Regular readers know about all my issues about my physical appearance, and how my personality can and does intimidate and put boys off. However, living in New York, being in a relationship for two years, finding inspiration in work, generally just growing up certainly seemed to have calmed a lot of those anxieties and issues. And yet, last weekend, I refused to take my shirt off with a guy I already had incontrovertible proof was very attracted to me. So I spent the week wondering why on earth it had happened–what happened to all my hard won confidence?
The oldest personality I remember having was a loud and enthu child who hero-worshipped her older sister and cousins. I also demanded a lot of attention, but that is something I only know now, with hindsight. I also got that attention from everyone but my mum, which of course is what led, in a very pleasing manner to our dear friend Sigmund, to many other issues. I was also spoilt and thus ate badly and ended up fat at a very young age. It happened between the ages of 8 and 10. I remember I put on 4 kilos in a month when I was 8. That’s a pretty nuts.
This weight began, obviously, to erode self-esteem, cos I’d be teased about it, goodnaturedly in my family, and meanly outside. I became less confident in myself, how I looked and how people felt about me. I think that’s when I became the really needy everyone-must-like-me me, and as a consequence, the doormat me.
Doormat me stuck around a really long time. As a teenager, I really wanted the cool kids to like me, and I bent over backwards trying to be that person they wanted me to be–it backfired, of course. Less self-esteem.I was also smarter than everyone in my class, and the boys did not like it–the same boys I needed to like me, cos they certainly didn’t want to date me. Crush after crush was into my friends, or stopped talking to me when they found out. It became the strongest weapon against me–so I never could show people they were important to me, because it made me vulnerable. I also slacked off like mad about academics–though I think not pushing myself if I didn’t care about the subject is a fairly innate characteristic of mine.
When I went to college, I regained some confidence about my brain. It was cool to be smart. I had friends who were smart. We all faffed and still did well. My inner romantic flourished, along with my inner optimist. I even liked a boy who didn’t run when he found out–my first love. But he did screw with my head. Maybe he didn’t mean to, but he did manage to obliterate whatever vestiges of confidence in my body I had left.
I returned to my MA, social and friendly and proud to have a brain. I made a lot of friends. And yet I was severely depressed–I even did some silly things as a result. I tried to embrace pessimism, to not expect things from other people, but it only made me more miserable. But I never, ever, not even with my closest and dearest friends, showed how I felt. It seemed that my earlier reluctance to reveal vulnerability had solidified into an inability. When I started therapy and finally told my friends, who included The Bride, they were aghast, saying they’d had no idea. And, honestly, how could I have expected them to, when I never ever gave out a hint about how I was actually miserable that every guy I thought I connected with only wanted my friends’ numbers? It became this sort of conflict between rational and emotional–I could hardly demand that someone be interested in me, and yet, it hurt terribly that they weren’t. It hurt even more watching them be happy with my friends, and yet I could hardly wish unhappiness on my friends or blame them for not knowing how I felt when I didn’t tell them.
That was Conflicted me–I was open and friendly and would tell you anything you asked; I would show emotions for other people, and my own happiness, but I would never ever show you my tender spots. and then I was hurt you couldn’t guess where they were or even that they did exist at all. Conflicted me still had Doormat me, just with more sass. I needed to be needed, and I wanted to swoop in and save people, which meant I put up with a lot more shite than I needed to–something that continued or a long time.
Then I moved to New York, and finally began to feel like I was attractive. Several boys managed to talk me out of the belief that I am unattractive. I began to be more willing to say what I felt, albeit politely. I began to agree to disagree. I found that socializing was an innate part of me. I didn’t need to make polite conversation, but I was happy to hear about what anyone did or though,. I began to think about politics and economics and development–and suddenly had so much more to talk about and so many more people to talk to. Therapy had taught me to not be ashamed o what I felt on an emotional level, regardless of rational opinions. You cannot tell yourself not to feel something, you can only feel it and get over it. It was okay to expect things from people, and okay to be hurt when they disappointed you–no one had to judge anyone for expecting or disappointing. I would say that this was New York me: confident in my ability to attract men, able to hold my own with a stranger, able to put people at ease and make myself at home in most situations.
Then I had to move back. At first I was very upset, but then I found a job and made friends and settled in. I found many many boys who found me interesting and attractive. I was now a bit blase about attractiveness, but still devastated that no one seemed to want to be my boyfriend! Then I found one. I found the best friend-circle ever. I had a shite job, but I’d never cared about career, so it was fine. That’s when I became Balanced me. The boyfriend did not, however, do much for my self-esteem, because he blew hot and cold like mad. Again that rational-emotional disconnect kicked in, because I couldn’t demand that he be besotted with me, but I needed him to be. And because I needed him to be, I drew the lines all wrong at the beginning, which is really why everything began to fall apart once I realised I wanted to move the lines. In a lot of ways, that was still Balanced me. I had learnt to deal with my emotion-logic disconnect. I knew who I was–and I felt no need to hide it. Yes, I was promiscuous, before BBot. Yes, I was very smart. Yes, I was not conventionally attractive. So? I was a strong independent woman and I was AWESOME.
And then I moved to Delhi and broke up with BBot. Suddenly I was Doormat me again. I don’t know what happened, but SIW me had gone into hiding. Then The Dragon dumped me too, and I thought I wouldn’t recover from that. It was almost as if that fifteen-tear-old whose class had formed a MinCat Hating Association was back, curled up in a foetal ball in the corner, whimpering. I was nearly thirty and I was lost. It felt like the past decade had been erased. No one would want me–and unless I either got a lucrative career or a husband, I’d never be able to afford to have kids, and that was all I wanted.
And then The Architect happened, the job love happened, I found friends in Delhi–and I think I’m nearly Balanced me again. But I am Balanced me who is aware that Doormat me still lurks beneath the surface–and I don’t know when she will take over. Still, I now know more than ever, that I don’t want to settle: not in relationships, not in career, and not with friends. I know that I am honest, often brutally, especially with those I care about, but I can and will tell lies if they are needed. I know that whoredom is difficult to define, as is fidelity. I know that agreeing to disagree is all very well, but sometimes you need to agree. I know that I will always be social, enjoy socializing–even need it. I know that there are absolutely no hard and fast rules, and I’m immensely suspicious of anyone who thinks there are. I also know that there are things I will not enable. There is a line. It is here. That’s it.
What about you? How did you become Today you?