As I learn more about authenticity and vulnerability I realize how good I am at reflecting other people's sunshine back onto them and sitting with them in their darkness, but how rarely I ask for anyone to engage with me in my sunshine or shadow. I tend to serve and love and sacrifice so hard it leaves me dry, but it also leaves me feeling unknown and unloved. I'm learning that people don't always read minds(?) and don't always guess that I'm miserable when I say that I'm fine(?) and although I'd love them to be paying such close attention to me that they can see through my self-protective bullshit, my defenses are pretty opaque. It's more practical for me to just set the bullshit down and say the thing.
It's not that I don't have lots of people who love me- I do- but I think I make it hard for them, with my non-porous, reflective surface. I make it seem like there's nothing I need and I have it all together, PLEASE don't worry about me, I'm fine and how are YOU...leaving them assuming I actually am fine or trying to guess what will make me feel loved because I don't say it out loud. (This is why I like writing so much, because there's no one in front of me to please, I don't have to bend my words around my perception of their comfort/expectations). I've heard the phrase, "You can't love other people if you don't love yourself" a lot. I've even preached it, but, like with all things, I assumed that applied to other people and that I was fine, thanks, please bugger off. I've been told I come off as intimidating because I seem to be so self-aware, so confident. I act like I don't hurt, but in reality, I don't want to inconvenience anyone with my hurt. I seem to have all the answers and be fearless, because I'm afraid that if I express my uncertainty I'll be found out as a fraud, and don't want to ask anyone to hold my hand through my fear and learning. I shrug off compliments and minimize my skills and accomplishments because I assume people are just being nice and they also know that I should be, could be better. Recently I've been examining how I love myself and am loved by others...and how I hide from being loved to protect myself from disappointment or pain. I've concluded that I've second-placed myself out of care and love for years. Also, my judge voice in my head is so, so loud; I'm paranoid all the time that I'll be caught being bad, wrong, dumb, lazy- so I preemptively try to prove I'm the most good, right, flawless, and efficient. What I'm realizing, at forty-one, is that often no one was actually thinking those bad things of me, so my endless scramble to prove myself is just stressing me out and causing distance in my relationships. It also means that when I am actively hurt by someone, I rarely feel worthy enough to speak up for myself. I have to accumulate enough disappointments and bruises to have a justifiable pile of evidence that I need to be treated better. So now I'm trying to ask for what I need or state clearly how I do/don't want to be treated. I'm trying not to settle for what I get, and to avoid resenting my people for getting me wrong. I don't want to be bitter or to further perpetuate the sense that I'm not worthy of being loved right. I'm practicing being loved and getting brave and saying out loud:
"I'm learning that I'm worthy of love and this is what that looks like to me. I know you thought it was this other thing, but I'm trying to be more clear now. It's hard for me but I trust that you care enough about me that you'll walk through this with me as I learn, and make the adjustments I require." And after I have just one of these conversations I'll need to sleep for a month. This is all hard.