Now I see, I see it for the first time
There is no crime in being kind
Not everyone is out to screw you over
Maybe, yeah, just maybe they want to get to know ya
Don’t wanna live in fear and loathing
I wanna feel like I am floating
Instead of constantly exploding
Fear and loathing
– “Fear and Loathing” by Marina & the Diamonds
My last post discussed the abyss of my mind’s anxieties and wanting to distract myself from thinking about my problems, but the more I tried to occupy my time with other things, the more lost I felt. I wanted so badly to tell my parents what was on my mind, all the while being terrified of making progress by starting the conversation.
Since that day, I did manage to tell my dad some things. Unfortunately, I took until this Monday to even muster up the courage. Can you imagine all the times prior to this moment when I had the chance to say something and I didn’t, because I was so overly concerned to an almost obsessive degree that he would react badly to what I would say? The part I feel most guilty about I had wanted to tell both my parents at the same time, but I was with my dad in the kitchen and my mom wasn’t there because she hasn’t been feeling well lately (stomach flu) and was resting upstairs.
To cut to the chase, I had gotten my civil service exam score results on Wednesday, which I’ve been waiting for since September to receive. There was a job vacancy posting online for exactly what I took the exam for: office assistant 1 – keyboarding. I was qualified to apply since one of the requirements was to have passed the exam. So I applied by emailing in my resume and cover letter after much typing and spell checking for errors. After this, I spent days withholding this info to myself and told no one about what I had accomplished. At first, yes, I felt elated that I passed the exam and confident that I preened my resume and cover letter to the best of my ability in order to present myself as a promising potential employee. Then the negative Nancy in me crept in, and this is why I didn’t tell my parents about my good news. Upon having all the negativity swirling in my head day after day, I even started to believe my “good” news was actually bad news.
Some of the things repeating in my head were:
Wow, you got an 80% on the exam. So what? That’s such a dumb score. You didn’t even get a 90%. How can you expect your parents to be proud of a score like that? Yeah, you applied for the job, but what makes you think you’ll be picked? Your resume will probably not even be considered. Don’t get your hopes up. You don’t even have real job experience. You have nothing to show for if you’re chosen for an interview. Just face it, you’ll be jobless and a failure in life forever.
At some during this inner tirade, I could see that part of my thinking was irrational and not a true reflection of who I am and what my parents think of me. Yet it was like a storm I couldn’t pull myself out of even if I knew the chaos around me was conjured up by my own imagination. This always happens to me.
What I did differently this time was trying to read one of my self-help books on social anxiety. I didn’t think writing down the automatic, negative thoughts I had would help. And even as I was writing down in two columns; one for writing down an irrational, negative thought and another for writing down what I could say to combat/dispel the thought to prove it is untrue, I still did not feel better. All it did was help me see how distorted my automatic thinking is, but being aware of it doesn’t mean I’m going to instantly start believing positive things about myself. Turning the page in the self-help book, however, I did a second writing exercise that I felt a connection with.
The assignment was to write myself an encouraging letter about whatever is bothering me and to write it as if I were giving support to a friend. The minute I put my pen to paper, the words came out easily, mostly because I liked pretending I was someone else for that moment as I wrote that letter.
Here’s what I wrote:
I’m sorry for the difficult time you are going through as you are figuring out how to tell your parents about results on your civil service exam. 80% is not a terrible score at all. You said it yourself that most people scored between the 80-90% range, so having 80% is nothing to be ashamed of. You did a good job and I’m proud of you for it.
Congratulations on applying for the New York State job at the Office of Children & Family Services. That sounds like an exciting opportunity that you would be a perfect fit for. I know you have doubts, but going by the skills the job is asking for, you most definitely possess more than enough qualifications for the position. You’re a good writer and proofreader and are very knowledgeable about computer software programs. You even type fast and have, on many occasions, learned new skills on the job.
I won’t say don’t be afraid to tell your parents. I know you are worried about getting your hopes up about this job, only to be not hired in the end. But for now, just know you have taken a step in the right direction by applying for this job.
I understand you are struggling right now. Please know you have my compassion and support. You are a good person. I have no qualms about your capabilities and what you have to offer to people. I think it’s great you are reading the self-help book and using it as a tool to dispel the extreme and distorted views you are having about yourself and other people.
I can’t believe I actually felt slightly better after writing to myself in this fashion. Still, I waited until the following day to tell my dad the news about my exam score and the job I applied for. His reaction was the exact opposite of what I have been dreading. He was happy for me and even asked why I kept it to myself instead of telling him right away. I was relieved my expectations didn’t come true and was kicking myself internally about how silly I have been behaving over a supposed problem that wasn’t even really a problem. However, this doesn’t mean that there won’t be a next time when I’ll feel too terrified for days on end to bring up a topic because I’m convinced the discussion will elicit a bad reaction from the other person.
I had also been sleeping poorly for the nights prior to the day I finally came clean to my dad. I suppose I was enduring in a way that exhausted me because I developed quite the headache right after. I tried to get some rest, and it was sometime during this that my dad told my mom about what I had previously told him. I still feel like I gave myself a cheap “out” by not being the one to tell my mom because it took such a tremendous effort for me to even tell my dad.
I’m not sure I will ever be able to get off the fence as I am stuck between “See? People care about you. They aren’t out to get you” and “Be on your guard for the worst from people. Trust no one”. At the heart of my paranoia, I know, is the fear and loathing I have for myself. I expect the worst out of people because I don’t believe I deserve anyone’s love and respect.