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The Complement and the Truth

Sometimes you just gotta hear it, friend.

By Rachel EstepPublished 6 years ago 5 min read

I have a confession to make. Sometimes, when I'm sad, and I mean really really sad, I get on tumblr and I send myself anonymous messages of positivity. I'm not proud of it. If you aren't familiar with Tumblr as a website, or the way Tumblr works, than this may not make a lot of sense. Specifically, this is something that comes about a lot in the Tumblr roleplay community. Yes, I'm that dweeb. Judge me all you want, friends. In the RPC (roleplay community) something that happens a lot, is that people send each other messages of positivity. Usually along the lines of "Hey, you're super sweet and I love writing with you" or "Hey, just a reminder that you're awesome!" You know, nothing majorly important but a little message the brightens someone's day. Maybe it doesn't seem like much, but there's something to be said for logging on after a long day and getting a little self esteem boost that someone out there thinks you're cool or talented or whatever the compliment may be.

Let's not pretend we don't all love when people stroke our egos.

So a few weeks ago, I had a big fight with my husband. Big, big fight. And earlier that day, I opened a bill that I didn't expect and realized that I wasn't entirely sure how I was going to both pay it and buy diapers. Also, that morning I drank spoiled milk and when dumping it out, noticed that a dish had fallen in the crevice between my sink and the wall and gone unnoticed, and now there were bugs on it. Guys, I was having a very bad day. Did any of you read the book Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day as kids? That was me. I was Alexander.

So I put on my jammies and I crawled into bed and I opened my laptop and I posted on Tumblr. "Hey guys, I could use some extra positivity tonight." You know what happened? I got one message. Just one. At the same time, someone else who I follow was posting a ton of messages she had gotten from people that I consider friends. People I thought would message me. And in the moment, that felt like a kick in the teeth. So I went to a friend and I cried about it for like a minute. And then she posted on her page "Send positivity here!" and my Url. Nothing came. At first. And then a few minutes later I received eight messages. They were all from her. They talked about what a good friend I am and how much she adores me. They talked about how much fun it is to write with my characters and how talented I am as a writer. They were very sweet. Don't get me wrong, I loved them, and I love her, but I still couldn't stop thinking, "Why doesn't anyone else send me anything?"

So I went to a different tab, and I went to my own blog, and I hit the anonymous message blog. In my own inbox, I thought of all the things I wished someone else would say to me and I typed them, and I hit send. I never posted the message, but I keep it in my inbox still.

It was only a few days later that I realized what a mess that whole situation was. How...excuse my harshness, pathetic. And I don't mean that in a self pitying "I'm pathetic" sort of way. What I mean is, why did I feel like I needed kind words from people who are, for all intents and purposes, strangers, just to make it through my evening? Is there not something fundamentally wrong with that concept? I'm a grown woman with a husband and a son and two parents and best friends and a brother and-- the list could go on. I'm a person. I'm a person who has people. I want to be more clear about this, because I think it's important. I am a people's person. I have never ran solo. I have my tribe of women, and they have been with me forever. I mean that. At this point, they've been around most my life. Sarah, my most recent addition to my tribe, has been around for nine years. So I mean, I have some pretty solid relationships. Yet here I was, feeling down and looking for condolences from people who don't even know my last name instead of picking up the phone. Why?

Judgement. Or more specifically, the fear of it. Truth, and the fear of that too. Because I know that if I call Sarah and tell her that Curtis and I fought, she might just say "Rachel, you're out of line." If I call Noelle and cry about my bills she's going to say "You need to go back to work."The truth was, I didn't want to hear the truth, so I was searching for surface level kindness from people on a social media platform that's less personal than Facebook or Twitter. I didn't want to be told to wash my face. I just wanted to be told I was pretty. Sorry past Rachel, that ain't the way the world works.

I'm not saying that positive messages on Tumblr aren't good. They are. Like I said, those tiny little messages can really kick up someone's mood. What I'm saying is, they shouldn't be seen as a tool to use to make yourself feel better. They can be the icing, but they are not the cake. Your family, your friends, the truth, all that has to be the cake. A nice little message on Tumblr? That's extra.

You know what else I realized, when thinking back on it? I could not remember the last time that I myself sent out any of those little messages. So here I am expecting people to send me nice things. To go out of their way to be nice to me, when I have said and done absolutely nothing lately to deserve it. I sent out like 10 messages that day to make myself feel better and you know what? It worked. I was proud of myself for being nice to people. Positive thoughts breed positive feelings.

I keep that message I sent myself in my inbox and I look at it almost everyday. I read the things I said to myself as if I was someone else, and I smile and feel a little bit happier. It, along with the ones I received from my friend that day, say "Hey, you're a great writer!"

And then someone texts me and says "I want to read your next article, you need to stop stalling and write it."The compliment vs. The truth. Compliments are awesome, but sitting around and waiting for them and crying when they don't come? That isn't accomplishing anything. You need people to kick you in the ass and tell you the truth sometimes. That's why friends exist in the first place. Don't beg for approval and praise from people who don't know you and miss an opportunity to hear reason from people who do. In the long run, being told I might need to go back to work made me start looking for a job. I'll get a job, my bill will get paid AND I'll buy diapers. That issue that was such a big deal will be solved. If I had just looked to Tumblr for someone to say a nice thing, I would probably still be crying about 236.64.

Sometimes, it's nice to hear that you're pretty. But Sometimes? You really need to drag a brush through your hair and get a handle on your life.

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    Rachel EstepWritten by Rachel Estep

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