I have been on the obsessive side of self-conscious for as long as I can remember. Some of this is the result of my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder – but much of it I can’t foist off onto the OCD and must own as mine.1The OCD is mine as well, but in a different sense than this self-consciousness. I’m not sure how to differentiate between the two – I don’t care to spend time philosophizing about the difference…I can feel the difference, and that is what is important here.
I was an avid swimmer as a child and into my teen years. I also was incredibly embarrassed by my own body and swam for years wearing a t-shirt.2This has caused me to empathize more with the teenage gals in youth groups when we [churches] insist they wear t-shirts…I know that they are heavy and annoying…again, I’m not going to digress into theories of morality regarding appropriate swim attire…
Unfortunately, several experiences in childhood taught me that expressing emotions was likely to result in either punishment or ridicule – and this cemented further my self-consciousness.
Still, there were moments when I let go and experienced life without thought for how others perceived me – or perhaps with the assumption that they perceived me positively. Once my family went to visit some friends of my dad’s in Massachusetts for a dinner. Might have been a wedding or anniversary celebration. In any case, there was dancing – and I danced my heart out (and I had no clue how to dance).
As I grew older I learned to own a lot of my eccentricities – even to be proud (in a positive sense) of them. I became outspoken about my struggles with OCD, ADD, and Depression – b/c I didn’t believe these should ostracize me (even if they did) and I felt that I was fighting the good fight in standing up for the reality and right of myself (and others) to struggle and fail.
To a great extent I’ve learned to admit my limitations. I tell people I’m an introvert, that I’m sorry, that it isn’t them, but my ability to handle social interaction is limited. I try not to use my eccentricities as an excuse to get out of valid behavior – but I also have learned to push myself but not too hard.3If I push too hard with social interaction I’ll end up a wreck for two or three days…it isn’t worth it – objectively – to myself or others – for me to sustain social conventions for an extra hour or two only to be wrecked for days.
I’ve also learned a lot about expressing my negative emotions – letting people know that what they are doing is hurting me or is unjust. This area is still a struggle, b/c I have a hard time knowing when I am demonstrating an appropriate amount and when I am demonstrating too much. People have hurt me deeply and regularly – and I know that sometimes they have done so b/c it doesn’t appear to hurt me. On the other hand, sometimes my anger or sadness – while justified – doesn’t result in anything positive.
These emotions I find can be expressed, but cannot be objectively quantified as to right and wrong. I try to express the emotions I am feeling in a balanced manner – but I oftentimes look back afterwards and realize that I let out more than was necessary…or less…and oftentimes I realize that I have no clue whether what I felt and expressed was the best or not.
But when it comes to levity – to the ability to relax and let loose – I am still greatly constrained. This may come as a surprise to some – seeing I crack incredibly corny jokes from the pulpit and don’t hide a number of my eccentricities – but it is true.
I want to act – to enter into a character and play them with abandon – but I can’t shake the feeling that I’ll just look stupid. I watch others and they do it and they do it well…and I know I am just as capable if I could let go.
I want to dance. Okay, not often, but sometimes. But I can’t let go, I can’t let loose.
So, I manage…and I manage fairly well. But yesterday I goofed and now I am embarrassed. I was exploring a site called Blendr – for finding and creating real and virtual friendships – and somehow managed to send out invites to everyone on my Facebook friends list (578) and email address book (290).
This is embarrassing for several reasons:
- I’m an IT guy, I don’t make these sorts of mistakes, you non-techies do. 🙂
- Using a site to develop friendships means that I am looking for friendships which means that I have a need, and I don’t like needing.
- These invites went out to everyone – family, friends, former co-workers, ministry leaders, congregants, business clients – you name it. Now I have to explain over and over again why they are receiving this communication.
I want to be furious at Blendr for sending out these emails. They should have had some better systems in place to ensure this didn’t happen. I accidentally clicked one button and they sent out hundreds of messages. Yes, they should have better systems in place – but in truth, Blendr was just the means by which I embarrassed myself.4I know some are thinking, “Come on Dave, you are making way too big of a deal out of this.” I agree.
It is easier to be angry at Blendr – they are far away, impersonal, corporate. But I feel these same sort of angry emotions when someone closer to me embarrasses me. And yes, usually the person could have been more considerate of how I would feel about whatever it is they are sharing or exposing about me…but truth be told, it is still me and what I did that embarrasses me – they are simply reporting what is already true.5e.g., I get pretty embarrassed when folks ask my family about who I was as a child/teenager and they can tell any of a number of embarrassing stories.
Perhaps this is all God’s humorous means of forcing me to be less self-conscious. I mean, it couldn’t have been like I accidentally sent a message to twenty people – it had to be nearing one thousand! I’ll be dealing with the aftermath of this for days or weeks (as individuals who don’t frequently check their email or facebook slowly read the message and send me confused messages asking if this is really from me, what it is about, and so on).
Whether it is or not, I hope I will appropriate it as such. I want to relax and be less self-conscious. No, I don’t want you to force me to be. 😛
I’ve seriously considered, and probably will, take a class in dance someday. Why? Because that would force me to look like a complete idiot…and yes, it will be with a room of complete strangers…easier to be a fool in front of strangers than in front of friends.
Writing all of this feels dangerous to me. It feels like it makes me vulnerable. I’m okay with discussing the depressed, angry, obsessive-compulsive side with me – I’m much less ok talking about my insecurities.
Finally, I’ll close by saying thank you to those select individuals who somehow make me feel okay about being myself and looking foolish. I’m not sure what makes me feel safe to be a fool in your presence and not in others – but to be my foolish self sometimes, to drop pretense and propriety, is amazingly freeing.
(For those interested in more on this topic, I found this article by Martha Beck on Oprah’s site quite useful…even if it is written manifestly from a female perspective for women.)
Footnotes [ + ]
|1.||↑||The OCD is mine as well, but in a different sense than this self-consciousness. I’m not sure how to differentiate between the two – I don’t care to spend time philosophizing about the difference…I can feel the difference, and that is what is important here.|
|2.||↑||This has caused me to empathize more with the teenage gals in youth groups when we [churches] insist they wear t-shirts…I know that they are heavy and annoying…again, I’m not going to digress into theories of morality regarding appropriate swim attire…|
|3.||↑||If I push too hard with social interaction I’ll end up a wreck for two or three days…it isn’t worth it – objectively – to myself or others – for me to sustain social conventions for an extra hour or two only to be wrecked for days.|
|4.||↑||I know some are thinking, “Come on Dave, you are making way too big of a deal out of this.” I agree.|
|5.||↑||e.g., I get pretty embarrassed when folks ask my family about who I was as a child/teenager and they can tell any of a number of embarrassing stories.|