In my professional life, I’m a hard-ass. I know what needs to be done, and I have no problem doing it. I’m good at what I do, and I storm through my days with confidence. I can do anything, and do it well. I ask for what I need to get the job done, and I take pride in how well I do it. Don’t get in my way, and we’ll be just fine.
On the other hand, in my personal life, I’m a wimp. I try to sneak through life without making any waves. I make myself as small as possible, so I affect as few people as possible. I hate to call people or stop by their house, because I’m afraid I’ll bother them. I can’t ask for help with anything. If I lend someone something, I can’t ask for it back. I’ll step back and let someone else have something or do something – even if I wanted to do or have it – as if I don’t deserve it. I even have a hard time telling folks how I feel about them because I’m afraid it’ll change our relationship: if I don’t rock the boat, the boat won’t sink. (Or, in non-nautical terms, if I tell them how I feel, if I emerge from the wall I’ve built around myself, it might scare them away.)
I think some of this stems from my abhorrence of conflict. I will go to any lengths to avoid a scene, an argument, even a minor disagreement. My stomach plummets if I think about saying something that might be construed as rude or even vaguely controversial. I want life to flow easily past my door, with nary a ripple. I leave the room if folks are arguing – even if they’re not arguing with me. I just can’t stand it.
But also, I think there’s a part of me that feels like I don’t deserve to take my rightful place in the world. Which sucks. Did someone tell me in my formative years that I didn’t count, that I should make myself as small as possible to avoid the fallout? I’m weary of being a doormat and feeling as though I don’t deserve all the things I do without. I wonder if I found the nerve to ask for help, make a phone call, tell someone how I feel about them, maybe my life would be better.
I had a conversation with a friend recently and was amazed that he breezes through life, making as many waves as possible. He said it was fun. I admire him for his bravery, his confident belief that he is right, that he deserves every good thing out there, and he’s willing to do and say whatever it takes to get whatever he needs – or wants.
Actually, writing this has made me realize I might actually know the source of this belief. Growing up with an alcoholic parent, one learns to stay out of the way – to make oneself as small as possible to avoid being a target. Maybe that’s where this stems from: the eldest child of an alcoholic is the peacemaker, trying to keep things stable in an unstable world – even though it’s impossible, so you never succeed. But you keep trying, anyway, just to survive.
Hmm. Maybe I need to start taking baby steps, start trying to convince myself that I deserve my place in the world, that I deserve all of the good stuff that until now I’ve let float past. Maybe folks might not run away if I told them that I cared about them. Or was angry with them. Or had a problem with something they did. (That one’s still scary – I might need to take a lot of baby steps before I’m ready for that one.)
They say if you think you’re beautiful, and you act like you’re beautiful, you will be beautiful. Maybe I just have to act like a confident, deserving, wave-making person, and I’ll be one!
This is a lot cheaper than a psychiatrist…
Anyway, I’m going to try to expand my boundaries again. To do the things that scare me. (I draw the line at watching horror movies and parallel parking, though.) To ask for help. To call people. To reach out and try to make new friends. And maybe, possibly, find the nerve to have hard conversations with people, to risk lowering that wall just a wee bit and letting them see inside. Maybe the person behind the curtain isn’t so awful, after all.
Wish me luck.