The ‘Thing’

The other day, a friend and I were strolling along the streets of Brussels, having a conversation about everything and the world. We talked about mutual friends and acquaintances and at some point, about podcasts. My friend suggested that it could be really fun to create our own podcast, which is probably true. But then we realised that we’re both writers rather than talkers and that the mere thought of being listened to and watched while recording our podcast – even if it would only be me listening to her and the other way around – gave us both an extensive bout of anxiety. Also, as we continued talking about how it could be important to create content around a certain theme or subject for our hypothetical podcast, it hit us: what would be our ‘thing’? Do we even have a thing?!
We eventually came to the conclusion that we do not (we don’t have a thing) and that maybe it’s okay to not have a thing, to not fit into a box.
And then the not-having-a-thing turned into an entire thing all by itself and we started listing all the things we don’t have (which ended somewhat trivially with something along the lines of we don’t have high heels, which was probably way off course from our initial idea of it being okay to not have a thing – to be fair, it was kind of late and it had been a long day).
The random listing of things was both liberating and funny, and also a little bit sad, because even though we’re smart enough to know better, there’s a tiny part within us that’s still convinced that we should be on some sort of path in life and create great things and/or find great happiness along the way. You know, Disney-movie-style.

A few months ago, I discovered that I always thought of people (of all genders), that I had not met yet but that I had already been in contact with or heard of, as much taller than me. Especially when I thought they were competent, confident, successful, and/or assertive. This is particularly odd because I’m actually not that small. A lot of people (/women) are smaller than me. And, whenever I find out that I’m in fact the taller one, it surprises me.
For most of my life, I’ve been known to overestimate or simply acknowledge other people’s qualities and competence while underestimating my own, no matter the context. And apparently, I even extend this feeling of inferiority to my imagination of the physical appearance of others.

On a not entirely unrelated note, I’m feeling very small today, which is why every single one of my cells is painfully aware of what I just wrote. I feel small, a little lost and somehow everyone else is ridiculously tall.

Despite my better knowledge and judgment, I’ve recently been confronted with a good old ‘friend’ again: the fear of not being good enough. It’s impressive how much work it takes to constantly fight the incessant little voice in the back of my head that never fails to remind me of the possibility that I could not suffice. Despite years of practising and reminding myself that the voice is a bully and definitely wrong, believing that I’m enough is never automatic. It takes a lot of effort, and it can be very challenging at times. In a way, being afraid of not being good enough is my ‘Bruno’ (this is a reference to the Pixar movie Luca, in which Luca’s friend tells Luca to not listen to ‘Bruno’, which is the little voice in Luca’s head that makes him feel afraid and therefore hesitant) – Silenzio Bruno!
Instead of yelling this punchline from a movie that arguably most adult people may not have seen, I got a tattoo a while back, to remind me that I am in fact enough.

In addition to ‘Bruno’, I found that I don’t get angry in certain situations that would definitely call for anger, one of which took place quite recently. This happened to me a couple of times and I realised that I wasn’t angry despite the fact that I had without a doubt been treated unfairly or in a disrespectful way. Instead of anger, the feelings that generally come easily to me are disappointment, sadness and even shame. While anger would have been the appropriate reaction in all of the situations I’m thinking of as I’m writing this, I usually seek to understand rather than to assign blame, even though the latter would absolutely be the adequate and ‘normal’ thing to do (and even though certain behaviours can hardly be understood). I would say that this is a blessing – for everyone that isn’t me – and a curse – for me.
It actually fits into my pattern of putting everyone else above me and disregarding my own needs. It’s a way of betraying myself by not acknowledging what I need while accepting and accommodating everyone else’s needs. In the end, betrayal from others doesn’t feel so unusual to me because I’m often doing it to myself. The lack of anger towards the ones who do me wrong might actually be rooted in the feeling of disappointment in myself, for allowing their betrayal in the first place.
I should have known better. I should have stood up for myself. Maybe I deserved this.
And there it is: a whole lot of shame and self-blame, successfully blocking the emergence of anger.

I know I’ll recover from this, I know I’ll be fine.
I’m just astounded that a situation that strongly resembles one I experienced about ten years ago brings back the exact same emotions and thought processes as it did back then, even though I’m much better equipped to deal with them now.
And it sure is true: we accept the love we think we deserve*.

* From The Perks of Being a Wallflower, written by Stephen Chbosky.

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