I have perhaps been prone to self sabotage. I am the kid who grew to competency in a sport and then gave it up. Over, and over, and over again. Not because it was too hard – because I’d solved it and was done. I dabble in things and then drop them – I have often complained of being a generalist to the point of knowing “nothing about everything” as the saying goes. In many ways, I like it that way. My general knowledge on a wide range of topics means that I can join in conversations with an equally wide range of people. Dabbling in lots of crafts and activities is handy when an unexpected problem comes up and I can use random scraps of knowledge to come up with a solution. I have always joked with my sister that she’s an artist and I’m a lowly artisan. I can make nice, useful stuff. She creates exquisite beauty that inspires. But really, seriously, maybe I have been self sabotaging. As I work through all kinds of interesting childhood trauma, I question some of these choices I’ve made. Some of these things I believe about myself, my uses, my skills, my talents*. I think about the fact that I might have been concerned about moving beyond competency and into expertise – the physiological response I get from just typing this suggests it’s true. I feel my stomach churn and my breath catch in my throat. My eyes are watering** and I want to slam the laptop shut and walk away.*** My body knows things my brain would rather forget.
The ages my children are now were so hard for me. Home was not quite the haven it could have been and school was an actual torture. I hated it. The buildings, the boredom, the bells, the bullying, belittling, constant judging and jeering. I was friendless and frightened, frazzled by fluorescent bulbs, got good grades, but had trouble with tidiness and typing. Already I felt that academic success had little use in the real world – while also feeling it was the only thing I was naturally adept at. I used quietness as a shield, and immersing myself in reading. If I could just get people to ignore me I couldn’t get in trouble… As I got older I slipped into a louder, sillier persona. If people were going to laugh at me anyhow, it would at least be on my own terms. It worked to a point. I could save face in public, but felt shattered inside. One day, when I was being particularly over the top, a friend**** asked why I was acting like that and I stopped, rather abruptly. I’d been found out. I was fortunate enough to find “my people” for the first time shortly after that and Kyle, was one of those. He called me out all the time for my masking – especially my “ditsy phase”. (It apparently affronted him personally, as my boyfriend, that I pretended to be stupid. Fair enough.) I became more confident and less inhibited around my friends, started to think that there might be some trustworthy humans out there.
In spite of distinct progress, I do still have a deep fear of being judged, of people thinking my head won’t fit through doorways or that I’m making everything about me all the time (turns out when you grow up with a narcissist, you get accused of being one, and it messes with your head, deeply.) Besides that, having been on the receiving end of enormous amounts of unsolicited advice, I am hesitant to advise. The irony of course, is that I am now focusing a lot of my energy on becoming a resource person for my community. An adviser, a facilitator, someone who carries authority, so often represented as a big stick – but not one to beat down; a walking stick maybe, supporting people on a journey; or a stake, sharing the load of a fragile stem; or even simply a signpost, a lamp, leading the way.
So what stops me from writing, from putting myself and my thoughts out there. That deep lurching feeling in the pit of my stomach as I give the Publish button the side eye. The way my ears ring when I think about organising a new group. The dry taste in my mouth when I think “what if [those people in my past that made my life miserable] read this and expose me as a fraud?” or perhaps worse”what if [those people who tried to help] read this, feel inadequate, and project that on me?”. That last one stings the most. I’ve been complimented so often on how “together” I am, that I feel a responsibility to keep up that image. I know I’m a hot mess sometimes, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking I was responsible for people’s feelings about me. I admire people who can be vulnerable in public spaces and don’t seem to feel like they will be bringing shame on their community or loved ones for admitting to less than perfection. I need to be allowed to admit that struggle brings growth. Fear stunts growth and I’m done living in fear. I’m doing well enough for me.
* here I want to add “or lack thereof”, in my usual self deprecating way. I choose not to.
**though that might actually just be the onions I chopped… the rest stands.
***I don’t, mainly because this is a desktop and it doesn’t slam shut with any degree of satisfaction.
**** a boy, who I had a crush on.