Throughout my life I’ve heard people describe me as being outgoing and personable. It is hard to recall exactly how I came about hearing the array of sentiments regarding my personality but whether from work references, anonymous student surveys at school, or casual introductions from friends, they somehow made their way into my consciousness. In recent years I have begun using these same characteristics as a way to describe myself to others.
ie: Someone scary asks:
Why do you feel teaching college students is suitable for you?
I sequentially hold my breath, spit out some shit about connecting to the generation, and hope the answer suffices.
In a recent anonymous survey at work, someone described me as being able to “connect” well with others. Another student explained that I was “easy to talk to and understanding.” Admittedly, a part of me appreciates my ability to fool (what seems to be) everyone around me, but if I’m being honest to both myself and you – I don’t believe those personality traits to be a true. In fact, I find communicating and connecting to others terrifying.
For whatever reason, when I speak to someone not in my immediate handful of safety friends, my mind races incessantly with fear. I worry about being
I feel submerged in some weird ocean of pressure and expectation, separated from reality with a list of insecurities to conceal. Like I’m hiding a dark secret, like I’ve been caught in a terrible lie – except what I’m hiding from is myself. When I feel my space invaded, no matter by whom, I close off. I stop responding to messages, stop answering phone calls, and run for cover. It is quite difficult to put into words because a large part of me feels, as I mentioned earlier, like I am revealing a secret. Like I am showing a glimpse of myself I should hide. For some reason that is still unclear to me, I finally feel like I should get it out.
Maybe explaining the shit in my head will help people stop thinking I’m so shitty? One can never be sure.
I have struggled with feeling like I was misrepresenting who I really am for the majority of my adult life. In fact, the disconnect between others’ opinion of me and my own impression of self has been a constant source of anxiety and frustration. Donald Winnicott’s words seem to be the closet explanation I’ve found:
Other people’s expectations can become of overriding importance, overlaying or contradicting the original sense of self, the one connected to the very roots of one’s being.
Here’s to shedding the wall or, as Winnicott says, the show of being real.