The Cost of Fitting In

I am someone who has this overwhelming need to please people. And I feel that the reason I need to please people is because I have always just wanted to fit in. I have always wanted to feel a part of a group, to feel like I belong somewhere. I will freely admit that I am an awkward person and I can find talking to people hard. Before I meet up with people I think of a whole heap of subjects to talk about because I don’t like silence, and will often go from quiet to “will you shut the fuck up” in 10 seconds. I have never been able to find a way to fit in with people, so I tend to go out of my way to do things, in the hopes that they like me.

Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that pleasing people does not guarantee you a place in a group. I’d like to use an example of back when I was 18 and I was doing a beauty therapy course. I got along with the girls there but I was on the outside. They didn’t ask me to hang out with them, but we were always chummy when we were actually doing the course. I desperately wanted to fit in. Getting along with girls is something that I have never been great with, because I feel like despite the fact that I am one, I have never had the same ambitions or feelings as other girls.

So, young Steff, wanting to be liked, heard that the group of girls are going to go out on the town because they just turned 18 and “it’ll be so fun”. They come over to me, and I’m thinking “they are going to ask me to hang out with them!!”. I have never ever, been more wrong. They come over and say “Hey Steff, a few of us are going out on the weekend, we’re wanting to take [girl’s name] out because she just turned 18” and I’m like “ok sweet!”, they continue on “[girl’s name] looks a lot like you, would you mind if she borrowed your ID because she doesn’t have an 18+ card yet so can’t get in yet”.

Now, I think most people would be like “what the fuck, no” because it’s insulting to be asked to contribute towards something that everyone else has been invited to but you haven’t. But because I wanted to be liked and thought that doing this might make them actually consider including me in their little friendship circle I said “Sure! No worries!!”. I smiled and laughed about it because that’s what everyone else was doing. It was so funny that we looked alike and my ID would pass as [girl’s name]. Meanwhile on the inside, I was dying. I felt like crying and I felt absolutely miserable. Why wouldn’t they invite me? Am I not fun enough? I questioned myself a thousand times. I went home and I cried, and I ran every scenario through my head of where I was being a “friend” to these girls yet they just couldn’t seem to accept me.

Lending the ID to the girl really inconvenienced me too. I couldn’t go out or buy alcohol. I actually had to stay at home when other people went out because I didn’t have my ID. A few weeks after I leant it to the girl I asked for it back, and it still took a while after that to get it back. I got a small “thank you” but that was it. No big deal to them, because I think they knew that I wouldn’t say anything about it and I would just suck it up.

I could give you a thousand more examples of where I have done stuff like this. I give things away, because I want to be kind. I message people and check in to see how they are going, and I am here if they need me. I give a lot of myself and tend to not get anything in return. Because I’m just Steff. Reliable. Always there. Never angry. I turned myself in to a doormat at the expense of wanting to be liked. Of wanting to fit in.

And I wonder if the reason why I don’t fit in is because I do give too much of myself. People don’t have to work hard with me, because I’ve offered everything up. And if they don’t make an effort in return they know that it doesn’t impact anything, because I will forgive them. They know that if they don’t ask how I am doing, that I will eventually message them and they can then respond by asking how I am, therefore making it look like they are making some sort of effort. Wanting to be liked is exhausting and a constant mind-fuck. Social media has only added to that, because it’s clique-y. How you are deemed to be a ‘part’ of the group…I still have no idea. I don’t know what makes one person more relevant than another.

Now to be honest, it’s not all doom and gloom. I am extremely lucky to have a few very real, very genuine friends in my life. They have stuck with me through thick and thin and I know, I know that they are forever friendships. I have a husband and sisters who are my life, who constantly remind me that I don’t need to be anything other than myself because they love me through the good and bad days, whether I say yes or no. It probably seems very conceited to complain about people not liking me, but it’s the human condition isn’t it? It goes back to when we were cavemen and needed to be in groups to survive. It is do deeply ingrained that it can be hard to let go.

For those of you who have read my words and have stuck with me this far, thank you. If what I have said resonates with you, please know that you are not alone. If I can give any piece of advice, I say this. Stop trying to please people who don’t care. Don’t give yourself freely to people who don’t appreciate it or understand what it costs you. Focus on those that are in front of you and appreciate them for what they also offer to you. Make friends, but set limits. If you are constantly following up with them and they don’t reciprocate it is time to move on. Cut your losses and try not to take it personally. Be yourself, unapologetically.

I am still learning how to take my advice, and it might take me the rest of my life. But one thing I have taught myself is that it is OK to not fit in, and that I don’t constantly need to try and please people. I say no to things now, when I used to always say yes, and believe it or not it is quite liberating. But I think a part of me will always be that 18 year old beauty therapy student, ready to lend my ID to someone so that they like me.

I leave you with this quote, by Bernard Baruch:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

Steff xx

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A Review: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

By now, a lot of you would have heard of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, which is to be the first in a set of 3. The hype and excitement surrounding this books has been infectious, which is why I had to order the book immediately. When I heard that this book was dark and gritty, filled with magic, gods and a kick-ass main character…you bet your ass I was jumping on board.

Synopsis

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When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.

My Review

So I’ll admit, a part of me thought this book would start off as super dark straight away. When it started with our beautiful, precious Rin applying to get into military school…I was shocked. Because I thought “how could this book possibly get dark?”. Let’s just say, I was rather naïve.

I think I can safely say that it is at about the half-way mark that this book suddenly turns. For the first half of the book we are dealing with things teenagers deal with at school – bullying, competition, studying, training. I wouldn’t call it light and fluffy by any means, but it was light enough that when all of a sudden shit hits the fan it, absolutely throws you. And that is the first sad reality about war. Life is somewhat normal and people live in a bubble, thinking that, yeah war is definitely going to come, but “not in our lifetime”. They become complacent and wear “rose coloured glasses”. People theorise about what they would do if war happened, without ever having to worry about the actual consequences. This story was structured perfectly in this regard. We have this false sense of security, when bam! Everything changes and the enemies are at the door step.

Our main character, Rin, is one of my favourite characters. She is naïve, compassionate, determined and she is flawed. Things don’t just go her way for the sake of the plot. She knows that she has to work to get what she wants, and she has failures before she has wins. She craves power, which that in itself can be a double-edged sword with the ability to save those that she loves or risk losing her humanity. I found Rin’s character to be so ridiculously relatable, that I fell in love with her character instantly. I love the conflict in her head, between doing good and what’s right, and how her views change as the war progresses and she sees more and more atrocities.

I loved the complexity of some of the other characters, such as Jiang, Kitay, Altan and Nezha. At first glance they come across as one thing and then by the end of the book my mind was completely changed about them. Some of them did a 360, some are still shrouded in mystery and others have altered with the war. I really look forward to seeing what happens with these characters and what their futures hold, as well as where their loyalties end up lying.

The biggest, biggest thing that I am so excited for, is that the author herself has explained this book as a “villain origin story”. I am really looking forward to this being explored, how horrific decisions are justified and what that does to one’s humanity. This story is a fantasy world however it is inspired by China’s history in the 19th and 20th century, with Rin’s character being loosely based on Mao Zedong (founder of the People’s Republic of China, and is reportedly responsible for the genocide of up to 45 million people in 4 years). I honestly haven’t seen many stories where we see the rise of a villain and what their motivations are initially. Because of this, I think the next two books are going to be a massive, heart-wrenching ride.

As a final note, when I say that this book gets dark, I mean dark. It is sickening, merciless and graphic. Chapter 21 is definitely the chapter to be weary of and I have seen other reviewers note that this chapter can just be skipped if you don’t feel up to it – I completely agree with this. Trigger warnings for this book include self-harm, drug abuse, rape, genocide, war, torture, human experimentation.

This book is everything to me. I can’t explain how much I love TPW and how much I want to read it over and over and over again. To read a story that isn’t “white” is just….such a breath of fresh air. This story has been written with so much heart and attention to detail, finishing this story was like having a bucket of cold water thrown over my head, I was literally that immersed in this world. I need more stories like this!!! A highly recommended series for those who love some amazing, epic fantasy.

5/5

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The 20 Questions Book Tag

Hello friends!!!

I was recently tagged by the beautiful Laura @ thebookcorps (who is back from hiatus YAAAY) to do the 20 questions book tag.

1. How many books is too many in a series

Hmm…well I have been reading the Wheel of Time series which has 14 books and I definitely think that this could have maybe just been a 5-6 book series. So I am going to say anything over 7 books is getting a bit much.

(On a side note, I would like to add that the Anita Blake series by Laurell K Hamilton has 26 books….I gave up on that series at 13 because it’s like there is NO END IN SIGHT. Plus it was like 50 Shades of Grey but with vampires n shit and the MC had a sex demon thing in her so she had to have sex or she’d die or go crazy or something like that…too weird).

2. How do you feel about cliffhangers

I HATE them. I have never ever EVER liked cliffhangers. I want everything to be wrapped in a pretty bow by the end of each and every book, regardless of whether it’s standalone or in a series.

3. Hardback or paperback

Paperback definitely. The only reason I get hardcovers is if they are really pretty and they are one of my favourite books/series.

4. Favourite book

This questions is TOOOO HAAAARD. Ummmmm….Today I am going to go with The Poppy War because I just finished it and I absolutely LOVED it.

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5. Least favourite book

The weird thing is I tend to love most books, so I always find this questions really hard to answer. Rather than just flat out say that this is my least favourite book, I will say that this is my least favourite book in a series based on my expectations. I will therefore go with ACOWAR. Every time I read this book I take a star off because I remember how messy it was, how many times ‘mate’ was used and how many time people purred.

6. Love triangles, yes or no?

I am really not a fan of love triangles. The only love triangle I could ever love is Tess, Will and Jem. That’s it. I really don’t like people fighting over a person, to me it just seems super unrealistic (maybe because this has never happened to me HA!)

7. The most recent book you just couldn’t finish

Oooh I haven’t DNF’d a book in aaaaaages. I actually can’t even answer this question because I have no idea!

8. A book you’re currently reading

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence…and I am LOVING it!!!

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9. Last book you recommended to someone

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang for reasons stated above

10. Oldest book you’ve read

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen – published in 1813

11. Newest book you’ve read

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – I did a review on this one recently….I did not love it.

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12. Favourite author

I have a few – Cassandra Clare, C.S Pacat, Jay Kristoff

13. Buying books or borrowing

I love buying books but honestly, I have NO SENSE when it comes to money. I actually should be borrowing them but I want a library like Belle…so…looks like I will just keep being broke hahaha.

14. A book you dislike that everyone else seems to love

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – no joke, so far I feel like I am the only one who did not like this book. Looking at goodreads there are some glowing reviews and it makes me feel like I read a completely different book!!

15. Bookmarks or dog ears

Bookmarks definitely!!!

16. A book you’ll always reread

Heir of Fire by SJ Maas. Even if I end up hating all of her other books, this one will always be my go to.

17. Can you read while listening to music

Absolutely not!!!! My attention span will not allow this.

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18. One POV or multiple POVs

I don’t care, as long as it’s written well haha.

19. Do you read a book in one sitting or over multiple days

It depends on how much time I have on my hands and if the book is one that I absolutely cannot put down.

20. A book you read because of the cover

My answer is the same as Laura’s – City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. I remember seeing the cover and thinking that I wanted to read something a bit different. Best decision ever!!! Not only did it get me back into reading, but it fully got me into fantasy!!

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Well I hope you enjoyed my 20 questions book tag. If this is one that you would like to do, consider yourself tagged 🙂

Steff xx

Life/Reading Update

Things have been a bit bleh over the last couple of weeks. I was sick with a cold about two weeks ago (which I am still trying to get over) so I haven’t been reading or blogging that much. Things feel like they are starting to get a bit more on track now but I’m still not fully there.

This week I started reading The Poppy War by R.F.Kuang. I am absolutely LOVING it. If you have heard all of the hype about this book, I think I can say very confidently that this is one of those circumstances where it definitely lives up to it’s positive reviews.

My plan this month is to read Red Sister and Grey Sister by Mark Lawrence, as I have heard that these books are pretty awesome as well. After that, the aim is pretty much just to keep getting through my never-ending TBR pile…which seems to keep getting bigger…and bigger.

I got to meet Jay Kristoff at his LIFEL1K3 book launch when he came to Brissie a few weeks back. It was really awesome being able to meet one of my favourite authors and tell him how much his books mean to me.

Other than that, things have been pretty quiet. My mental health has taken a bit of a swing over the last few weeks and, like I said at the start, I am just feeling a bit bleh. I think I need to take a break from twitter as I find I am getting more and more annoyed about book twitter and people complaining all of the time. And what annoys me even more is that I complain as well, and I don’t want to be that person. I want to make people happy, but I feel like I can’t do that at the moment. And then there’s my sense of humour….which only one or two people really get anyway.

I am also going through a phase where I worry if people like me, and I worry if I have angered someone, where I am going in life, where my place is, where I fit in….the list goes on. I feel like I was going good, but then I have just felt really….unsettled, and now I am full of self-doubt. I generally don’t talk to people about these things anymore because, if you suffer from mental illness you will understand this, I feel I have said the same thing a thousand times and I am just annoying people by talking about it. It can fell like such a burden to offload on someone, so most of the time it honestly feels like it’s better to just go through it alone.

Anyways, that’s about it. I hope everyone is going well and you are all reading super awesome books. Did you get up to anything fun in May? What are you currently reading?

Steff xx