Monday, April 11, 2016

Witness Me - On Loneliness and Recognition

Over the years I have worked hard to internalize the notion that value and worth come from within, but the truth is despite the fact that I see this in theory, I recognize this in theory, natural self confidence does not come to me easily.  Even as a child I sought out validation from others: grades from teachers, applause.  I was attracted naturally to performance and was in several plays in elementary school, even local junior theater productions for large audiences, and attended theater camps; I reveled in being on stage and being seen.  However, my nerdiness and disconnect from popular culture made me a ripe target for bullying by junior high.  Instead of rising above, I retreated. I attended camps in the summer but was afraid to get attention in school, I tried to simply survive.  By high school, some of the confidence I had in elementary school had returned but not all of it:  I performed in choir, a few plays, but I never sought out or wanted solos or lead roles.  I was happy being a part of a chorus, of being an extra in the background. It meant the stakes were low and I wouldn't get into much trouble if I failed.  In college I auditioned for an a capella group and when I didn't get it, I didn't try out for anything else.  Trying was hard, trying meant failure.  I did well in classes, well enough to get the validation that I strove for but I never really pushed myself to do more.  Maybe I wouldn't do well, maybe I would fail.  I found an outlet in creative writing, but never shared my writing with anyone since high school.  Pages upon pages of stories and starts of stories and ideas that I find swirling in my brain but refuse to share with others.  I have written before about how worry has been such a large part of my life for so long.  It is so challenging to simultaneously carry worry of failure and to desire acknowledgement and recognition so desperately, to have a world inside my head I wish to share but a lack of confidence to share it.

I live a very isolated life.  Partially by virtue of the fact that I am a single mother living by myself, partly because certain types of social interactions make me uncomfortable, partly because it is challenging for me to find people I can relate to and who share my interests.  The truth is, I have long struggled to make friends easily.   I found my amazing boyfriend on an online dating site.  If I didn't meet him there I probably would have never met him at all.  Because of my long work hours and my custody schedule, even something like a weekly class to meet people would be a challenge for me. I know I need to make more of an effort, but when I already struggle it is hard to force myself to get out there.  Because I lack a lot of interaction with friends in person, most of my interactions are online in one form or another.  It started with just casual posts on Facebook to family and friends and that seemed to be enough to make me feel that I was connected to a broader world that I remained by and large disconnected from.  Lately I have found myself needing more, desiring more, from online interaction, for praise from people I didn't know, people I would never meet.

Much has been written about our curious age of "likes" and "upvotes," of reblogs and retweets, of points.  I am not a psychologist, nor do I claim to be any kind of expert on the subject of human interaction, however I have found myself examining our culture through a personal lens: I am perhaps as guilty, if not more so, of seemingly narcissistic attention seeking behavior online as anyone.  I say seemingly because it feels as though true narcissism comes from a place of self-aggrandizement, whereas attention seeking comes from a place of loneliness and isolation.  To tweet at an author or artist I appreciate and for them to reply or like in a strange way makes me feel like I matter, that I have said something that matters to someone else in a small way.  To meet an author or an artist, to get their signature on a book or a comic, is to somehow capture that feeling, ever fleeting, of a moment in time when I shared air with someone who actually does something. For every page view or like or retweet there is that little thrill, that acknowledgement that I exist, that I have value.   I tell myself that I'm grasping at straws, I remind myself of the futility of trying to gain self confidence from acknowledgement of others, and yet, and yet... To know one's self, to examine one's faults, is not the same as being able to change so easily.

Part of my reticence to blogging more frequently is the feeling that what I have to say isn't worthwhile, that my desire to write only comes from the place in me that desires attention and recognition, when I should be working on validating myself.  But I do feel that I have gained something over the past few years, something I wish that I could have had 5, 10 years ago: an understanding, if not a mastery, of self.  I am by no means obligated to share these insights nor am I under any kind of impression that what I have to say may really have an impact or importance for others (there is my self-deprecation again).  But I have come to understand that the words are a part of me, have always been a part, since the poetry I wrote in high school, since the stories I wrote in my bedroom late at night.  So...

So I have decided to write more, to blog more, to share my thoughts and words with others, to put myself into the world whether I do it because I desire attention or because I simply feel my words have value. I have value.  If I am envious of creators then I must create, create for my own peace of mind not for anyone else, create for me.  I must put my words online, out there into the ether, precisely because it is hard, because it invites criticism.  To hide from criticism, to be fearful of it, is to run from a problem rather than confront it.  If I am going to live my life without fear, without apologies, then I need to take risks.  It is easy to say that I am trying to live without apologizing for who I am when I don't actually do anything notable to speak of, when I remain worried about what will happen if I fail.  And so... And so I resolve to post something on this blog at least once a week.  Maybe it will be good, maybe it will be bad, but it will be something.  I'm not sure what the something will be, but it will be. If a part of me desires recognition, and perhaps there is a part of me that always will, then let that recognition come from something I have actually done.

1 comment:

Judith Patterson said...

I love your bravery, your insight. Thank you for taking this step. I look forward to reading more.