Preface: This post bounces around A LOT. (And it’s not about anything political! For once!) I haven’t been sleeping lately. I’m kind of a mess. But if you hang in there and wander around the woods with me for a bit, you’ll get to the part at the end where I discover my actual point.
You know how when we’re young we care way too much about what other people think of us? I refused to sit next to my Dad in a movie theater one time because I was convinced if someone saw us together at a movie it would be THE MOST EMBARRASSING THING EVER. I also go really stressed about having white cleats on a soccer team once when most of the people had black cleats. Like…it kept me up at night, it stressed me out so much. Even when I got pregnant my freshman year in college, I became kinda obsessed about what people in my high school would think of that. Would they judge me? Would they be proud of me? It was so overwhelming that I found myself just disconnecting from everyone for a few years after E was born because the fear of what they were thinking was too overwhelming.
It is very natural to grow out of that, and grow out if it I did. I learned you can be who you want to be and find people who will love you for it, or even because of it, if you’re lucky. I think this is a hard thing to learn in school because you’re stuck choosing friends from the people in your classroom and so it’s hard to get that reassurance that you can make friends by being yourself when often…you simply can’t.
But as an adult there’s a million different ways to meet people and often by doing things that you enjoy…like trail running, or book clubs, or volunteer work. Now, my social anxieties in general hold me back sometimes, but that’s less about “fear of being judged” and more about “fearing awkward situations I don’t have control over” where are two very different anxious responses.
You know what? I was writing this blog post in my head last night to prep for this morning (that’s kinda how my blogging brain works) and the basic premise was going to be, I have noticed in the last few years that I worry way more about what people think of me than I used to. And I was going to start by showing I had grown out of that and then hypothesize what had caused it to return but just typing that paragraph before, I realized…maybe I never actually grew out of it.
I think I’ve been fooling myself in my adult years into thinking that I didn’t care what other people thought of me so that this sudden change the last few years is new but when I really think about it? I think I’ve always cared too much and so now I need to change the entire premise of this blog post to:
How do I – a 44 year old – finally learn to get her validation and self-confidence from inside and not worry if it doesn’t match what people on the outside think of me?
The whole reason to tried to broach this topic (from several different wrong directions) is that I want to be the kind of person who looks at the way I care for my family and feel pride in self without needing the validation of affirmation from my family to give me that. I always blame my “Love Language” for being “Words of Affirmation” – in that, that’s what I need to hear to feel loved. But…honestly? That’s something different. I’m talking about pride. I’m talking about self-value. I’m not talking about love. I wish I could be proud of myself as a care-giver and a wife and a mother and not need any of those people I’m caring for to tell me I’m great at my job. Why can’t I do that?
I try to explain it that I don’t get paid for my job. It’s an 40+-hour a week job (just…you know…general care-giving) but without a paycheck, I have no way of knowing that work is valued by anyone and so I have to hear it. But…here’s the thing…WHY DO I NEED TO HEAR IT? Why can’t I just look at the amazing things I do and be proud? Why do I need that external validation? Why do I worry even that the extended members of my family think I have it easy now that I don’t work outside the home anymore? Why can’t I quit begging for validation and affirmation which – in the end – makes everyone feel shitty?
Ugg. I know this is probably something Stay At Home Moms write about all the time but I’ve never really been one. And in reality, most of my care-giving right now doesn’t revolve around my kids as much as it does my husband and my Mom. So I’m not sure it’s the same situation.
I just wish I could quit wanting to hear it because then I would quit feeling bad when I don’t. Or even worse…because I don’t hear validation often…then when there’s negative commentary/critiques I act like someone committed a terrible sin. I get SO DEFENSIVE. I get upset and I cry and I rant about how, “If you have anything negative to say then you should say 10 things positive too to balance it out!” but that never happens and then everyone is miserable and feels guilty and shame and then I feel like that’s all my fault again. And then I think, “What kind of caregiver am I for constantly dumping guilt trips on everyone?”
It’s just a terrible cycle of insecurities that I’m stuck in right now around the “work” in my life.
I just want to keep doing the work I do and find the value in my heart and feel the value from myself and not need it from anyone else, you know? I want to look at my days and be proud and then…THAT IS IT. Not need validation or affirmation from anyone other than myself. That way if they criticize something, it just lands how it’s supposed to, in a bed of confidence and self-love so I don’t freak out and get defensive every time.
And although I’ve focused on my “caregiving” a lot, I have this problem everywhere. In my writing or my posting on social media about race issues or current events or in my photography on instagram. Like…truthfully this lack of self-confidence is a thread that runs through ALL facets of my life, the constant need for external validation in everything I do – but since the majority of my life is spent taking care of my family, it feels the most dominant in those situations.
<Insert long dramatic sigh here.>
I mean, does self-confidence even exist? I think I already need to re-read Untamed. I feel like I’ve forgotten everything I learned from it.