That’s how it starts.
Sure, they spend time with me. They invite me to a lot of things. They come to my parties or join me for dinner. They chat with me on Facebook, swap e-mails and sometimes just text to say hello. And each time, within each moment of connect, I am elated and thrilled and feel overwhelmed with gratitude for having so many wonderful people in my life.
But then a day goes by that we don’t connect in any way. A dinner or night out happens that I wasn’t invited to. A message goes unanswered or an important event or party isn’t attended and the paranoia creeps in and, even though I should know better, I start to wonder “What’s wrong? What did I do?” It is the voice of insecurity and it haunts me.
I know this voice well. It has been with me my whole life. It has continually reminded me to remember my place and be realistic, to doubt my relationships and my status in the lives of others and to expect nothing because I don’t deserve anything. It whispers to me the shame I should feel for my face and body, my job and home, my hobbies and attractions my personality and my thoughts. It reminds me of all my flaws and faults and warns me not to trust or get to close or believe anything I’m told. It sets the timer with an unknown zero hour and ticks away the moments in my head as I wait for the next axe to fall, another friend to leave me in the dust for discovering who I really am: a sad, pathetic, needy little man.
I try not to give into this voice. I know it’s irrational and a manifestation of my worries and fears. But it gets strong sometime – overwhelming in fact – and, every now and then, I let it out and look for some reassurance when I need it, afraid that, by asking, I’m going to damage the relationship; but also afraid that, by not asking, it will poison me from within and destroy it anyway. So, sometimes I indulge the voice and I open up, reach out and ask for some evidence that the voice is wrong, that it’s crazy, so I can prove it wrong, laugh at it and shut it up for a while.
Most of the time, I have been lucky and have had people in my life who understand my hyper-sensitivity, my insecurity and my need for reassurance now and then and they give it gladly with a laugh or a hug and a promise that, if there were a problem, they would let me know.
But there have been those rare occasions when my outreached hand was slapped, I was chastised for needing something I “shouldn’t”; I was ridiculed for bringing drama into the relationship or for asking for some reassurance. I was told I was paranoid, immature and bothersome. And this fed into that voice. Gave it strength and kept it alive to grow and haunt me into the future.
And I have to ask myself: was it right or was it just a self-fulfilling prophesy?
I wonder sometimes if I am solely at fault for having such deep rooted insecurities. Can I blame my parents? Society? The world? Or am I just broken, never fully able to believe that I’m worthy of love, affection or friendship? That I’ll never succeed at anything, that I’m doomed to be fat, ugly, unpopular, untalented, unrecognized and unimportant? No matter how much I feed it with proof otherwise, it is insatiable and I can never provide enough contrary evidence to stifle it permanently.
Is it wrong for me to be honest about my weakness and ask from the people in my life a little more than they might have to give some of their better adjusted friends? Am I allowed to want and need a little more support than would be normally expected? Or is it my job to keep it inside, bury it and pretend it’s not there, no matter how much I believe and know that a few words of reassurance will quiet it far more than any denial I could ever conjure? Am I the bad friend for needing it and asking for it, or are they the bad friend for resenting me for asking? Or are we both or neither to blame?
It is too late to go back and repair the damage it has caused in the past, but I struggle to prevent it from wreaking more havoc in the future. I don’t want people in my life who saw me at my weakest and chose to turn away or kick me when I was down, but neither do I want to lose the good people in my life for insecurities they neither caused nor contributed to.
I hate this voice. I hate what it does to me. I hate what it’s done to some friendships but, most of all I hate that I can’t ever permanently banish it no matter how hard I try or what I do. Wherever I go, it’s there with me, waiting, lurking, prepared to pounce on the smallest sliver of confusion or doubt.
And some times, no matter how hard I try to ignore it or deny it, I start to believe what it’s telling me. After all, it’s been right before….