to live my way? 

I treat people with respect – and I expect to be treated the same way. I never see men trying too hard in order to please someone. What people call “rude” in women’s behavior is just “normal” for men. So, the problem is not the behavior – it is what people expect from women. Another thing that I’ve realized, especially on the internet, is that what a stranger thinks about me doesn’t turn me into what they think I am. I know who I am. And I also know that people will love me for one reason, and other people will hate me for the same reason. So, why try to be someone who pleases everyone and forgets about themself? 

Because I am aware of this classic behavior – people saying nasty things about women and applauding men – it has been easy for me to identify when someone is acting like this. Another day, a guy wrote something in caps and when I answered him and I didn’t try to sound cute, he told me that I was rude with my audience and I needed to calm down. See, this guy left a comment in caps, super impolite and then, when I answered him, I was the bad girl. I just hate when people ask me to calm down when I’m not angry. People can not just confuse anger with assertiveness. A different time, someone with a fake profile came out of nowhere and started to write bad things about me. One of the things was, “I don’t know how your husband can stand you.” See? Another day, another sexist comment, another person trying to make women feel bad. 

After this comment, I couldn’t help but think: why was this person even following me? She mentioned things from 6 months before and she really hated me. Why do you keep following someone that you don’t like? Well, after 6 years doing therapy, I’m sure that if I bother this person so much, it is because she cares a lot. It is because, deep in her heart, she is jealous. It is about her. When you really don’t care, you don’t waste your time. 

Another thing that I thought about this episode was how people don’t realize their own cowardice. Using a fake profile, no real names, no real pictures, to say nasty things to someone doesn’t make you a badass. It is really the opposite. Hiding on the internet to offend people is easy – what is really hard is dealing with your own failures and flaws. You can’t do that, so you throw those things onto other people on the internet. How sad. And she even said that she could say whatever she wanted just because I have a public profile. Oh well, I’m not gonna even start talking about boundaries and respect. Do I need to say that having a public profile doesn’t give the people the right to write whatever they want? 

Last, but not least, I couldn’t stop thinking about the “I don’t know how your husband stands you” comment. Again, people put men on a pedestal. Like he’s the angel, I’m the devil. Like he’s doing me a favor. Like because you hate me, he should hate me too. I could be in a toxic relationship and he could be an abusive man. But people think they know better because they follow you on the internet. For the record: he is not. However, he stands me the same way I stand him, with our flaws and best qualities. 

People often tell me that I should not waste my time with these comments. That I shouldn’t care. I don’t care.  Most of the time, it doesn’t affect me. I use these comments as social experiments and I like to analyze how people behave on the internet. At the same time, I feel that we are always excusing these behaviors and I get angry about this, because it is just not fair. That’s what pisses me off. It is not about the words. It is about the audacity. They are so audacious that they even threaten you: I’m unfollowing you (because you are not acting the way I want you to act). 

Well, guess what. Social media is not an airport, so we don’t have to announce our departures. Let’s just focus on following people that make us feel good. And if you keep following someone that just annoys you, you must be a masochist or you need therapy. Let it go. 

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