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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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.

Relationships with entitled people

Do you have people whose every phone call makes you shiver and want to run miles away? Well, I realized that for me such a person has been my mum. And then my ex best friend and perhaps one of my exes and a few other people… What joins all these people together however is a sense entitlement and the very demanding attitude they have taken towards me. The underlying idea seems to me the following – they assume I owe them my love and well lets face it submission since they provide me certain other services. It really is a contract where as a gratitude for some protection or what not I become the person satisfying their needs. When these needs are not satisfied, logically I get an angry reaction.

My ex best friend contacted me recently after two years of total silence. This was a big one. I was just there in shock, trying to figure out what to do. Finally I did something which I am still so proud of.  Namely asked if anything in her attitude towards relationships and friendships had changed over the years and if she thought that there was some evidence which confirmed that we could get along today.

I assume that it was a shock for her. People like my mum and my ex best friend do not think that way. They think you owe them something and that it is just a matter of time till you come back to them because you are so dependent. It surprises them if you choose not to return. It surprises them even more if you actually start setting boundaries and also setting demands on them. Somehow control is lost.

For years I was an errandboy for my mums needs. Whenever she would call with another demand, I was there to run and please. Being in her proximity made me nervous because there was always some hidden expectation which I never realized and which would make her explode. Through my reaction to my ex best friends contact I realized the pattern was the same with her. I felt like I needed to conform and realize her needs and demands without words being expressed.

I am not saying these were one sided relationships, not at all. After all I got my protection, I got some caring and whatever else that I wanted. However, I am realizing that I do not need the benefits anymore. Not if the cost is having to be constantly alert to someone else’s needs and having to be ready for an anger outburst if I have not attended to their needs.

So essentially I feel I have made great progress because I am actively choosing to say no to demanding and entitled people in my life. After so many years, I do not really think I will end up in another relationship or friendship with such a person.

People for whom “NO” means “MAYBE”

Yesterday, because of some events ,I started thinking about borders again. I finally understood why I feel so unsafe around some people. Namely, there are people for whom “NO” means, I just need to convince her some more.

In the worst case scenario people who cannot take “NO” for an answer threaten to leave you or go into silent treatment, trying to ‘show’ you the consequences of you being so rebellious. In the more moderate case they just try to guilt-trip you by making you responsible for their feelings or convince you that you actually want to say yes.

To be honest, I have mostly encountered the border violations in connection to males that are interested in me. I can give you a standard situation.

A guy is asking me out.

I say, no I cannot, I am busy etc. (polite way to say I am not interested but OK, they do not have to read my mind).

They start convincing me that maybe I am not busy at this date and tell me what I am loosing when I do not come out with them. Or…they say how sad they are and how I should want to make them happy…..

I thought I must have some intimacy issues because I feel so uneasy around so many guys. But yesterday I started to understand that NO, actually there is a reason why I feel uneasy. Naturally I might overreact in such situations, because of my previous experiences. I am still wondering what would be the best way in terms of reacting or how to deal with these people in the future. Mind me, some of these guys I need to meet regularly either through work or hobby groups. So my verdict would be that since I am oversensitive, I need to observe person’s behavior a bit longer, to make sure my own fears do not push me to overreact. However, even a situation as small as the previous one seems to me a serious alarm signal. That because imagine the conversation:

I want to have sex.

No, I am not ready yet.

But I want to, you are making me sad now. We have waited for so long.

I still would not feel convenient….

A guy pushing himself on you…..

I am not making up this situation, this actually happened to me. What more, I continued dating the guy after that situation. Needless to say that the pattern that was visible in this encounter continued. I on the other hand could not understand why I felt so scared with him all the time. I had been just so conditioned trying to obey and please in such situations by my mum. At the time, nothing about this situation felt alarming, I was so used to going against my will. I thought I had issues feeling all anxious around this guy and that I should really work on being convenient with intimacy. Namely, I blamed myself. Like I probably blamed myself for my people-pleasing behavior my whole life, not really understanding that it was the reaction to all these violent acts which my mum threatened me with unless I comply.

Rejecting the people that like you and chasing people who do not accept you

For years I have watched the photos and the behavior of popular self-confident girls.  There always seemed to be some inescapable gap between me and them. I wanted to be one of them. I did not even want to be friends with them, I wanted to be them. Most importantly, I wanted to be someone else, not me.

I have come to the conclusion that this has resulted from my mum never approving me. Her constant criticisms and statements such as – “I wish this girl would be my daughter instead” or “Sometimes I wish you had never been born” or “When I was your age, I was much …..(smarter, responsible, prettier etc.)” led me to feel like there was something wrong with who I was. Not with my behavior, just with who I was.

The people that actually liked me, well, assumed that they were losers like me.  Unconfident, ashamed of themselves, not really measuring up for someone else than me. So they had to accept me. Any guy that actually accepted and genuinely liked me got dismissed because of aforementioned dialogue in my head. I only wanted guys that did not see me as sufficient, because well, that meant they had a decent taste and could choose someone better.

I spent years trying to become someone else. This criticism that other people gave me was in my mind treated as the truth not a particular preference of this person. Naturally I chose as my partners and even my friends people who similarly to my mum were never happy with me. So I spent so much energy trying to keep them satisfied (because I never even entertained the possibility of them being happy with me).

It is somewhat weird that I am starting to wake up to the feeling that I was always an OK person and there were always people who genuinely liked me. Granted I believe that I had many problematic behaviors, but as person, in my core, I was OK. Naturally because of therapy and because of having worked with a lot of my natural weaknesses, I am a better person today, but the whole premise of my self-development and the idea of turning myself to a different person was wrong.

Today, my friends are genuinely weird people. Meaning, they would probably never win any popularity contests. However, I feel more accepted than I have ever felt before. I cannot say that I am completely without fear, no my relationships feel still for me fragile and I am afraid of alienating people, but at least I am starting to get the sense that the people currently in my life actually like me. This is the result of me finally choosing to surround myself with people that can appreciate me for who I am, not to people who lead me feel insufficient.

Whether to cut someone out of your life or just disengage emotionally?

There are people in my life that I have emotionally distanced myself from and then there are people that I have cut out entirely. There are so many questions related to this topic such as: why would you disengage from certain people but keep them in your life or when do I know it is the correct time to cut someone out entirely or do I do the right thing by emotionally disengaging? So I will try to discuss at least some of these questions here.

During the last years I have cut several people out of my life. I am here not talking about some random acquaintances, but really, close people. I have also emotionally disengaged from a number of people. One of the people I have emotionally disengaged from is my mum so I am going to use her example for the first group.

First, why have I emotionally disengaged from her? My mum is unpredictable in a sense that you never know what kind of reaction you will get. One moment she goes out of her way to show you how little you matter to her (not even maliciously, it is subconscious) and the other moment she feels that she should somehow be a good mum and be nice. What happens when you invest emotionally? Well, you get hurt, sooner or later. See, when I invest to someone emotionally, I like to be consistent. I am willing to accept expectations made on me and I expect that I can have certain expectations on them. But what do you do with a person that is completely inconsistent? Well, I have not yet found a way to be close and accept such inconsistency. Hence emotional distancing.

Now, in the second group is my former best friend. Why did I cut her out? She was a good and close friend and a support person. She was reliable and had many good qualities. However, I understood that she was all that as long as the relationship functioned on her terms. She could not accept criticism on her actions and she could not accept my borders. Instead she kept pushing and our friendship ended with a big fight. I felt there was no way of keeping the friendship and keeping myself. Either I kept the friendship and played based on her rules only or I kept myself and my identity. In that situation, I chose myself.

So I guess for me it boils down to – are the actions of the other person harmful for me or are they just acting somewhat aloof and disengaged. If they are aloof and disengaged, but bring significant benefits with themselves, I can maintain the relationship. I only make a pact with myself not to overinvest (this is a struggle on its own). If, I however sense somehow that what the other person does is violating my borders and it cannot be negotiated then cutting them out if the way to go.

On paper it seems simple and logical, however in real life, with emotions everything gets messy and you are probably only able to make certain conclusions about the situation in hindsight.

 

Intellectual friendships and avoiding intimacy

Today I understood something. I have quite a few intellectual friends. You know, people with whom you can discuss the matters of the world. You can analyze. It is exciting and interesting….. Sometimes I feel I am mentally exhausted however. I feel I would just want to be with someone who does not ask me to intellectualize things. Someone for whom I would not have to constantly be interesting and exciting….

So I was thinking about it and about myself and reached to the conclusion that I have used this same intellectualization in order to protect myself. It is much safer to talk about some random intellectual topics where you do not really have to give much of yourself. I mean, you can even talk about relationships in an intellectual manner. The topic is absolutely irrelevant, the point is that you are scared of revealing too much of the real you, because then people might either reject you, or in my case even worse, hurt you.

I never really understood before how these friendships were there to protect me from really opening myself up and becoming vulnerable. I still have a lot of fear around exposing myself to any kind of harm, because of familial relationships and years and years of bullying. Because of this very intellectual quality of my relationships I have a lot of male friends. I guess males feel safe around me, because I am not trying to invade to their safe zone and force intimacy on them. I allow them to be intellectual if they want and do not necessarily push them to something else.

I think intellectual friendships are fine and necessary. This is not the question. The question is, can you also do something else than intellectual friendships. When people ask you personal questions, do you freeze or become uncomfortable? I know I do. I know I also become uncomfortable when people seem too excited or interested in me. All of this is just pushing on my walls which are there as a result of so many negative experiences from the past.

So I guess I will continue to work on myself and try to overcome the intellectualization and actually be open to other types of friendships as well.

“We do not meet often but when we do it is like good old days”

I have always been puzzled by how some people define friendships. I have one such ‘friend’ who uses the sentence in the title to describe most of his friendships and to be honest, to me they do not sound like friendships. It sounds more like something for consumption. Like when I have an itch that needs scratching, when I need some entertainment, I will turn to my god old friends and then I can feel good on my way home.

To not get me wrong, I do not advocate having to talk to your friends every day. But to me people who just randomly jump into my life perhaps once a year are not really friends. They might have once been my friends, but they are not friends anymore. How so?

Well simply because I consider the groundwork of friendship to be caring. There I measure others by what I am willing to contribute myself. When I care about someone, I want to know how they are doing. Asking my friends once in a while about their lives requires really minimal effort. People who are not even able to do this, well, I cannot really force myself to define them as friends.

I mean there needs to be certain emotional closeness between you and your friends. Maybe indeed our history together means that we can effortlessly talk about more serious issues in my life. Maybe there is a certain intimacy that one would not establish with strangers. However, I can also have certain intimacy with my exes when I randomly meet them once in a while. That does not make my exes my friends.

I am still struggling finding out if my expectations are just too high. Perhaps I am just overly needy person. Perhaps there are degrees of caring. Perhaps people do not always express their care. But to be honest if this is how modern relationships work, I am not sure I want to be part of it. Also, if a random colleague knows more about my life at any given moment than a friend (because lets face it, how much can you really share in one meeting in a year) then I really do not see the reason to call this person my friend.

I truly think that with people we care about, we do not want to have the contact only once a year or once in two years. It would be painful to stay away from them for this long. So the question really is – do you need to care about your friends and vice versa.

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.