Expectations I Couldn’t Meet and The Anxiety Network.

I have often described my childhood as living in sandpaper.  It was dark and gritty, with no area of comfort or refuge save for what I created myself through self-isolation.  I’d tuck myself away and draw, imagine and daydream, or read.  Reality was too harsh and so I lived in my mind.

It was my only refuge from expectations that I couldn’t meet.  This last sentence rings true but, at the same time, I don’t know what the expectations were, really. My mother was quite frank with me that I was unwanted for my illegitimacy and the cold steel wall she put between us crippled me inside.  My existence was resented, a burden.  I was wished to not be there and, since I was, then wished to be someone or something different than who I was.  I suppose this was the expectations I couldn’t meet. Who could?

So, my inability to be satisfied with my interactions with others is based on fear.  This fear is based on my inability to meet the expectations of others.  And what those expectations are, I don’t know.  I didn’t know as a child and my mind still doesn’t know as an adult.  If someone were to look at me they would think I was one of those people who had things together and seemed, for the most part, friendly.  But my appearance is put on because it’s the one thing I can somewhat control.  But I fear that as soon as someone interacts with me or gets to know me I will fail as I seem to always do.  And so the ruts that my crippling anxiety rests in get deeper and deeper.

Then I found this site.  It’s called the The Anxiety Network.  It is beginning to revolutionize the way I see the expectations of myself and others.  It’s helping me see that the worst case scenario of someone truly not liking me (instead of me just imagining it) is okay.  I sometimes don’t get or like people and I would never expect them to feel heaped in shame over it.  Similarly, I don’t have to feel shame because I think someone doesn’t get me.  It’s okay.   This article in particular, actually a list of cognitive behavioural therapy statements, called Perfectionism and Pressure by “R.F.” has begun to change my life and has offered me many insights into my fears and behaviour.

Here is an excerpt:

“I will do things for my own enjoyment and growth and not for other people.

Thus there is no pressure, because if other people look down on my performance, looks, or the way I conduct myself, I can still be happy because I am doing things for my own personal satisfaction, not for other people’s. I have the right as a human being to say “I don’t know,” “I’m not good at this task,” “no”, or “I don’t care”. I’m going to avoid using words like “should”, “must”, “can’t”, and “have to”, because they make situations very rigid and pressuring. I will avoid worrying thoughts like “what if ____?” I will do whatever makes me happy.”

I have general anxiety that I live in every day, although some days are better than others.  Some days I can become paralyzed with fear with average life decisions and other days I just have self-consciousness or a tightening of my tummy here and there.  There isn’t a feeling of needing to be perfect, it’s more of a needing to be seen as likeable, capable, normal, by others, but beating them to it within me to the conclusion that I’m not.  But even though my first description of my anxiety wouldn’t be perfectionism, this article is a tremendous help.  I hope it helps someone else, too.


17 thoughts on “Expectations I Couldn’t Meet and The Anxiety Network.

  1. Great article and informative. I’m headed next to that website, so thank you for the resource. I deeply related to this particular last statement just wanting to be seen as “normal” I sometimes feel pretty desperate about that desire. Even when i was in a battering and abusive relationship with a sociopath I wanted to look like a normal marriage. It wasn’t perfectionism. I wanted to get in a car, go to work packing a lunch with me, and come home to a normal home. I wanted to pay bills pay taxes and when I needed groceries to buy them instead of scrambling around foodbanks where you waited for 3 hours for a bag of rotting produce, pulled day old bread and stale cupcakes while trying to recover your health. Normal is such a deep longing because it meant inclusion in the world. Like you I was given the message before birth and often afterwards “you are a mistake, you shouldn’t have been born” Of course we want normal… What mother so clearly expresses a death wish for her child–there is nothing normal about that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, just being seen as normal is a satisfying feat. My problem, and you probably can relate, is that I come from a base of shame so what I think I have to do to be seen as normal is probably way overboard and exhausting. For example, in my twenties especially, if I had a speck of dust or a piece of lint on the rug I was horrified that anyone would come over and notice. I would dust twice a week and do it again if I knew a guest was coming. Again, it wasn’t seeking perfection, it was trying to shirk shame and trying to be seen as normal.

      I found myself with two lines that come to me since reading that article even though they’re not written quite like this: “There is no right way of doing things or no one right way of behaving” for when I over-analyze how I came across in any given social situation and it helps me see I probably did just fine.

      Also, “I’m not required to take action or assume responsibility on anything unless I choose to”. This wasn’t really in the article at all but it came to me because of it. It helped me narrow down one of the sources of anxiety for me. So, yeah, this article has definitely changed my way of thinking.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Its a great realisation to come to that its okay if others don’t like or get you. When you haven’t been truly loved you get so hungry for any kind of support, empathy, understanding, connection that to be rejected is such a source of pain as to be absolutely unbearable. Its so good you are coming to the insight its okay and normal for not everyone to get or like you. That is the only place from which we have freedom to be ourselves. I am still on that journey just like you. Great post ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, and I’m glad to have you here! Yeah, it’s freeing to begin to learn that there doesn’t need to be shame in it, that “normal” people aren’t liked by everyone and that’s the way of life. We who are sensitive tend to find every rejection as another failure of ours. It’ll be nice to get rid of that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Wow to what you said: “When you haven’t been truly loved you get so hungry for any kind of support, empathy, understanding, connection that to be rejected is such a source of pain as to be absolutely unbearable.”

      Oh YES, this has been me, for most of my life. What really twists the knife is when someone rejects me in some way, and I feel that unbearable PAIN, and then someone hatefully tells me that I am TOO SENSITIVE.

      What a relief it is to finally get some healing! It only took me a little over half a century!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes that is such very painful territory. This is the sore spot which makes us so open to abuse by narcissists. My last partner used it to twist me back into compliance with his punitive silences which were like agony. It taps into such a deep place in us and it takes real work to get to the point where we know we are loveable just as we are and have a right to all our deep feelings and that our sensitivity is actually a gift. Though narcissists abhor sensitivity. Its what they have run from and project all of their lives.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Oh! The passive aggressive hostile silent treatment! I know it well, and it is horrible! My last husband did that to me for ten whole years. I kid you not. I had made the mistake of telling him one day that my “love language”, my deepest need and the most important thing in our marriage to me, was him talking with me, just simply sharing his day, his thoughts, his inner being with me.

          I remember that he gave me a sick looking, twisted smile when I said that. And then he stopped talking to me for ten whole years! He would go all week only saying a total of two or three words!! He acted like he was deaf and dumb, 99% of the time. And yet he had talked plenty during our first two years together, prior to that!

          When I asked him why he had suddenly stopped talking to me after talking normally for two years, he just shrugged and said: “I told you everything I had to say, those first two years. I don’t have anything left to talk about.”

          However, unlike my previous extremely abusive relationships, he did not beat me, he did not cheat on me (that I knew of), and he did not verbally abuse me. So, I stayed with him. Miserable, and feeling extremely lonely, but… I stayed.

          I stayed until the day in May 2000 when we were filmed for the Oprah Show. That evening, after the camera crew had packed up and left, my husband turned to me and said he had a confession to make. Then he told me that he had never loved me. He told me that every single time, throughout our entire twelve years together, when he had told me he loved me, it had been a lie.

          I was crushed. The pain I felt was truly unbearable. I left him and got a divorce. And I almost did not survive the pain of that divorce. Thank God I did survive!

          Liked by 2 people

          • I am truly humbled by what you shared with me, Linda. It would have felt like being burned alive going through that experience. I know how I felt at the end of the last relationship when he tried to tell me I was screwed up, flighty and insecure because his behaviour made me that way over 4 years.
            We stay with it because we don’t know what to do and it seems so unreal on some level.
            You are amazing. You HAVE survived. I don’t know what else to say but my heart feels your heart and the pain it must have gone through. Big hug x

            Liked by 1 person

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