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.