I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence recently, or at least perceived confidence. As I’ve mentioned multiple times before, I have a problem with being passive and letting my social anxiety take control. For a long time I think I just assumed the two went hand in hand. Being socially anxious does sometimes make me passive. I avoid conflict. I avoid conversations with people I’m not completely comfortable with. I avoid anything that makes me vulnerable and that could potentially make an interaction become uncomfortable. I let others determine every aspect of how my social interactions will go. I, by definition, am pretty fucking passive. But if New York has taught me anything, it is that being passive is not only not going to get me anywhere, but its ultimately going to eat me alive.
I let my perceptions of myself be defined by other people’s perceptions of me. When my dad was arrested last year I let my shame determine how I handled all of my interactions. I always found myself making excuses for people that started treating me differently because of it. I was always walking on eggshells hoping not to offend anyone with my presence. I literally remember apologizing to so many people as I opened up to them about my dad. As if my personal struggles were in some way something I needed to be sorry for? ? What I failed to realize at the time, was how often I was offended in the process and how badly my emotional stability was suffering as a result.
This weekend I went out to a bar in my hometown for the first time in a very long time. (Backstory: I haven’t truly lived in my town since high school, but until recently, my mom still lived there and I visited often. My relationship with my “home” is complicated… maybe I’ll elaborate in another post sometime. But for all intensive purposes, I really like it there, regardless of some of the negative memories I have associated with it.)
Anyway, I’ve always been a little hesitant to go out to bars in my town. But I have some awesome friends from home still, and I don’t see them as often as I should almost entirely because I am afraid that I’ll be put in uncomfortable social situations with people that will judge me based on my family.
So on Friday I decided to go out to celebrate a friend’s birthday. While at the bar, I ran into a lot of people I used to know/be friends with that I haven’t seen in years. The idea of seeing these kinds of people in this type of setting usually TERRIFIES me because 1) my anxiety makes the thought of small talk with acquaintances seem literally crippling sometimes, but more importantly because 2) almost everyone in my town thinks they know about my family due to all the publicity my dad’s arrest got and all the gossip said publicity created over the past year and a half. This aspect of the situation alone is usually enough to keep me far away from any social situation at home.
This time I faced my fears head on. I threw caution to the wind and spent my night divulging a LOT about my life to a lot of people who definitely were NOT expecting it. Granted, I was drunk so I had a lot of ~liquid courage~ but that’s never helped me to be more ballsy with anything like this in the past! I went on and on about my dad being arrested, my mom hooking up with guys I graduated with, my brother being bullied after the arrest, my own mental health, etc. Basically, when it came to anything that people could and have read or talked about over the past year – I was an open book. It was a RUSH! AND I’ve never had such positive responses! I felt like the most confident girl at the bar.
Now listen, don’t get me wrong, this shit still hurts. These things still get to me and clearly I’m not all that confident with any of it yet. But if I can act like I am, and open the dialogue on MY terms, then I finally can be in control. I finally feel like I don’t have to be seen as someone begging for acceptance, but instead someone promoting understanding.
I think it opens people’s eyes a bit to see someone acting visibly confident about something that can be seen as controversial. And honestly, even more-so than that, I feel like opening up about personal issues allows people to be more comfortable vocalizing their own. Everyone has something they’re struggling with. I’m a strong believer in the fact that there really is no such thing as “normal”.
The experiences we go through in life, both good and bad, make us who we are. I’ve always been willing to accept that about others, but It’s pretty liberating to finally be accepting that about myself too.