*Hopefully the text that follows will make my perspective clearer, but I can’t help but state from the outset that I write and share this tentatively, since I am convinced that people (if they care at all to read this in the first place) will react to what I say with rolled-eyes and an automatically-worsened opinion of me. (Is my huge lack of confidence in myself clear yet?). If you can identify with any of the following and would like to talk about it, I’ll be here.
There is an important, inspiring quotation that has stuck with me for years and years, even though I don’t think I’ve applied it to myself successfully:
Although I’ve really always admired the sentiment behind this quotation, lately I’ve been struggling with it. To consent to a feeling is rarely – if ever – a conscious choice, and when that feeling is inferiority, it is a response to comparing ourselves with others. In an interaction with another person, the view that we are of lesser value may be communicated from them insidiously; it may only be after hundreds of small, seemingly-insignificant exchanges that we realize that the feeling of inferiority is correlated with having specific interactions with specific people. In fact, if we’ve grown up surrounded by these types of interactions and people, we may not even realize that this is unhealthy at all and should not be the norm. We learn to expect the dysfunctional, but not how to recognize it and address it or remove ourselves for our own good.
When it comes to the person who is said to be “consenting” to the inferiority, sometimes, there may not even be a single, obvious traumatic event that has resulted in that person de-valuing themselves and their feelings. Depression and anxiety may be mostly the result of brain chemistry, but we may unknowingly look for reasons we feel badly in order to dispel our confusion. Despite this, most people are aware that many others all over the world experience the same or worse stresses all the time. Although it is important to maintain perspective like this, I think that is one of the main problems with mental health “awareness” today: we are constantly undervaluing our own feelings (in relation to others) as justification for not seeking help, but this worsens the cycle of dysfunction and fuels pain and the belief that we are inferior.
I’ve sought some help via online and in-person counselling before, but I’ll next write a bit about how I think a pretty-constant feeling of inferiority has affected me.
It’s strange: consciously, I know that I’m a pretty friendly, decent person, but I have come to realize that the default filter through which I think, make decisions and behave consists of the belief that other people’s time is more valuable than my own.
For example, I try hard to be spatially aware, not wanting to be an interruption in the path of another as they go about their day, but I’m human and fail at this sometimes. (And no, I do not mean to suggest that the “I’m human” excuse should be an acceptable one for all kinds of mistakes, but it IS an evolutionary adaptation for humans to focus on certain things in their physical environments in order to sense danger or threats. Depending on the situation or the anxieties of a person, what they have chosen to focus upon may not be the most spatially-advantageous to everyone in their immediate vicinity, but this is not necessarily their fault).
I am also insecure about most social interactions.
“Why would anyone want to spend time with me?”
“What makes me worthy of another person’s time and energy?”
Interestingly – and frustratingly for me – when this belief that my time or personality is less worthy of being valued or respected is indeed confirmed by forces outside of my own head, I feel it intensely. I hate that I do not deal with social confrontation as well as I think I should. If someone snaps at me or just outright ignores me because someone “better” has come along to talk to, I become hyper-focused on the idea that I am less-than. I feel this physically in-the-moment, and even after, when ruminating; my face flushes, my palms get extra-sweaty, tears (mortifyingly, frustratingly) develop behind my eyes and a lump forms in my throat, which makes it even harder to say what I want to say. This is fascinating, too, because my sensitivity makes it very easy to recognize when I am being treated in a way that would merit my standing up for myself, and I desperately want to do so – I want to be and act the strong person who doesn’t take shit from anyone – but my reflex is to shut down, partly in an effort to calm myself. Maybe it is that my defense mechanism isn’t too defend myself, but perhaps to feel sorry for myself, and retreat fully back into the “safety” of my inner thoughts.
This frame of mind also makes it extremely difficult to write this blog, and especially a post like this. I have ideas for pieces to write all the time, but they very rarely make it from my inner thoughts, to a saved memo on my phone, to a scrambled Word document, to the blog – a full-fledged post with images and maybe even GIFs and all that jazz. I am not so cultured, so well-travelled, so well-read, so experienced in those famed “ways of the world” to believe that someone would want to look to what I’ve written for any reason…
However, when I see others’ ‘chinks-in-the-armour’, others’ embarrassing moments, I feel a strong kinship with them, and I want to reach out.
“THEY TOO know what it’s like to feel like a piece-o-shit gremlin/oaf who can’t function appropriately in ‘normal’ society.”
“Their stomach grumbles loudly in quiet rooms.”
“They trip on nothing on the sidewalk, and keep walking.”
“They go through a fit of choking/coughing on no identifiable thing.”
“They go to take a sip of their drink and spill some down their shirt.”
Huzzah! I am not alone!
Being neglected – whether due to purposeful effort or not – is a horrible thing, because you are sent the message that you have been rejected on some social basis, and by definition, you are not given the chance to prove otherwise to others or even to yourself. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, show people that you care about them. Be aware that the way you say things can really negatively affect people. Keep your good intentions in mind, and try to communicate in ways that accurately reflect them. I am not suggesting that we should all “tiptoe” around one another’s feelings, but be aware that we are social animals who greatly affect each other, and often in very subtle ways.