Fear Factor: Social Anxiety Edition
Double draft – September 4, 2014, trying to finish a post from last summer:
“I was browsing through my drafts for unfinished posts and came across this one that I started writing on July 14, 2014. I gave it the above title at the time. I don’t know why.
Now, believe it or not, I have no memory of what the context was for inspiring the train of thought in that half-begun post. I really can’t remember what I was doing on July 14, where my mind was at, where my emotions were at, any of that fun stuff. Given my tendency toward introspection about relationships in general, I really could have produced something like this at any give time. I don’t know that it was necessarily triggered by A Specific Event. In any case, I can’t remember A Specific Event from that time period that would seem like a probable cause. Then again, I’ve blocked out much of the summer prior to August. So, there was probably something. Does it matter anymore? Not really.
So, then. Here’s what I had to say back in July about one of the many charming facets of my social anxiety:
“I’ve recently been faced with a disturbing reality about the way I relate to people. It’s entirely possible that what I’m experiencing is actually a normal phenomenon, but it was nevertheless a sobering realization.
I kind of knew this about myself already, but I think I’m just now realizing how broadly it applies to my relating style in general:
All of my interactions with people close to me are based on fear. In fact, the closer someone becomes in my life and/or the more I care about someone, the greater the fear factor. The fear itself is a fear of losing the other person, specifically losing them because I failed to be “good enough” for them, and losing them because of a mistake or failure to live up to their expectations – especially a mistake that I’ve made without realizing it until it’s too late.”
That’s as far as I got at the time, but I’m really curious to know where I was going with that. Maybe I was just feeling insecure? Who knows! Upon re-reading it, I rolled my eyes a little bit: “Yes, dear. That is a normal phenomenon. Everyone feels that way about the people for whom they care. The closer you are to someone, the more painful it is to lose them. Way to state the obvious while trying to sound insightful.”
I have a very blunt inner critic.
I can postulate this much: on some level, I was referring to the way I felt after my ex broke up with me. But I was extrapolating a general principle from that – an element of my social anxiety that I recognized as being especially reinforced by that particular event. Why I was talking about it in July specifically is hard to say. Just part of the process, I guess.
However, the fundamental principle still holds true. As much as I long for intimacy, I’m also afraid of it. And I’m referring to intimacy in the sense of any relationship, not a significant other, per se.
To risk being known is to risk being rejected.
But to not take that risk means standing outside and looking in. If you never give anyone the chance to reject you, then you never give anyone the chance to really know you, or the chance to actually accept you.
We cannot control one another, or force people to stay in our lives, or always discern what motivates another person’s actions. Relating to other people is like this colossal guessing game and you just sort of cross your fingers and hope the other person is being honest and up front with you and that they won’t change their mind and reject you (or turn on you) later on. And you try to do them the same courtesy in return. You just never know what will happen with all of these infinitely unique individuals out in the world, bringing their unique, individual perspectives to life, and each one of us trying to figure out each other (and ourselves) even while we’re all just kind of making it up as we go.
I don’t even know if that made any sense.”