Social anxiety and female competition

So social anxiety is something I have suffered from my whole life. Mind me, most of the time I was unaware that I was suffering from it, because I thought it was normal to every time when one is going to the party try to suppress the overwhelming anxiety. Try to tell to yourself that everything will be OK. I also thought  it was normal to always want to have some friend or boyfriend with me, as emotional support.

Let me tell you, this is not normal. This is not how most people feel. This is ultimately also not how I want to feel. However, I still feel that way.

Do not make a mistake of assuming that I am a bad communicator. I think I am actually quite good, socially. It is just that every time I go to social event, I remember my early and teenage years of relentless bullying and it my mind, it will all just repeat itself.

I really do not have good ten minute advice on how to combat the situation. Believe me, I, myself, am surprised that I still struggle with it, even after all these years of therapy. However, being aware of it, I will try to work on this next.

My anxiety is mostly about girls. I know, how to handle guys. Not a single guy has ever bullied me. I usually get along perfectly with guys (unless they are my boyfriends…..Ok that was a joke). But girls….

Take the last event that I participated. I was joking around with some guys and they made it more sexual than it needed to be. However, I caught all these judgemental looks from other girls. Well, mind me, the first girl was already judging me because of my profession, telling me that what I do is pointless. I mean, why? I still cannot understand what makes someone tell to the other person that their day job is not worth anything….

But the problem is, I feel threatened by the looks and by the words from these girls. It reminds me of my school years. I know that if one girl takes a disliking towards you, they will be able to collect a lot of their friends and convince them to hate you too. It is that simple. It never works like that with guys, but with girls the pack-mentality is just so much stronger. Plus, I seem to somehow be good at making girls my enemies and even after 30 years, I have no idea why and how. There is always this one girl at the party that takes an instant disliking towards me.

So, parties for me are stressful because of girls. If it was a party filled with guys, I would go there without a care in the world. I really struggle to see how come, my ’enemies’ are always girls. I don’t think it is because I am super charming or hot, there is something else at play here. I am not even sure if the solution to my problem would be to work on the reason girls tend to dislike me or to work on me caring so much and being intimitated by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have good female friends. I am not one of those people, who hangs out only with guys, thinking that girls are stupid. In the latter case I would understand why other girls might dislike me, but currently it really is a mystery.

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The gifts of child abuse

I think one of the signs that you are getting to the final phase of your healing is when you actually start noticing that your early life difficulties have brought you some innate gifts. I am not sure I am completely ready to write about the gifts I have gained through my experiences yet, but let that be my first attempt.

I feel that I can actually see the two worlds. It is difficult to explain this to a person that has not experienced it all. I can see the world of depression, self-hate, anxiety attacks and dysfunctionality. I can relate to all kinds of dysfunctional coping mechanisms starting from alcohol abuse and ending with suicidal thoughts. I can also now after years of therapy experience and see the world on the other side. The lighter being (I am still not finished with my therapy), the feeling of self-love etc.

I think there have been two radical changes of experience during the last year. The first one is moving from feeling incomplete and unlovable into actually feeling whole. This deep feeling of emptiness and sadness and wanting someone to love me so that this sadness would go away (only it never did), it is actually gone. The second change of perspective is moving from being terrified of being alone and being certain that I will never cope alone into being OK with spending time alone. Being OK with living alone and enjoying my evenings in solitude.

Most people that have two aforementioned gifts take it for granted and fail to ever understand other people that suffer from abandonment fear and unlovability. That is how you get stupid advices such as – you should just be yourself or have you thought of exercising more or drinking warm tea. The experience itself is soo alien to the ones that have never gone through it. Not often they also judge and look down on people that lead dysfunctional lives. The compassion is missing and even if it is there, there is a lack of understanding as to what one is compassionate about.

So, I feel I have been given a gift of seeing both worlds. This means that maybe once I have gone through my struggles, I can actually help someone else. I can definitely function as a non judgmental guide already now, but I think I still have a way to go. Not only can I understand and help others that struggle, but I also value the feeling of being complete, the feeling of being able to be alone. I have had to fight so hard for it that it feels nothing but sort of amazing. I doubt that average person gives much meaning to it at all.

Finally, I think that with child abuse and therapy comes a different kind of way of viewing your life. I see my life as a lesson. I am not looking for happiness, I am looking for growth. I am not sure if that is better or worse, it is just different. It is the way I have managed to handle therapy all these years, even when it was very difficult. I just kept comparing myself with myself one year ago and felt proud of my development. I still hold this approach. I think if nothing else, it helps me to make sense of other life difficulties as well. I see a lesson everywhere. I analyze a lot. I think ultimately this is going to make me me. This is who I am going to be and this is maybe how I can be useful for others as well, by helping them to make sense of difficulties as well!

Dating ‘normal and healthy people’ after childhood abuse

I dare to say that an average person, by my age, has still not endured a lot of trauma and drama in their lives. I feel that some people are slowly getting there, having their marriages falling apart, dear ones dying etc., but…. Why do I care about the extent of trauma someone has gone through? Why would it even matter?

See there is this guy that is interested in me. He is pure and innocent. I can see that he has had a good childhood. One can see this from how a person behaves. There is certain optimism and idealism to him. Decency. All really nice qualities….but…..

I feel dark compared to him. No, I am not a bitter person, but I feel that my childhood and other traumatic experiences have left me with this darkness. This corner of knowing what bad people are capable of. Knowing what bad I am capable of. I have gone through personal hell and back. I have been extremely dysfunctional and fought my way through it all.

It is not that much that I believe he cannot understand. I believe that as an empathic person, even if one has not gone through it all, one could potentially understand. It is more like I am afraid I will make him corrupt. I will somehow spread the disease of darkness and trauma and rob him of his chance for someone who is as light as he is.

I don’t think he will reject me because of what I have gone through, it is not that. It is more that I am afraid that this darkness in me is looking for a way out and I will end up hurting him. Getting bored of him. Looking for some dysfunctionality. Wanting some strong emotions and wanting some messedupness. Wanting someone who can reflect me my messedupness and my past hurt.

So I really do not know. I think dating after dark experiences in life is tricky. Especially when you have spent so much time trying to overcome those and feel you have succeeded. You consider most of your previous pals to be annoyingly dysfunctional, but the new people are just too untainted.

People who do not care

I have an acquaintance who takes pride in his independence or perhaps I should rather say non-dependence. I have known him for four years, met him on a weekly basis and I have no doubts that he would not care much if we did not meet anymore. I am pretty sure he would have this attitude towards almost all people in his life, so it is not only reserved for me. Why am I talking about this right now?

Because this is my mum. This is the image she conveys. I suspect she would not care much if I just left her life one day. or well, deep down she would probably hurt, but she would do her damnest to show how indifferent she is. She has blocked all the feelings which are related to caring about people so deep down that I really get little impression of her caring whether she has her daughter in her life or not. One might assume that if she has this attitude with me, she has even worse attitude with her acquaintances and friends.

It never really hit me as strong as when I started comparing people in my life and seriously there are some people with whom it is obvious that they do not care. For whatever reason that would be. I think a lot of my past has been dedicated to trying to make people who never really cared much to care about me. By caring I mean here truly people who can see you, the real you, do not try to change you into someone else and genuinely care about this person underneath. I do not mean people who need to put on an image of themselves as caring and generous, I mean sincere caring even if no one is there to witness their kindness.

The interesting thing is that I bet my mum and my friend are even proud for being so independent. For caring so little, because it makes them feel strong and in control. From where I am standing, this is not a virtue. Rather it speaks of the shallowness of your character and it speaks of total alienation from your feelings.

I am slowly reaching towards an understanding that I have kept many people close to me that did not really care all that much. I guess I was conditioned to consider this normality. Maybe it even felt safer. Maybe I felt more independent. These days however I look at my relationship with my mum and I can honestly say I do not care much about her. When she complains about some illness of hers, I do not care. It is sad, but her attitude of needing not to have any emotional entanglements has put our relationship that far. Furthermore, I felt she was using my emotional entanglement against me when she threatened to leave me on a regular basis. So these days when she does it, I can honestly say – well go ahead. But I think it is a rotten relationship where you can just say – fine you want to leave me, go ahead I do not care. Or should we call it a relationship at all?

Childhood abuse and social class

So, sometimes I wonder how come, despite having had really really bad childhood, I have somehow managed to stay borderline functional throughout my life. My theory is that class background influences both how people deal with the dysfunctions as well as how deep we will fall as a result of our traumas.

So, I am from middle class background, but because I grew up relatively poor, saw a lot of other kids around me that came from working class. The way I dealt with my loneliness, anxiety and all the other issues was through escaping to schoolwork. I was seeking love and approval through becoming hardworking. I sought to escape bullying by working myself up to go to an elite school where most people were somewhat socially awkward. Achievements, childhood fiction books and imaginary world were my way to handle the big problems around me. On the grand scale of things, these are all societally less destructive ways than for instance drugs and alcohol. So while I was dying in the inside, I still managed to give an impression of a functional person and I managed not to fall down down….

How is this related to social class? Well, my coping mechanisms are partially copied from my mum who used food and workoholism and shopping to relieve her pain. Her workoholism granted her career success and later also allowed us a decent standard of living. The presence of money also made shopping available as a managing mechanism. None of the adults around me had any problems with alcohol nor drugs. I in fact got to try alcohol when I was I think six or seven at the party with my mum. Alcohol never played much of the role in my life until later days of college. And I mean, I have still to witness anyone using any hard drugs in my presence.

The fact that my mother was educated also made books readily available. I could use books to escape my dire reality and dream myself to sleep. Furthermore, education was not only encouraged but practically forced upon me. I was punished for bad grades on a regular basis. However, that made me use achievements and schoolwork as a gratification mechanism.

Overall my claim here is that your class origin influences what kind of coping strategies you use upon abuse. Mine, whereas still dysfunctional, were less dangerous for me as an individual than many others which I could have chosen. I do not only mean drugs and alcohol, I mean also for instance seeking closeness through sex and promiscuity, falling into abusive relationships whatnot. We copy the behaviors of adults around us and since all these things were relatively uncommon in my

Why was it so easy for my exes to walk away?

I am currently dealing with my abandonment issues in my therapy and I am starting to cultivate quite a different view on my past relationships.

So previously I thought that the fact that my exes could walk away easily was a testament of my low value. That somehow I should have performed better, convinced them to care what not. I do not necessarily disagree with this, as I am sure I made many mistakes…However someone being able to walk away easily, I mean, this does not happen because you make small mistakes here and there. This happens if the person does not care much to begin with. My ex made some really questionable stuff during our relationship and never did I think that I could walk away easily. But most of my exes did….

This however means that their engagement in this relationship and their emotional investment where lofty to begin with. I spent much time thinking if only had I been better they would have not wanted to leave me. To be honest, if someone does not either dare to or want to get their feet wet in the relationship, it really does not matter how good you are. They woun’t. Of course you can also with your own behavior make other people invest less which I have done as well, no doubt. The art is to distinguish between your role and your partner’s role.

I am pretty sure I have subconsciously chosen guys who do not want to get their feet wet. My parents’ behavior and the fact that it was so easy for both to just walk away from me left its mark. I started to consider this normality and thought that it was common that you had to work hard for your own parents (or partners) wanting to stick around. Now that I am writing these lines it sounds outrageous that someone would have to go out of their way to convince their parents to be present in their life. I am not even talking about my parents loving me, I am talking about pure presence.

So obviously the bar for the relationships was pretty low to begin with. You just had to show up and seem to be interested. I could never distinguish between real investment and just tagging along. For me just tagging along was all I could ever ask from someone. Anything above that was already way more than my parents did and would raise serious questions about my worthiness for that.

From dependent to independent

For most of my life I have been looking for someone that would take care of me. I never trusted myself to take care of my needs nor wellbeing. In my mind I was helpless and in need of some grownup who would take responsibility for my life. I did not really feel I could myself.

If someone was to ask me today if I feel like I can take full responsibility for my life, I would still say no. I avoid taking responsibility at work where I am just too damn scared of messing things up. It is a constant struggle for me to act like a financially responsible adult. In fact this feeling of helplessness and the search for someone who would be able to act as a supervisor shows in all areas of my life. It still does.

This is my big struggle. As I have not yet fully delved into this issue in my therapy, I can only guess why I struggle so much in this area. I think it is because of my mother’s unwillingness to provide me any guidance. Her attempts to curtail my independence just to make me dependent enough so that I would not start complaining over the inappropriate amount of care I received. You know similar to my relationships with commitment phobic men….But I still need to do my work in regards to healing my wounds in this area.

It pains me to look at people around me who obviously never had this struggle. Their lives at this point seem like the lives which are appropriate for their age whereas mine seems to be a standing evidence of my inability to take responsibility. What more, they are living testament of who I would want to become. I want to at some day wake up and say, yes, I trust myself, yes, I have my life in order. Unfortunately this day does not seem to be approaching in at least one years’ time, maybe even longer.

But in the meanwhile I am making baby steps. Like breaking up and living alone for the first time in my life. or making independent decisions. Or starting to calculate my finances. I just often find myself wishing that there was a coach next to me to give me feedback on my development. To give me credit for my successes…. Because lets face it, if I compare my small successes with other people around me and my level of development with them, it seems there is nothing to celebrate.

I guess I just wish that I had a parent that would support and encourage my independence.

Parents that ignore their kids problems

My whole childhood went by with my mum ignoring my problems or telling me to take care of them and somehow not bother her with those. Perhaps the clearest examples were my illnesses. I had a stomach flu a lot when I was a kid and I do not have a single memory of my mum actually getting up at night and doing anything for me. Mind me, the earliest memories I have are from the age of five. At this age I was already completely independently getting up and sleeping in the bathroom because I did not want to ruin the bed. My mum still talks about the one and the only time when I actually vomited in the bed and how troublesome it was for her. Other times when I actually was shaking and sleeping in the bathroom, well she treats as normality. This is how it should work.

The situation is completely different when she is ill. She once asked me to come to the countryside and take care of her when she was ill in the middle of the night before I was supposed to move to another country the next day. Yes. She was not even supposed to be there sending me away to another country, because she had her vacation.

This habit of hers to show remarkable indifference towards my problems still shows. We do not talk about my problems. The most personal I can get with my mum is talking about my work. Overall we usually talk about her life and her work. Just like we did throughout my childhood.

If my problems became so big that they were impossible to ignore, like me considering suicide because of the bullying and finally confessing to my mum, she sent me away. She sent me to the psychologist (which was quite a good move). Mind me not the paid one, but a school psychologist which was for free. We never ever talked about the issue again. She had successfully delegated the responsibility for my problems to someone else.

I learned that no one cares about your problems. I learned that you should not even bother other people with your issues. Furthermore, I learned to take care of other people’s needs and problems and not even expect any kind of mutuality there. I also did not have any successful skills in resolving my problems, because no grownup ever bothered to give me any advice on solving them. So for most of my life my problem solving skills remained to the level of five year old.

I hate that there is a part of me that still longs and wishes that mum would care. That she would show for once interest in how I have managed with all the issues in my life. But no, she is usually there to take the credit for my achievements but never there through my hardships. I just had to write this post about my current feelings. More analysis will follow.

Never a first choice

I have recently seen several dreams about being left out, being excluded. I think I have gone through my life always feeling like a second choice. I have not really spent enough time exploring where this feeling comes from, but I can tell you about some of my experiences in connection to this.

One of my best friends in childhood would always end up bullying me with her other friends during her birthdays. I never questioned her actions that much, instead I felt embarrassed for being in that position. I have spent feeling embarrassed and trying to hide this experience of being rejected, disregarded or devalued many many times. Thinking it is my fault. Thinking that if others find out, they too, will reject me. Like rejection was this contageous disease….

When my ex would rather hang around with his friends, it was my old feeling of rejection that came out. I thought the problem was me. I was not fun enough. My ex kept telling me that because of me, he does not want to come home. I do not make home a pleasant place. With his friends he feels at home. When a new guy told me that he cannot promise he will meet me on Friday evening because something fun might come up, I thought again – it is me, I am not fun enough.

I collect such experiences, so obviously there is something wrong with me, but probably not what I thought was wrong at the time. The wrong thing is potentially that I kept hanging around my ex after he told me that it was my responsibility to make him want to come home. Like I was his personal entertainer and he had no responsibilities in making my evenings pleasurable. The problem was probably that I did not ditch the guy after he left me hanging seeing if his Friday could be filled with more pleasant activities.

I am slowly starting to see what is wrong and what is right. But I still feel inferior. I am even trying to model my behavior around this. For instance when a guy told me about him needing to see what his Friday brings, I told him that I in fact was busy (I was), whereby he instantly needed to know what I was doing. So I am even altering my behavior, but I mostly feel like I am pretending. If people were to find out how insecure I still feel inside they would surely treat me as a second choice and exclude me.

So obviously working with my feelings is needed, not only realization that I should not be treated that way. Not only slow change in how I react in situations like that. But altering these feelings of inferiority is sort of a challenge of a life time……for me.

It is OK to feel like a loser

A magical transformation happened when I finally accepted and understood why I might feel like a huge disappointment and failure in my life. But lets start with explaining why I spent years feeling like a failure.

Everything can really be described in one word – my mum. Nothing was ever good enough. It took me years to understand how I was constantly feeling like I was a huge walking disappointment. More so, part of me strongly agreed with my mum. I agreed with her, admitting that I was not a talented child. I was not a beautiful child. I was pretty much average or below that throughout my childhood. Since I did not have any redeeming qualities or achievements, there was really no way to gain my mu approval. Not that I would not have tried. However, even though I probably was just an average child, not really remarkable in any way, my mum’s criticism made me feel like I was the worst failure ever. There are certain parents that just have hard time accepting that their children are not the bestest the brightest the smartest and whatnot. It feels like a personal letdown for these parents. They direct their hurt and disappointed feelings towards the kid, because the kid was there to redeem them. To make them feel adequate.

So obviously I failed, because I was nowhere close to remarkable. My mother’s criticism was probably not even very wrong, but the problem is – you do not get kids in order to feel better about yourself. You get kids when you are ready to share your unconditional love. But enough about that…

Anyways, I have fought with this feelings of being inadequate my whole life. I resented myself for feeling that way. I read self development books which sad that everything would be just fine if I only loved myself and I resented myself some more. Actually this is one of the most unhelpful suggestions I have ever heard – you should just love yourself. It is like telling to an unemployed person – have you ever tried…you know…getting a job or something.

But when I stopped fighting this feeling and accepted that I might indeed feel like a failure and that it is completely OK to feel like a failure, this was when magic happened. I suddenly felt more accepted than I have felt over the years. The heavy burden of always needing to prove myself and somehow become better than I am was somewhat lifted. I accepted that I could be a failure. I could have been a failure throughout my childhood, I could still be a failure, but I was OK being a failure. I had nothing to prove anymore. I could just relax into feeling like a failure……

Interestingly enough it was at this very moment I stopped feeling like a failure. Instead I felt this excitement about the future. This knowledge that I will not have to continue screening thousands of beauty products to try to make me look more beautiful or chase unavailable men to try to make me feel better. I can just sit here and accept failing….