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Toxic Beliefs I Unlearned in 2018, Part 2

Toxic Beliefs I Unlearned in 2018, Part 2

Man with long brown hair in striped romper sitting on top of a pile of chains

Note: I was reviewing my 2018 New Year’s resolutions when I realized that my scores did not tell the full story of how far I’ve come in the past year. This is the second half of a more personal, holistic reflection of what I’ve learned in 2018. You can read the first half here.

I also unlearned a lot regarding love, wellness, and human nature.

It was not easy to do a system update on my mind when it came to these things especially. I’m really good at intellectualizing tough situations and negative emotions; experiencing them is a whole other game. [1]

Nevertheless, this year I went all in. And I will say — digging through my subconscious for all those buried, traumatic childhood memories that formed a lot of my toxic beliefs in the first place, pushing through the things that triggered me over and over again, and actually feeling my feelings was a real trip.

A special acknowledgement goes to my boyfriend, who is an advocate of vulnerability, Feelings™, and emotional intelligence. Without his support, I’d probably still be like “ew! Feelings!”. He played a large part in all the unlearning and I’m super grateful to have him in my life.

Here’s the second part of the toxic beliefs I unlearned in 2018. Enjoy!

On relationships and love

Toxic belief: I can’t be myself in a relationship

I used to believe that I couldn’t be myself when it came to romantically being with another person. This is rooted in a lot of other nasty beliefs regarding gender roles and the traditional femininity that was shoved down my throat growing up.

I used to hide so many parts of myself from my love interests — my audacity, my love of critical thinking and knowledge seeking, my distaste for traditional gender roles in society. Not only did this keep any true intimacy from developing (how could you have intimacy, which flourishes under authenticity and vulnerability, when you’re concealing fundamental parts of your identity?), but it also made me one bland-ass motherfucker.

This year I learned that presenting myself as I really am — dirty jokes, immature commentary, bad dancing and all — is way more fulfilling in the long run than pretending to live up to some sort of ideal. Plus, at the end of the day, your partner is there for you as a person. If they’re in love with some idea of you, it’s highly unlikely that the relationship will work out.

Toxic belief: Being in a monogamous relationship will tie me down

Note: This is not meant to disqualify the legitimacy of polyamorous relationships.

I firmly believe that being in a committed relationship with one person doesn’t mean that you can’t be close to others. Partner insecurity, possessiveness, jealousy, and “nesting” (when a couple stops hanging out with anybody else except one another) are not my cup of tea. In the past, when these were issues — say, if my partner was upset at me for hanging out with a friend who made them insecure, or wanted me all to themselves, 24/7 — I felt like a part of me was being suppressed.

I didn’t enjoy feeling like a caged bird, and so when my last long-term monogamous relationship ended, I was determined to never be tied down again. I thought that I wanted to be able to see as many people as I wanted, but came to realize that I actually wanted someone who shared the same interests as me — namely with photography, writing, and personal growth.

“Being in a relationship” and “being tied down” are not the same thing. Commitment doesn’t even have to mean “I can only be with one person for the rest of my life.” It sounds corny, but the right person (or people) will make you feel more free and open up the world to tons of exciting adventures.

Toxic belief: It’s better to not tell someone you lost feelings for them

There were two times in my life where I lost all romantic feelings for the person I was dating at the time, but  I was terrified of “destroying” our stable, comfortable, and seemingly “perfect” relationship. I couldn’t bear to see them disappointed or crushed, so I continued on and pretended that everything was fine. Often, this meant that I emotionally withdrew — into work, into shopping, into other people in my life.

I didn’t take two things into consideration. The first is that I tend to date extremely perceptive people, and they can tell if something is up, even if I say nothing. The second is that I would feel incredibly guilty about the fact that I no longer felt the same way about them, and would lie about it to their face, thus making me feel even more guilty because I hate lying.

Telling someone that you once really liked that you no longer feel that way about them will suck for you, too. There will probably be a good amount of crying. But it’s cleanly ripping off the Band-Aid. [2] It’ll hurt at first, but there will be no nasty wounds left to fester.

On mental health and wellness

Toxic belief: I need to be “on” all the time

Parties! Student government! A full class load! Blogging every single day! Two part time jobs!

Sweet Lord. What a great recipe for burnout.

Saying “no” to projects is the hardest when I legitimately want to do all of them. Truth be told, I still struggle with this — but I’ve finally started budgeting my time right and giving myself ample space to decompress after high-energy adventures. We all need “off” time to process and invigorate ourselves for the next endeavor.

Toxic belief: Emotions make me weak and should be stamped out

I really hated feeling any emotions, so I did my best to hide them, even from myself. This didn’t go well because a) it cut me off from other people (we, as human beings, become closer to others when sharing emotional experiences), and b) repressed emotions don’t disappear, they just get repressed. It’s like throwing a bunch of trash in a trash can, then pushing down the trash that’s already there to throw more trash on top.

Your trash ain’t going away, honey.

Most hatred stems from fear; this was no different. You see, I was afraid of feeling my emotions because I thought it would make me weak, soft, and overly emotional at all times — as in, if I let myself cry once, I’d suddenly turn into one of those weepy girls straight out of a soap opera, and would never be able to control my feelings ever again.

I realized how silly this seemed once I actually let myself experience and express emotions. The first time I did so was during my third year of college, when I was forced to resign from my position as Chief of Staff of the student government because I had too much academic work to do. [3] I let myself be dramatic about it and cried as if my dog had died. It was the first time I’d shed a single tear in almost five years; after I was done, I was surprised at how light and calm I felt.

And no, I didn’t go on to become a weepy soap-opera girl after that, though I certainly have my moments of melodrama.

The thing that really got me to change my mind towards feeling my feelings? Negative emotions adversely affect productivity. At the end of the day, I still want to be efficient and high-performing.

I will probably never “like” feelings, but I get now that expressing them is freeing and will make one more successful in life. Unabashedly owning my emotions also allows me to relate to other people and experience life much more fully.

On human nature and how the world works

Toxic belief: Most people don’t know what they’re talking about

I thought I was sooooo knowledgeable that nobody else could contribute to me … just because I’d read a lot of books and had had a few cool experiences.

I now see that I was a pretentious fuck.

There are so many smart and knowledgeable people in the world — maybe not in the same areas as me, but everybody has their strengths and weaknesses. I can talk your ear off about photography, code, and many different types of dresses, but I’m not even going to pretend I know how to, say, take care of an exotic animal. Nobody is an idiot. I can learn something new from every single person I interact with.

Toxic belief: I can’t be friends with certain types of people

“I’m a queer trans person of color, so I definitely won’t be able to get along with that Republican white guy.”

“I’m a computer science student, so I definitely can’t hold a conversation with that literature major.”

“I like reading and going to bed most nights now, that person who goes to raves 24/7 and I would definitely bore the shit out of each other.”

“I just graduated college, there’s definitely no way that I could get along with that 80-year-old.”

“I like questioning and pushing societal norms, I’m definitely not going to hang out with that goody-goody.”

Those are all things I’ve definitely said in the past … I laugh now because I have a wide circle of friends (that includes goody-goodies and Republican white guys). I’m no separatist. I learned, largely through blogging, that when you’re vulnerable and trusting with others, they will usually do the same back to you. At the core, we are all human beings who desire love, connection, and friendship. Keeping that in mind has led me to forge many “unlikely” friendships.

Toxic belief: Social media is inherently fake

I used to think that all social media was fake — that people curated “personal brands” that bore little to no resemblance to their real selves. I struggled to call myself an “influencer” for this very reason.

What I came to realize was that social media was only “fake” because I was using it in a fake way. I engaged with others’ content because I wanted them to engage with mine, not because I was genuinely interested in what they were creating. They could tell that I was being inauthentic, and were inauthentic back. The whole experience only served to reinforce my notion that social media was fake.

I started treating my interactions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat like they were face-to-face interactions, taking the time to absorb what the other person was communicating before firing off a response. This made a radical difference in my overall social media experience. Like I said earlier, we’re all human beings who thrive on genuine connection. There is another person on the other end of that comment or DM. Extend them the courtesy of being authentic, and they will more often than not return the gesture.

Social media can certainly be fake, but I no longer believe that it’s inherently that way. It all depends on how you use it — you get out what you put in.

Toxic belief: I need to feed people bullshit to get them to like me

In college, two of my best friends would consistently call me out on my BS. The BS mostly centered on appearing happy and successful and party-ready at all times, when in fact I was often stressed out and sad about whatever was going on at the time.

I thought I had to be pretty, popular, hyper-extroverted, and non-controversial to be accepted. I was bullied from elementary to high school for being too spacey, too observational (I had a really good memory, so everyone thought I was creepy when I casually mentioned something a classmate had done a few years back), too loud and obnoxious at times, and too contrarian for the likes of people around me. I thought that all of those things made me “wrong”; that all of my new friends would turn on me if they knew what I was really like.

This was flawed logic — I was pretty “real” around my inner circle, and they still liked me, didn’t they? And yet I continued on until I graduated college, up until I went somewhere where I knew no one. When I made new friends in my new city, I actively seeked out people who were also observational and well-read with a love of iconoclasm. I also called up my old friends, apologized for being fake, and told them why I felt that way.

Now, I am strictly allergic to bullshit. Sometimes, when meeting new people, a little bit of social anxiety takes over and I feel compelled to be “fake”, but I do my best to stop it as soon as I recognize that it’s happening. There’s no longer any joy for me in being full of shit.

Toxic belief: I need others’ validation to feel okay with myself

Validation from people I admire is like a drug. If Rosie Clayton complimented my pictures or Ryan Holiday told me he liked my writing, I would legitimately do a celebratory dance around my room. The same goes with my friends, family, and readers. “Words of affirmation” is one of my top love languages, after all (quality time being the first).

Affirmation is nice. It makes me feel like I’ve made all the right choices, that I know where I’m going, and that I can crush it when I get there. However, it doesn’t mean that I’ve made any wrong choices, or that I have no clue what I’m doing, or that I’m somehow off-track if I don’t have validation from others.

It took me a long time to learn to truly trust myself, to believe that I was doing the best for myself even without others telling me so. In life, there will be many times where you’ll do important shit with little to no fanfare. There will also be times where you’ll go against the fanfare to do what is best for yourself.

This year marks the beginning of me validating myself and giving myself permission to live life the way I want.


You see why I had to split this up into two posts? There’s a whole fucking lot. The last post dealt mostly with toxic beliefs I had regarding myself; this one deals with ones I had regarding others.

I learned a lot about love this year. I learned what true love was, in all its forms (not just romantic). It is constituting yourself as the relationship, holding another person — friend, partner, family member — to the same regard that you would hold yourself. It is contribute to them unselfishly and allowing them to do the same to you, with no reservations. True love is letting someone be the best version of themselves, with no selfish thoughts getting in the way.

To really experience it this year has been the highest honor. ♚


[1] Ironically, here I am again, talking about it.

[2] This is assuming that you do it in a kind, respectful manner. Please don’t be an asshole.

[3] You were expecting something more dramatic, weren’t you? Psh, naaaaahhhhh. I had wanted to be in a high-up position in student government since my first day of college and it had been a huge thing for me to actually land it. I felt like a total failure giving up something that I’d worked so hard for.

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© 2019 by Marty Noel Chenyao. All rights reserved.

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