I used to be the queen of talking smack and I didn't even realize it. My shit talking reached its peak my senior year of college. I never intentionally meant to talk shit but I would start every conversation with friends saying "give me the gossip," thinking that I was using the phrase endearingly. I usually worked it into a conversation with a friend that I hadn't seen or talked to in a while in hopes that they had at least one juicy story about someone else that they could share with me.
But I wasn't using this tactic in the friendly and nonchalant manner that I thought I intended. I may have seemed aloof and casual but I was unconsciously hanging on to their every word, dying to hear a story that would make my life feel less pathetic. Maybe one of our friends broke up with her long-time boyfriend or was failing a class. I wanted anything to make me feel momentarily better about myself.
I graduated from college and the years came and went, but I still obsessed over other people's lives. Then one day I asked myself, why did I give a shit? Why was I so obsessed with seeing other people torn down? Why was I obsessing over other people's lives that had no direct bearing on my own? The truth finally struck me like a slap in the face: I was unhappy in my own life and expected others to be miserable with me.
What brought me to the realization that I was a judgmental asshole? An Instagram black hole. Since the universe pretty much revolves around Instagram, I'm okay with admitting that I spent most of my free time scrolling and scrolling through people's posts. One day I opened Instagram and found my new self-proclaimed arch nemesis: The new girlfriend of my college boyfriend.
I remember taking a screenshot of one of her pictures on Instagram and sending it to my college roommate saying, "OMG, poor guy! He definitely downgraded!" I sent her the photo with the absolute hope that she'd send me back a text tearing the girl down, which is exactly what she did. Our text conversation gave me the validation that I thought I needed and that I thought I was entitled. But why? For being his ex-girlfriend? Or for some other crazy insecure ex-girlfriend reason?
A few weeks later when I was deleting pictures from my camera roll, because I never seem to have enough storage, I came across the screenshot photo. Seeing her face in my camera roll along with photos of my friends and family, she looked as if she was one of my friends, as though she belonged in my world. I had finally noticed the new girlfriend and her beauty for who she was and not as the ugly villain I cast her in my mind. I realized that the hatred I felt for her stemmed from my own hatred towards myself and from my own insecurities. Instead of confronting myself with the truth that I was unhappy with certain aspects of my life, I had lashed out onto someone who couldn't defend herself. She had no idea that I was judging her. Talking about her gave me momentarily pleasure, but it didn't last long. It never does when you're needy and insecure.
The realization was another one that hit me hard. I had broken up with my stable college boyfriend because I wanted to meet new men, date casually, and have men obsess over me. After our four-year relationship, I assumed that I would have men lining up outside my door just dying to date me. I didn't think I'd be single long. Yet years went by and the roles I imagined were reversed. My ex looked like he was in a healthy and loving relationship. I, on the other hand, had just gone on what I told myself was my last Tinder date and was back to square one in the dating department- very single with no eligible bachelors.
The sad (but also kind of funny thing) about this story is that I truly never thought I was a miserable person. I had always thought of myself as a happy and confident woman. I assumed that when I walked into a room, I always had a smile on my face and only had nice things to say. But now I realize that although I didn't go out of my way to make people miserable with me, I never wanted others to be happy, probably for the simple reason that I wasn't happy in my own life. I didn't think that I deserved happiness or that I would receive happiness in my life. But now I know I do, and that we all do.
The more you talk shit about someone and obsess about them the more negative and hateful your thoughts become. Negative thoughts attract negative thoughts. Talking about someone behind their back and tearing them down doesn't affect their lives. It doesn't make bad things happen to them. It all happens to you. Since I have become aware of my shit talking, I can't help but notice that it is all around me. From family gossip to work gossip, we all seem to feed off of it. It becomes a vicious cycle as if we want no one to get ahead or be successful. Tearing someone down for something they said or did is pointless.
Now that I know how quickly and easily I can shit talk and judge, I try to pause before I respond to someone's questions and try not to judge them on something they said or did. When I hear other people talk shit, especially my friends, I try to steer the conversation towards something positive. If they insist on keeping the conversation alive I now have no problem telling them that I don't feel comfortable talking about it. Shit talking feeds shit talking. If you cut out the source, it cuts off the conversation.
Even though I have reduced my shit talking tremendously, it occasionally does creep to the surface. This usually happens when alcohol is involved to fuel the fire. But now I can tell when I am being judgmental and I am able to stop myself in my tracks and tell myself to knock it off. I am no better than anyone else on this planet. We are all just trying to get through the day and live our lives. Cutting out something as petty and childish as shit talking has lifted so much weight off of my shoulders. It allows me to stop obsessing about all the trivial shit in my life and focus on what's important and what makes me happy.
I now have more time to focus on the people and things I do love in this world. I have more time and energy to better myself, and I know that you will too.