I have long believed that I am helping other people by telling them what they want or expect to hear. I will show them emotion that I do not truly feel, and constantly give them validation while I meanwhile invalidate myself and my own feelings. It has left me sadder, lonelier and angrier than ever, but what I have not realised until now is that, in the end, it often just hurts them as well. This is the truth that never occurs to many people pleasures. While well-intended, people pleasing really does no one any good.
Six years ago I was in a very unrequited relationship with a man I met when I started university. I made the mistake of telling him I loved him, when really I didn’t know the meaning or impact of those words. He ran with those words and they propped up all his fantasies about us. He got more and more attached to a closeness that wasn’t really there and to a person who didn’t really exist, and in the end it broke his heart terribly. I now find myself in a similar situation where I am hanging onto words and promises I don’t know whether this person meant. It is cruel to get your hopes up over something that is not going to happen. I’d rather people not be nice to me than say flowery things which have no substance. Realising what people pleasing does to both parties, I’m hoping I will be better able to speak my true feelings and resist the temptation to say things I don’t mean. I am starting to really admire people who are blunt, make it clear right from the start where you stand with them, and are bold enough to speak their truth, even if it risks offending others. They may not get credit for it but their bluntness is, in many ways, one of the kindest things they can do for us.
I’m no poet. I can’t paint with words. Can’t cast imagery or create art out of pain. All I can do is write it how it is.
I’m not an easy person to befriend. I have a constant need for validation. To know that I’m still doing things right. It’s my own flaw. A deep flaw. As ingrained into my character as a scar in flesh or a gorge where a river once flowed.
All my life I’ve been so afraid that I would drive away my friends that I would cling to any I had. Constantly trying to engage.
I would send texts after texts for fear that if I remained silent and distant that they would forget about me. Or perhaps that they would think I didn’t care.
I would over think every little thing that I did. If I were to receive a reply I would scrutinize it to the point of paranoia. “What were they feeling when they wrote it?” “Are they mad at me?”
I tried so hard that I drive people away. Ultimately I end up driving everybody away.
I have become a burden. A nuisance. I’m so enveloped by my fear of failure that I have lost my ability to consider what others might be feeling or need.
Now I’m here.
I want to know if you can bear the throb of abandonment,
And not abandon your own soul.
I want to know if you can be your biggest cheerleader,
Your own knight in shining armour,
When no one is by your side.
As I have written about in another post, one of my all time favourite stories is White Oleander. The book/film is about a young foster girl called Astrid who moves from foster home to foster home, tragedy following her everywhere. There is a moment in the film where Astrid’s social worker offers her a good foster family. Instead Astrid chooses Rena. Staggering across the yard in high heels, a low-cut spaghetti top bulging with boobs, a pencil skirt, and sunnies, Rena screams bad news. The reason Astrid chooses such a shitty foster home is because the pain of finding love and then losing it is worse than the pain of not having been loved at all. Hope is not always our friend, and the higher we go, the greater we have to fall. Continue reading “Love: a double-edged sword”
“And you stand in your permanence, my name unwrapped on your tongue like an awkward gift when I haven’t got you one.” Prosopagnosia, Ros Barber
Cluedo has always been one of my favourite games, and a game I came to be quite good at. Over the years, however, I’ve found myself playing a different kind of Cluedo. Embarrassingly, I seem to be losing the ability to recognise faces, so have had to decipher who someone is using some quite round-about ways. This strange disability, which I’ve found difficult to talk about, is something that’s landed me in several awkward situations these last many years. There was the time I met a tech savvy man at a filmmaking workshop and he offered to fix my film’s volume for an upcoming festival we were working towards. We exchanged email addresses and communicated a fair bit online before the festival. However, as the day of the screening got closer, I became more and more anxious as I knew I would struggle to recognise and therefore acknowledge him at the screening. A lot of people can sympathise with anxiety over public speaking, work pressures or social events in general, but I have met no one else who’s had to deal with the added anxiety that comes with not being able to recognise/process faces. Continue reading “Blur of faces”
I’ve been living under a rock the last many years in terms of current affairs, but last night something kept me in the lounge room when my father turned on the television to watch the seven o’clock ABC news. The very first report was about the royal commission into institutional child sex abuse which was conducted between 2013 and 2017 (an article of the news report can be read here). I had never paid much attention to it, but for some reason it had been on my mind all week as I’ve been trying to understand the things I wrote about in my previous post, ‘An invisible scar’. There must have been something in the air. It was wonderful to hear some positive news for once: Malcolm Turnbull apologised to the survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of institutions, and announced the government are implementing many changes to prevent it from happening again, some of which are listed at prolegin.com. Continue reading “Early morning awakenings (trigger warning)”
I read a quote once which said we should forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because we deserve peace. I found myself thinking about this when writing my previous post, “An invisible scar”. While there is a place for anger, there is a point where anger just ends up hurting ourselves, like punching a fist through a window. There is no finer example than the story of my friend’s mother and the pathological grudge she carried and took out on myself and my family. The woman died of cancer in her forties, an illness that, I believe, does not happen in isolation from one’s emotional life. Continue reading “The power of forgiveness and letting go”
Sometimes I wonder who I would be if life had dealt me different cards… if I had of grown up in the one place or stayed at the one school, if I was not bullied, if I had not crossed paths with the people I did. Today I dug up some old songs I used to play on the piano when I was younger. With these songs came memories from those days, washing over me like ripples through the lake. It was my first year of high school at a Catholic college for girls and the school took us to stay at Phillip Island Adventure Resort. I was down by the lake with some other girls, and we were instructed to build a raft using some pipes, ropes, and planks of wood. After building the raft using our amature skills, we were to test it. We nervously set off into the water on our shonky raft praying it would stay intact; we didn’t want to sink, especially as none of us were wearing bathers. The whole exercise was a perfect analogy of what the first year of high school is all about. Like the pieces of the boat, we were all, more or less, scattered, trying to form bonds, coherent groups and a coherent sense of self. Over the years, most of us would eventually find our place, find a group of friends and the security that comes with this, and grow in confidence. We would set off from the shore and complete our transformation into butterflies, spreading our wings and taking off into the world. I feel like, somewhere, I have missed out on this. While others around me sail into the horizon, I have barely left the shore as my boat keeps falling apart. By the time I reached high school, I had already been to four different schools and my self-esteem had been annihilated. I was also bullied at this school which led me to move again in year nine. When I look at photos of myself, it’s as though my colours have been washed away. It’s as though a part of me has died. To this day I feel like an outsider. I feel like no one really knows me. I feel like I wear many different uniforms. I feel fragmented, lost, confused, unsure of myself. I feel like a butterfly trapped in a cocoon. Or, as Anneli Rufus puts it, a dud popcorn kernal or bonsai tree.