Sunday, March 6, 2016

Shrinking Violet

[UPDATE: Since posting this earlier today, I did a reality check. Not that it isn't true; but I've been a little sleep deprived lately. Ten hours in three nights is bound to heighten one's sensitivity and negative emotions. 3/6/16, 4:52PM]


There is so much I wish I'd learned earlier in life, but as they say, "With age comes wisdom" and, "Better late than never."

I also wish I wasn't so damn naive. Maybe it comes from an idyllic childhood - at least before we moved from New York to DC in 2nd grade. The world for me was full of wonder and magic; and everything I was taught by grownups was spoken ex cathedra. I truly believed all adults were not only striving to be their best, but I assumed they were all empathetic, wise, and of the highest moral fiber - that they lived what they taught.

The first crack in the mirrors and smoke occurred when I learned there was no Santa Claus - no Easter Bunny - no Tooth Fairy. I know, silly, right? But it was a HUGE blow to my psyche. I eventually got over it, but it was the first time that I learned that things are not always what they seem. 

Fast forward 40ish years. I'm still learning my lessons the hard way. I remain naturally naive. I'm still overly trusting and take people at face value. I still find myself believing that all adults are empathetic, wise, honest, and of the highest moral fiber and character. When someone I love and admire falls short of this, I'm shattered.

You see, I'm very, very emotionally fragile. I was an "overly sensitive" child and haven't outgrown it. This makes me very empathetic. When others feel pain, joy, fear, and other emotions, I feel and carry them as if they are my own. On the positive side, this quality will help me be a good counselor and therapist;  but there's a downside too.

Not only do my emotions get tangled up with other people's, but the foundation of my self-esteem and worth is deeply rooted in the approval and acceptance of me by others. I require validation, attention, and accolades the way a flower requires water and sunlight. If I have to share or lose the admiration, love, and attention - particularly the attention of a close friend or family member - I feel as if I'll wither and die. (Sometimes I just want to wither and die!) So I cope with these overwhelming emotions by withdrawing into a protective shell - pretending everything is okay on the outside while shriveling up on the inside.

I'm told by therapists and friends that this is unhealthy and something I need to work on, but I wonder if I'm even constitutionally capable of it. Maybe it's a firstborn thing: the need for unshared love, attention, and approval - and the expectation of perfection from myself. 

Sorry to be such a Debbie Downer - especially after yesterday's blog on "good humor" as a mental health tool. Just had to get it off my chest and share it in case any of you out there feel like this too.


P.S.: I'm also a perfectionist. I know it's been grammatically debated, but it's been bugging me since I posted it. Bob Marley ended his quote with a preposition! I don't know what he did that for. ;)

P.P.S.: Please comment here, like/comment on Facebook, and/or share with friends. Remember I'm an attention hog and need validation! :) :) :)

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