Tag Archives: vulnerability

Let’s Not Give Ourselves Monophobia

phobias-opinions

Hello, lovely reader!  How are you today?

Fear is something that unites us rather than divides us.  The most common phobias in the world include all of the usual suspects – claustrophobia, acrophobia and arachnophobia – and the bizarrely comforting thing about them is that people who suffer from them don’t have to feel alone with their fear.

Weirdly, a phobia is often defined as an irrational or disproportionate fear of something.  How does that work?  Being afraid of heights is perfectly logical, because you might fall and hurt yourself, so why do we call that a phobia?  Likewise, nyctophobia (fear of the dark) makes sense because humans are hard-wired to mistrust the unknown.  Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes) is also very reasonable, because snakes are creepy and poisonous and biblically untrustworthy.  In case you haven’t guessed, I really hate snakes.

The strange thing about phobias and fears is that they make us feel vulnerable, whereas they’re actually very useful for helping us to work out essential parts of who we are.  When we come across a fear in ourselves that seems strange to others (or vice versa), there is an immediate clash of confusion and incredulity: “How can you be afraid of snakes?  They’re so cute!”

Leaving aside for the moment how ridiculous it is to call a snake “cute”, I think it’s worth mentioning that everyone’s fears come from somewhere.  It might be an experience during the formative years of childhood, a reinforced impression that has formed over time or an isolated incident in adulthood, but everything that you’re afraid of makes perfect sense in the context of your life history.  I don’t know where my snake issues some from – maybe watching Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom at a very young age – but they definitely have a valid origin somewhere in my psyche.

In modern life, we have many fears in common with other people: the fear of making a social gaffe, a fear of tripping over in public, or even a cold, clammy dread of falling victim to the whims of rail replacement bus services.  Having these worries in common makes for empathetic conversation and stronger connections between us, which is lovely.

Having said that, we deserve just as much understanding and compassion when we express fear of something that another person is not scared of.  Everyone’s fears are valid, even if we have no idea where they come from.  If we make each other feel weird about our fears and phobias, we are preventing ourselves from getting over them by making us deal with them alone.  Isolation is the enemy of progress, happiness and successful ball games, so let’s not do that.

Have a stupendously enjoyable Tuesday.

They Know Too Much

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Hello, and happy Tuesday to you, you gorgeous creature!

I had a conversation with a friend of mine the other day about personas, and how what we present to the world doesn’t match up with what we’re actually like.  Sometimes we come across well-meaning individuals who tell us that they can “see through” us, and that they know what we’re “really” like.

This is obviously infuriating for several reasons, not least because it’s pretty disrespectful not to take someone at face value.  Of course we all have many layers and sides and depths that we don’t reveal in everyday conversation, but I think we’re all at an age when we have arranged our social personas to be a good balance of what is accurate and what is acceptable.

Only a very few people in our lives are allowed to say that they “see through” us (and a good way of identifying them is that they very rarely feel the need to tell you so).  There are people in all of our lives whom we never want to lose, if only because they know too much about us.  It can be alarming and disarming to realise that your friends and loved ones understand some supposedly secret things about you, but I think that if we take a closer look we will see that this is an excellent thing.  Here are a few things that our true friends know about us:

What We’re Like When We’re Drunk
The friends who know you best will be able to tell at twenty paces how many drinks you’ve had, and in some cases what those drinks actually were.  (“Good Christ, she’s absolutely gone.  Must be between seven and nine ciders.”  “No, she’s only had six, but there was definitely a Jägerbomb between four and five.”)  While this can be annoying in terms of next-day debriefs, it’s also a very valuable asset.  Your friends know exactly when to humour your tipsy ramblings, dissuade you from drunk dialling, pour you into a taxi or even pour you another drink.  (That last one depends on how drunk they are in comparison to you, of course.)

When We’re Not Ok
It would be lovely to be able to go through life appearing as competent, happy and organised human beings, wouldn’t it?  A lot of the time, even when we are feeling very far from alright indeed, we can fool a lot of people into assuming that everything’s fine.  People who love us can always tell when we’re faking a smile or pretending to have fun, and it’s sometimes difficult to admit to when we’re trying to keep ourselves together.  You must know that feeling when someone offers you a hug and you refuse, just because you know that you’ll cry if you say yes?  Well, let’s all agree to stop doing that.  Take the hug.

When We’re Lying
I’m not suggesting that we’re all terrible fib-tellers, but our closest companions can always tell when we’re not being entirely truthful.  That might be when we’re umming and erring, trying not to offend them with our honest opinion, or when we’re being falsely bright with a person they know we can’t stand, or when we answer “yes” to the question “are you sure you don’t want seconds?”

What Our Weaknesses Are
Someone who has been in your life for a long time knows what your Achilles’ heel is, even if you’ve never explicitly revealed it to them.  It might be a particular food, a favourite film or even another person, but don’t forget that your real friends always know.  For example, my friends know that I am easily placated by shiny things (up to and including tin foil).  The great thing about weaknesses is that sometimes you discover that you share yours with someone you care about, which makes them more fun to indulge in.

I think that the main problem we have with our friends being so flipping knowledgeable about us is that it can make us feel vulnerable, and their understanding of us does sort of undermine the persona we present to the world.  Having said that, it’s only by being vulnerable with the people who love us that we are able to be who we actually are.  It’s so much better to let people in on your secrets than it is to go around pretending to be normal all of the time.

Have a glorious Tuesday.

McFly Were Incorrect

McFly

Good morning dear reader, and welcome to midweek!

Today I’d like to talk about something that I think a lot of us struggle with, and that McFly were wrong about: it’s not all about you.  I don’t mean that in a narcissism-busting sort of way, or want to imply that you are self-centred.  You’re obviously a tremendous and non-selfish person.  I actually mean in it in a really positive way.

When we were in Year 9 or 10, a girl in my form was keeping an online diary, or “blog”, if you will.  (Blast from the past, right?  I know.  Whatever happened to those?)  One thing you should understand at this point is that in those days the internet wasn’t broadcasting for us in the way that it is now.  Teenage girls saw the internet as a virtual locker, and only certain friends could open it with a special key, i.e. if we told them which obscure website our stuff was on.  This applied to various things, including fan fiction writing and blogging. Someone unexpectedly finding your blog in 2004 was the virtual equivalent of somebody breaking into your locker.

Anyway, some other girls in my form (who were nasty to everyone all the time for funsies – not quite bullying, but on the cusp) found this diary, printed a load of pages of it out and brought them into school.  They went and found anyone who was mentioned in the blog (including me), and charmingly read out the passages of text pertaining to them.  It’s not always easy to look back at your fourteen year-old self and find things to be proud of, but this is one of those moments for me:

Me: “I don’t care.”
Sort-of Bully: “But she’s said mean stuff about you!”
Me: “You say mean stuff about me all the time.”
Sort-of Bully: “She’s been horrible about everyone!”
Me: “YOU’RE horrible about everyone!  Is that why you’re showing it to us?  Because it saves you the effort of thinking up new insults?”

BOOM.  Well chuffed.  High five, past me!  Etc.  Anyway, the reason that I brought that story up is because I knew at fourteen that people will say unkind things because they’re upset or hurt; it’s not necessarily about you.  Teenagers can be very unhappy and/or confused, so it’s not surprising that a lot of them lash out.  For instance, when I was a teenager I said some dreadful things to my mum (who, as discussed in previous blog posts, is very awesome and did not deserve that), but unfortunately it’s not exclusive to adolescents.

The people who love you the most are supposed to cherish you and build up your confidence.  They are supposed to be proud of you and encourage you.  They are also supposed to take the mickey out of you and embarrass you occasionally.  They are not supposed to take bad stuff in their lives out on you, blame you for things that you can’t possibly help or make you feel guilty because their life is not what they want it to be.  Loving somebody is difficult, because you’re essentially giving another person your favourite type of cake and hoping that they enjoy eating it rather than smashing it in your face.  Ultimately the choice is up to them.

Sometimes your boss will be unkind to you, or a stranger will swear at you for crossing the road when you shouldn’t, or you’ll discover that a friend has been bad-mouthing you behind your back.  You have to ignore it.  If someone gives you a fair criticism, use it to learn from.  If someone says something about you that you think is based on truth and you could improve yourself based on it, absolutely go for your life (for example, maybe wait for the green man before crossing next time).  But nine times out of ten, people who say nasty things to you are just not worth listening to.  It’s not about you; they are hurting, they are lashing out, and they are trying to make you as unhappy as they are.  Do not let them succeed.  I have said this to you before, and I will repeat it many times: you are a wonderful human being.  You do not have time to listen to rubbish like that.

Bearing that in mind, I hope that you have a lovely Wednesday filled with small victories and lots of moments of random kindness.  I’m off to Surrey to help my best friend clear out her garage, because I definitely did not choose the thug life.