Here’s a long post that I wrote a while back and then decided not to post because, well, it’s fairly personal. But mostly because I decided that it was too me me me to be interesting–which, given the subject of the post itself, has a sort of irony to it.
I’ve thought about it twice this week. The other day, Kait posted about The Value of Random Compliments. It was lovely, and part of what I got out of reading it was that I think a lot of compliments I don’t deliver because a) social interaction, but b) I’m uncomfortable receiving compliments, so I’m nervous about inflicting them on others.
And that is very simply explained by the fact that I have a ridiculous amount of trouble believing the sincerity of compliments delivered, and it’s been hard to say Thank You for something I don’t deserve. As a young adult, I found that some people are kind of offended when you try to turn aside their compliments, however, so I had to practice accepting them with studied grace. Even though it often feels very wrong, as though in saying Thank You, I am saying, Yes, I agree, I DO look nice today. Which often feels not only like lying, but also like vanity and pride.
And that all comes back to the topic of this post I never posted.
Well, I said there were two things. The second popped up this morning when a friend, who should recognize herself, was feeling discomfort in a social situation, and I realized that the reason she wasn’t putting herself forward was because she didn’t feel she had the right. She didn’t feel important enough, worthy enough, to trouble those people with her existence.
And that’s sad, because my friend is pretty fuckawesome. And of course nothing I could type at her would sway her thinking because that feeling is too well ingrained. I get that.
So anyway, as I’m working on it, maybe she’ll work on it, and if this is you, maybe you’ll work on it too. Here’s the post…
Two months ago, Kait talked about chosing “steady” as her focal word for the year. She got the idea from fellow author, Jessica Corra. If you don’t follow Jessica, I recommend her. She’s intelligent, charming, and good company. You’ll find her on Twitter @jessicacorra and we’re finally going to get to read her AFTER YOU when Dial releases it, expected Spring 2013. But enough about Ms. Jessica, this is about the word thing.
So when Kait chose her word and explained the concept to me, I liked it. Not enough to jump on the bandwagon instantly, I guess. But I’m sort who often needs to mull things over and let the right thing come to me.
Confidence is what came to me.
Confidence is a concept so lacking in my way of life that for most of that life I’ve tended to consider it a synonym for arrogance. I’ve had this sort of love-hate thing with the confident people in my life. I admire them for the way they go out and do things. I appreciate the things they do for me that I’m not willing to do for myself. I’m jealous of what they accomplish and the ease with which they seem to be able to do things that make me panic. I’m puzzled by what right they feel they can just go and do stuff, and by what logic they assume they’re welcome when they walk into a room. I am often grateful and resentful at once.
This is not something I’m proud of. It’s what is. And I need to be clear about what is so that I can remind myself to be otherwise.
Because to just be, to not think, is to go on in the same way. Changing habits of thought and behavior requires thought, and that’s what’s appealing about the focal word thing. It’s shorthand, a reminder, a signal to remember to think rightly.
See, I get that it’s not good to go through life feeling apologetic for one’s existence. Being surprised by welcomes, by friendly overtures. It’s certainly inefficient to let it get to a point of being so fearful of approaching others that you instead hone skills of developing intermediaries to help you get through life. Not to mention panic-inducing when you’re caught out on your own without someone else to go through the door ahead of you, make the phone call to get the information for both of you, tell you exactly how they did the thing you need to do so you’ll know the exact right way to say it, the right way to act, so you won’t confuse anyone or irritate them or waste their time or inconvenience them in any way.
Shy? I don’t think that’s the right word.
Now, if you ask me, I’m doing really well these days. I have spent years facing down these things I couldn’t do. I can now walk into any store, any restaurant, whatever, by myself. I can make phone calls. Don’t like it, avoid it like the plague, but I can. And I can now usually do it without rehearsal/pacing/deep breathing beforehand. I greet strangers. I make eye contact. And unless something goes wrong, I don’t get that sensation of oh my God my throat is closing I can’t breathe and my face is red and what am I going to do when I have to speak to someone.
So yay. Bonus.
All this blah blah blah is basically to explain that Confidence has been a problem.
But part of me focusing on the word right now is trying to make that leap in understanding that confidence is not arrogance. I’m understanding that intellectually, but in my gut it’s harder. Just like I know it’s okay to walk into that room full of people, but my gut wants to turn around and run home again. I want to believe that these issues are learned behavior patterns I can shake, but sometimes it feels like part of my DNA.
I’ve talked before about how I have a tendency to filter things through my own experience and to forget to remind myself that the way I see things is merely a perspective. While I realized that the way I am is neither ideal nor normal, it didn’t follow that confidence is, like, normal. It’s normal to walk into a room and receive a welcome. It’s normal to speak and expect to be heard and acknowledged. And generally, when you do these things, people are actually not watching you at all. They’re not wondering why you’re there, or judging your appearance, or waiting for you to say something stupid.
The world is basically a hell of a lot more me-neutral than I made it out to be. In fact, if anyone was ever arrogant it this equation, it was probably me for worrying about being watched and judged in a world that was too busy to notice me.
The other thing I realized is that all those normal people are filtering the world through that perspective. And when they come across someone who so studiously avoids contact with them, what are they supposed to think?
There are some people, gifted with enough sensitivity, who will say, aw, she’s shy, I should try to include her. There are some people who are just so naturally gregarious that they can hardly help themselves. But there are a lot of people who are just going to assume that I don’t like them or that I’m a stuck up bitch, and it is hardly their fault that I didn’t give them anything else to go on.
Gene tells Joss, “The best way to seem normal is to be normal.”
The focal word thing helps remind me to be normal. To break out of my bad habits and think like normal people think. That I have as much right to be here as anyone. That it’s okay to participate because I have things of value to contribute. That I have value and it’s even okay to think that. (and OMFG why is thinking that so hard?)
I’m working on understanding Confidence as Okay To Be. And sometimes when I say it, it feels a little easier.
“Be normal,” I thought. “It’s just that easy.” ~Joss Marshall, Hush Money