I know, this sounds like bad news. But there’s also good news- just because you’re most likely the bad guy in someone else’s world, doesn’t mean you’re an inherently bad person. Which probably sounds self-explanatory to some, but for an empath like myself, it took me years to understand this.
I’ve been thinking about this unspoken reality for the last couple of weeks, since seeing a quote that more or less summarized this idea on Instagram. As someone who has gained (but also lost) a few friendships in 2020, I think it was a reminder that I really needed to hear. Because yes, we are all going to make mistakes at some point in our lives or make a personal choice that may not make the people around us happy. However, it’s important to realize that our mistakes do not define us and other peoples’ opinions of us do not paint a full picture of who we are, either. We are complicated beings and we are never going to please everyone.
I’m not the sort of person who likes to throw around dirty laundry or dig up old drama, but I did want to talk ambiguously about how I am almost definitely the “bad guy” in other peoples’ lives and how that has had an impact on me throughout my entire adult life. The story I want to tell you happened about seven months ago, when I was single and enjoying casual dating/dates, and spending most of my senior year of college just enjoying my final months with my close circle of friends. In short, here’s what happened last February: one of my good friends expressed that she found a guy at our school attractive, and shortly after, I started dating him. She was hurt and felt as though I had betrayed her trust. I was at fault for not telling her I had been seeing him casually, and that we were falling in love/going to start dating. If I had been in her situation, I probably would have been hurt and upset as well. Our friendship ended up falling apart, and since then, I have definitely become the villain in her story.
Although it was an all-around shitty situation for everyone (including me, even though I got the happy resolution of being with my wonderful boyfriend), I was very upset with the way this person decided to paint from that time forward (and how I began to feel confused about my own identity or morality). Like I said, I was now the villain and the shitty friend. I was the person who clearly lacked clear judgment and empathy. But what bothered me the most was the fact that I knew I was not that person. I am a good person, with strong empathy and a good sense of judgment, who made one mistake. And from this point on, whoever she chose to tell this story to, they would instantly judge me without even knowing me or hearing my side of the story. They would never know that this was a friendship I had to grieve for a long, long time, one that I truly felt remorse and pain for how things had panned out. And maybe that’s okay, because it’s not my version of the story to tell. I recognize that I am not a perfect person, but I am also just a person. I am also not going to allow other people to change my internal view of myself, and I am not going to push a narrative onto myself that I am inherently “bad” for my missteps. And neither should you.
Going through something like that and losing more friendships along the way has caused me to harbor less judgment for others, because I’m starting to think about the world in an external way rather than a narrative that the world is centric around my own existence. I know what it’s like to have people hate you when they don’t even know you and know what you are (and were) going through in that situation, and I think that’s something we need to remember when we are making assumptions about others. You don’t know what the second side of the story is unless you’re a part of it. People are free to believe whatever they want about you and your choices, but try not to be too hard on yourself if you know within yourself that your story is being mistold. You may be the villain in someone else’s story, but that doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about being your own hero when you need to for your own mental health and wellness. After all, at the end of the day, you’re the lead role of your own life.