Saturday, August 6, 2011

That makes more sense, at least.

I think I figured out where I was heading with that post the other day.

As I often do, in blogging as in life, I think aloud a lot. Perfectly harmless, mostly. So in case you couldn't tell I was struggling to figure out the point of that post as I wrote it and hadn't the sense to just save it as a draft and fix it later.

All the same, I think I've figured it out afterall.

It used to be that when I would tell someone about something or even the way I'd be doing certain things, there'd be something I wanted out of them. And that would more often than not shape how I phrased what I said--manipulation.

Like, I'd tell them about some problem I'd solved, trying as subtly as I could to get them to commend my cleverness. Or maybe it would be a story of how awful something had been, and I'd hope to gain their consolation, sympathy.

Like when I had trouble writing papers for a class. I wouldn't leave asking for an extension at just telling my professor I was struggling and then asking. No, I had to explain every turbulent struggle, every self-injuring habit, every fatally naive choice; I would tell them, top to bottom, about my life long difficulties with ADD, and, oh, how I'd swear I'd now changed--learned something--and just needed the extension to make good. Those emails to my professors was like a disingenuous visit to Confessional--habitually regular but ultimately insincere.

In those cases there were always two things I was trying to get out of my professor. First, I could not bear to let them think any less of me--to disappoint them. So what if I pleaded like Niobe, so what if it was all so undignified. No, I had to explain how hard it had been so that they wouldn't think I was a failure, that they could see I was trying my best--I had to make them understand.

Secondly, I was working them to get an extension. I really meant it, mind you--I wasn't being entirely duplicitous. I really was sorry, ashamed; I really wanted to change. But I hadn't the means to. And I was in denial while still desperate for the validation and approval of these people I looked up to. I hoped that if they could just understand how it was, then they wouldn't think less of me and wouldn't hesitate to extend my deadline, out of sympathy or support or some such.

Of course, now I can see how silly, pathetic, and even unethical all that was on my part. Nowadays, I try to do things differently. But back then it was an act of futile desperation, tired and rehearsed, for lack of some better course of action.


Similarly, so much of what I said and did used to so eagerly fish for something--some validation, sympathy, attention. Sometimes the only reason I'd be talking about something was hoping someone would realize how cool I was, how interesting, how hard I was trying, and would tell me as much so that maybe I could believe it, too. Because so much of the time, I regarded myself so coldly and thought so little of my own assets that I couldn't do any of that for myself--I couldn't appreciate or approve or even accept myself and could only allow that kind of affirmation from others.


It's sort of funny now; I think I'm actually a better listener because I spend less time worrying about how I'm going to make you notice and love me, how I'm going to inject something for you to praise me or forgive me for.

I'm hardly perfect, of course, but it feels so much better--dealing with life, living--when I can at least accept myself as I am without requiring validation from someone else all the time. It's so relieving, really, to have somehow lessened that burden. I don't know when that started or exactly how, but I'm certainly much happier for it.

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