I think most of us can probably agree to this one. Whether we’re talking about work, relationships or our inability to grasp one concept or another, it’s always MY fault. Why can’t I personally do this? What’s wrong with ME?
For most people, these insecurities rear their ugly heads going into something new; a new recipe perhaps, or a new class. For me, they tend to show up for everything. Most of my life, I’ve allowed my fears and insecurities to hold me back. If I stay invisible, no one will notice me. If no one notices me, I can’t screw up… or when I DO screw up, I’m the only one who will know.
I seem to have this misguided notion that I have to be perfect… at everything. Making a mistake is not an option. There is no learning curve or room for error. So what happens? I inevitably make a LOT of mistakes… or I don’t actually DO the task at all.
That’s part of what makes writing hard for me sometimes. I feel like I have to have something profound, amusing or otherwise fabulous to say, or there’s no point in putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard. I’m actually like that with conversation, too, now that I think about it. If I don’t feel I have anything to say or that I’ll sound stupid expressing my sentiments, I tend to keep my mouth shut. Some people find me rather reticent, I’m sure. “Why won’t she talk to me? Why isn’t she saying anything? Why won’t she tell me how she feels?” The truth? I’m afraid to. I’m generally a shy person, and bringing that kind of attention to myself is a very scary prospect for me. Especially if there’s a chance that I could be judged harshly or that my feelings can’t/won’t be returned. So, I bottle it all up inside and hold my tongue.
There’s also the possibility that the person I express those things to might listen to what I say, but won’t actually HEAR me. Defensive listeners tend to latch on to one concept or idea (generally taken completely out of context I might add) and don’t actually hear what you’re saying because they’re already planning their argumentative rebuttal in their heads while you’re speaking. Most of the time they have completely misunderstood what you were trying to say in the first place, and end up trying to invalidate your opinions, ideas and feelings… things that everyone has a right to have. These types of situations make it even harder to express those things.
I have a hard time speaking up for myself and fighting for what I want. My thoughts and wants haven’t always seemed to matter, so I just keep them to myself and go with the flow. No reason to rock the boat, after all… especially when rocking the boat may lead to harsh judgments from people who can’t or refuse to try to understand. Or, perhaps they just don’t CARE to understand. Differences breed contempt because of ignorance. There are many ways of handling these differences: learn about the difference and let the person talk about it because maybe they’re having a hard time dealing with it, or perhaps they’re interested in spreading knowledge and understanding; scoff at it, and tell the person that their difference is probably just a choice and they could be “normal” if they wanted to and refuse to accept a person for who/what they are; pretend the difference doesn’t exist, either because you accept the person for who/what they are or because you just don’t care about the difference or knowing more about it; ignore the person completely. This choice is up to individual people and is in no way indicative of the person with the difference. We are who we are, and most of us wouldn’t change that.
There have been some really strong minded individuals in my life. People who think they KNOW me. People who think they know what’s best for me when they won’t actually LISTEN to me. People who think they are smarter, more mature and/or otherwise better than me so they can treat me with disrespect, condescension and judge me based on their own beliefs. I’ve learned that there are people in this world who are so unhappy with themselves that they have to project those traits they hate about themselves onto the people around them… and then treat them cruelly because of them. I grew up with people like that. I’ve worked with them, hung out with them, and gone to school with them. Before, I always felt and believed that they were right about me; that I was the one who was somehow inadequate. I wasn’t doing enough or not capable of doing things correctly. I wasn’t smart enough, pretty enough… the list goes on and on. But I’ve finally realized… it’s not ME, it’s THEM. They have the issue and I need to stop letting what they say get to me; I need to reprogram my way of thinking. Easier said than done, I’m afraid, but definitely something worth striving for.
There are probably people reading this post (or not, LOL) who think I’m talking specifically about them. There is that distinct possibility, yes; however I can guarantee that there is no ONE person who has contributed to this post. As I said before, there are many people in this world who make others feel like less than what they are for one reason or another. In some cases, this is unintentional. Some people simply do not stop to think how their words, tone and the accompanying actions will be perceived by others. They don’t understand the value that words can have and how harmful they can be. Others say and do things to intentionally hurt people. Sadly enough, there are quite a few people in this category who believe that by being rude and unfeeling they are actually HELPING other people. Ultimately, though, we are the only ones who can weed through all the garbage and find the treasures. Other people’s opinions of us really are none of our business. OUR opinions of ourselves are what matter.
This concept is one that I struggle with on a daily basis. I am by no means a selfish person. There is a difference between being selfish and being self-centered. To some extent, we all need to be self-centered. We need to make ourselves happy before we can focus on others. This does not make us selfish people. As my dad always points out, even on an airplane they tell you to put your oxygen mask on before you help someone else. You can only help and take care of others when you are content with yourself and your own situation. So, what do I want? What is important to me? Where do I want to go? What do I want to do? WHO AM I? These are questions we all have to ask ourselves. The quest for self is an ongoing lifetime process. The answers to those questions today may be different than the answers a year from now. Five years from now. Ten years from now.
So for now, I’m doing all right. I don’t need outside validation. I’m good enough for me, and that’s all that really matters. Some days are better than others, but slowly I’m changing my thought process… and silencing that negative inner critic.