Friday night, Ian came over and as always we were talking nonstop. And one of the things that came up in the conversation was having a hypersensitive fear of judgement. I thought about it for a second and I realized, that’s me. I acknowledged that to him. “Well, I can understand that. I am hypersensitive to judgement. I am.” Probably one of the greatest things about my friendship with Ian is that although we are not around each other very often when we are, we seem to always hit upon something that is deep rooted and poignant about our nature and once we say it we sit there for a minute and soak in the recognition of what we just admitted to ourselves out loud. To me that night, it was that I am hypersensitive about judgement.
Having bullshit remaining from our childood has come to be one of those laughable cliches. And although, there is no need for repressed conditioning to become an excuse and affect the rest of our lives, there is some power to realizing that how we were brought up affects the strategies we use to live our lives now.
Probably one of the simplest and most profound ways I think childhood conditioning affected me is the way I learned to lie (not consciously per se) in order to not just receive approval by others or to manipulate people, but as a survival tactic in order to make it through the days, weeks and years with as little confrontation as possible. I grew up in a strict religious household. (my mom was a very active Jehovah’s Witness. And I by no means, intend to bad mouth that religion. But let’s face it. They’re strict by modern standards.) And although my own beliefs aimed to the more academic side of things, I instead learned the best way to get along was to not only get good grades but to keep my focus on being the most religious, “the most spiritual”. (Even my good grades were meant for me to show my diligence as an “ambassador” of God’s people.)
As I got older, I had serious doubts about my “faith” and I did a lot of writing imploring God for faith. I remember this one particular evening lying in the field behind my house writing and I felt this flood of faith come over me and I wrote the gratitude I had. Perhaps that feeling was a more a knowing and an optimism that everything would be okay without needing to be anxious over my lack of faith.
Although I was intimidated by judgement, I had a certain tactic, which is that I could play the “oddball” but still do everything by the book. I would follow the rules, but be broadminded, even goofy. Perhaps my genuine effort at doing the right things made my eccentricity more palatable and refreshing that than it would have been on it’s own. This is a tactic I still find myself using as an adult.
After I got married, had my son and separated from my husband, I read a few conviction shaking novels “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Perks of Being a Wallflower.” I think these books played their part in helping me realize that I wanted to live a life of awareness and integrity. I quit going to the meetings at the Kingdom Hall. But I didn’t explain to my mother the power behind that decision. After a while, I got tired of this appearing to her as laziness on my part. I broke free and told her that she had taught me to have integrity and that was why I was no longer attending because I was not interested in faking true belief. I did not then and do not now want my children to be motivated by fear or by guilt to do the “right thing.” I believe people are inherently good without those forces as motivating factors.
Still, though after all this, I misrepresent myself to people. I noticed this about a month ago when I talked with a man I barely know about something and he asked me what my standing was with the Lord and I responded that, “I don’t really go to church anymore.” I did not answer him honestly which would be to say that, “I am not Christian but I do often find myself enjoying the seemingly miraculous, good things in my life. And heck, I am down with Jesus. I am not sure whether there is a higher power or not but at times it seems I can not ignore there feeling this sense of security bestowed on me. That I think scientific literature is the most awe inspiring literature I have ever read.” Basically, I have complex and interested feelings on the subject that do not need converting. But to the bigger question. Why was I not more honest with how I answered that question? Because I was afraid of judgement that he might have about my fitness as a parent? Or perhaps he could reason that this is why my circumstances are difficult because my atheism is keeping me from being blessed. Either way, I copped out with this silly little pretense that I just got too busy.
This is also a similar nagging guilt I experience with my Dad. I still haven’t told him that I quit my retail job because I don’t want to interact with his judgement. And maybe I feel like I would be too receptive to his fear for me and that fear can sabotage and depress my efforts at living life in a radically different way.
But now that it’s out there in the open, that I am hypersensitive to judgement, I can see how to move on from here. I can observe how I handle the simplest of things and feel a more organic confidence rise within me.
After I admitted this fear to Ian, and I say “admitted” because it was a bit of a confession for me, he told me what he sees in me and his words catapulted me forward to a higher awareness of myself and what I contain. He told me in this eloquent way (yeah I was flattered) that he sees me as full of life and funny and intelligient person and that it was hard for him to believe that I felt fear of judgement or that I had little confidence. That even thinking about my weight as not right was a symptom of the problem because I am perfect the way I am . And he is right. Until I acknowledge the perfectness I am now, with all the characteristic flaws and differences, I won’t attract perfection. I watched an interview with Maria Forleo and Mastin Kipp today and Mastin said ,”You attract what you are.” So hell, I am clean, beautiful, loved, and while I’m at it… affluent too.
I’ll end with that.