I think I came pre-wired to be paranoid… to care too much what others thought about me. And, I was born into a family that poured water and fertilizer into that fertile soil of fear and the desire to be well thought of.
My issue isn’t so much that I want to be liked. I want to be respected; well thought of. Considered to be intelligent and a source of accurate information.
The result of my wiring and my (relatively informal) training, is that I became very introspective in my early adult years. I was always rehashing and analyzing every conversation I had. (It didn’t help that my social group was relatively small and tight and narrow.)
“Why did I say that?”
“I wonder if they knew that I meant ______ and not _____.”
“I hope they don’t call me and want to talk to me about our interaction.”
“What are they thinking about me?”
I often feared that I was in trouble or thatI had been misunderstood or that I had inadvertently offended someone.(Offense would definitely have been inadvertent, since I feared offending anyone, and though I am out-spoken, I am not mean-spirited.)
One day, after an interaction at a meeting, I was in my home doing my usual wonder-wonder/rehash-rehash and suddenly realized I was wasting a lot of energy and thought over something I had no control over.
- How could I know what someone else was thinking?
- How could I know what someone else was paranoid and insecure about?
- Why did I feel as if I was the only one who had responsibility for how a conversation went?
Sigh. Too much angst for a young mother who had her hands and her life full of small lives and a busy husband.
So… I decided to take action. Sort of action. Anyway, I decided to be different. To think differently. I decided I would no longer be insecure. It was that simple.
I told my husband, “Dave, I have decided not to be insecure any more. If I do or say something that I know has offended someone else, I will quickly accept responsibility and ask forgiveness. If it is not obvious to me that I have intentionally or unintentionally offended someone, I will not spend any time worrying about whether I have offended someone.”
“And,” I continued, “I will assume that if I have offended someone, it is their responsibility to bring it to my attention so I can apologize.”
I don’t recall Dave’s response. Probably because he was dumb-struck from wonder and glee. This was a turning point in my life. It was good change.
Of course, there certainly have been times since the big decision that I have second-guessed myself or wondered how a conversation had gone from the other person’s perspective. But, I have been able to remind myself that I am only responsible for myself and that I need to show up full of who I am, ready to give and be, conscious of others around me, but not fearful of how I will be perceived or judged.
**As a post script…..I told a friend that I had made the decision to stop being insecure. I do admit that this young woman was one of the main intimidators in my life at the time. I tend to be upfront and open so I told her I had come to the conclusion that I was simply going to believe that who I was would be adequate and that I was no longer going to be insecure. She laughed. Laughed! “You can’t decide to not be insecure!” Ha.
So she thought.