When I was a kid, I wasn’t “popular.” I struggled with confidence. My best friend, from age seven up, was blessed with a preternatural confidence that netted him all sorts of benefits of which I was envious. I did fine socially – I had friends, I dated, I survived. But my experience of relationships – friendships and romantic/sexual relationships – was that they were precarious, vulnerable, hard-won, and easily lost.
This is still true, today. I live on a precipice, convinced that the ways in which I’m perceived are always, inevitably, about to shift, and that I’ll be seen by any who previously have desired me – platonically, professionally, sexually – as somehow “fallen from grace.”
Lots of people think themselves frauds, think that the “truth” about them is always about to be discovered. My particular affliction is similar, but different: I don’t (consciously?) think myself a fraud. I don’t (consciously?) think those who think me smart, or competent, or kind, or interesting are wrong. I think they’re right, actually. I think myself all those things. And more.
My fear isn’t that the truth about me will be learned, but that the world will turn upside down, that everything I think I know to be true will turn out not to be. I could explain why I think this is, how I think I came to be vulnerable to this particular bit of neurotic delusion, but it’s not, actually, that interesting. Or maybe it is, but I’m not doing that here, not now.
Recently, I found myself engaged in a kerfuffle. The kerfuffle involves a dozen or so people, and I’m smack dab at the center of it. Two people have concluded that I’m… let’s just say, “bad.”
In this instance, it’s objectively the case that I’m not “bad.” Of the dozen people, one is me, two think me “bad,” and the others think me “good.” Add to that, the two who think me “bad” have a track record of being thought “bad” by others. So I can see, rationally, where this all is headed: my “goodness” is being reaffirmed, and these two having accused me just put a couple more arrows in my quiver.
And yet: I’m vulnerable. Scared. Angry. I worry that the nine who think me “good” might change their minds, that they might do so in spite of the fact that they’d be wrong to.
This sucks. I wish I didn’t feel this way. But I do.