The courage to be disliked


So, one reason I was fearful of starting feminizing hormone treatment was that I've always been ashamed of my weight. In retrospect, there was probably some body dysmorphia in there, but it's kind of unproductive to read gender dysphoria into one's past. I didn't like my weight. I lost 110 pounds a few years ago, mostly through calory counting, and when it was done, I still didn't like my body! I still had a belly! I still felt fat!

In the last four years, I've regained about 40 pounds, going up to 260, and it's made me kind of sad. I'd heard that when you start hormone treatment, you often gain weight, or at least it becomes much harder to lose weight.

That hasn't proven to be the case for me. I'm not on estrogen, because of my blood clot, but I'm still taking spironolactone, which suppresses testosterone production, and it's been great. My libido is down, but still healthy. I haven't detected many physical changes, but my appetite is way, way down. Like, I am hardly ever hungry. It is insane. I eat lunch....and then I don't eat again until dinner! And then I eat dinner, and maybe I eat a snack later...but maybe I don't!!!! I've never experienced anything like this. I mean it's very early, so it's hard to tell what the long-term effects will be, but so far I've been losing weight, simply because I haven't felt the urge to eat. I think my metabolism is down, but my hunger is down even more. Long story short, I'm down to 245. I also, totally indepndently, hate my body slightly less! Mostly just feel less dysphoric. Miss being on estrogen though, which was doing good things. But I talked to my doctor (who is trans herself), and there are some options for getting me back on, so whatever.

It's hard to be me, clearly.

I like self-help books, and I like to do self-helpy things, but I am wary of writing about them, beecause self-help blogs are always so full of improvement, but the person is never like, "I did it! I am better now!"

Self-help does run its course. For a long time, I had all kinds of tricks to write more. I don't do that now. I don't monitor my word counts or anything. I write a lot. It's become a habit.

Anyway, that's not important. When it comes to the emotions, I sometimes wonder if the best advice isn't to just suffer. I mean, it sometimes feels like all this self-help stuff is just another way of torturing ourselves. Going to therapy, meditating, being grateful, etc, it just creates and exacerbates a cycle of shame ("Why am I not better? Shouldn't I be better? Why am I not working harder at not being depressed!") These aren't solutions to suffering; they're merely a form that suffering takes.

It's like writer's block. When you're blocked, there are all these exercises you can try, but that stuff just constitutes another way of being blocked. You just do that stuff, or don't do it, or go to therapy, or start something or try something else, and eventually you're not blocked anymore. But where's the causality? Maybe if you'd just not worried about it for a year or two, it would be the same. But trying not to worry is itself a form of suffering!

So the point is that I like self-help, but I don't expect too much from it. I've recently read a raft of these books about how to love yourself and feel less perfectionism. The two best were The Subtle Art of Not Giving A Fxck and The Courage To Be Disliked. The later in particular was great! It had that quality that all great self-help books have, where for twelve hours you feel like you've solved all your problems! But then reality comes back.

Anyways, this book, The Courage To Be Disliked, is structured as a dialogue, between a philosopher and a quarrelsome young man who comes to dispute his teachings. They're both pretty lovable characters, and it was enjoyable even as just a story. I was sad when it ended.

But the philosopher is all like, "What people want, ultimately, is to feel like they're useful to other people. But they get all worked up and demand recognition from people in order to convince themselves that they're useful, whereas if they just knew they were useful, then they wouldn't need recognition, and they could be happy in themselves."

I found it very convincing! I wondered how I am useful to other people. I think a lot of people, particularly marginalized people, derive a feeling of usefulness from the idea that these voices, these stories, aren't represented in the popular culture. I don't know...somehow that doesn't do it for me. I just feel like, well, I have a unique voice, I guess, but if I don't write something, somebody else will. Or no, not that, I don't know. It just feels very off for me to be like, "My fiction helps people!"

Maybe it does. Probably does, in fact. Certainly my stories are really different from the YA norm, and there is some small number of people who respond well to that.

But I think what gives me more meaning is this blog, to be honest. I feel as if the writing world has so much falseness out there. So much posturing. So many status games. I like aspiring writers. I mean, I often don't like their work, but I like that they are such dreamers. The artistic world is a bit harsh towards dreamers. We don't trust them. You're supposed to check all the boxes. You're not supposed to come in from the outside. But I just think it's nice that in our field, a person with no connections, no background, no publication history, can still maybe have an impact. It's really beautiful and sustaining.

I think because I believe that newcomers genuinely have a chance, and that they may have something to offer, that I don't peddle myths. Like, yeah, you are not gonna be able to sell a book to a major publisher if you don't have comp titles (other recent books with similar content, style and themes that have been commercial successes). I know we have a lot invested in that not being true, but why bullshit people? Or when I used to talk to potential MFA candidates, I'd be like, "This is a great program, but it's also pretty austere. You won't get a lot of mentorship from your professors outside of class." I'm similarly honest when people ask me about my various agents or publishers. I understand why people try to softpedal, but I'm not sure they understand peoples' lives are at stake (it's for this reason a friend became convinced that I am the YA call-out account @YAWhispers. I'm NOT, but I wish I was).

If life is about being useful to people, that's where I find the most use. Which begs the question: why write fiction at all? I don't know. The truth is that the impact I can make on peoples' lives with a novel is probably less than that I can with an honest blog (just because the latter is so rare). But obviously all of my writing is of a piece, and it all partakes of a similar worldview. But still...the fiction isn't that high-impact.

Oh well! I don't know! I just like it! Writing fiction is a fun and harmless way of occupying oneself. Not every question in life can be answered by referring to the teachings of a Japanese self-help book.

woman showing paper with prohibition sign
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2 thoughts on “The courage to be disliked

  1. Meiko

    Just delurking to say that I do like the honesty of your blog! I agree that it’s very refreshing, and unfortunately, as you say, very rare nowadays.

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