I have recently realized a painful truth about myself: I am terrified of vulnerability. Terrified to the point of being unable to articulate my needs terrified. And it is the source of all of my issues in relationships with others.
I think to some degree I give off the impression of vulnerability, at least in the sense that I am willing to talk about deep things, difficult things. But that’s all surface. It’s nothing more than ingrained behavior. My entire childhood was wrapped up in AA, psychology, therapy, and always, always talking about everything, no matter how uncomfortable.
But all that talking doesn’t equate to me being open. Really letting people inside, knowing my flaws and fears… well, I have yet to accomplish that in a meaningful way.
Five years ago, I wrote these words about Steve on my sobriety blog:
And I will allow him to help me, to help hold me up when I need it. Because sometimes I really, really need it. I don’t mean to “fix” me but just be… a leaning post. I walk in tense solitude too often and forget I have a safe and loving person to hold me if I need him to.
In five years, nothing has changed. In fact, I think I walk in tense solitude even more now than I did then. Even worse, my unwillingness to be vulnerable has developed into an intense form or perfectionism, which leaves me constantly judging myself – and everyone else in my life – by impossible standards. It’s exhausting. It has to stop. I have to do something about it, now, or I am going to end up cold, hard, unaffectionate, someone who rarely smiles and never laughs. And alone.
I have thoughts on why I am like this: fear of happiness and always waiting for the other shoe to drop due to long ago incidents of rejection and ridicule from those I believed were my friends and post-traumatic stress from my father’s sudden death. Years of learned behavior. Some of the perfectionism, I think, even sprung out of positives – quitting drinking and smoking, losing weight, and becoming a streak runner all set the bar really high; now, anything that falls short of that type of all or nothing achievement isn’t good enough.
Still, in essence, all those why’s lead to the same thoughts and actions.
I have to be perfect or else I won’t be loved or admired.
I cannot fail or falter in any way and if I do, I can’t show it to anyone.
I have to always be in control.
I have to be the best at everything I do, or at least pretend.
Honestly, I am deep down scared to death to let people see me: bare, open, silly, imperfect. Weak. Just typing that last word makes me want to cry.
I deserve better than this.
The people who love me deserve better than this, than me being annoyed, angry, defensive, guarded, and half present, always keeping myself at a distance. I want to be the kind of person who flows with others in shared joy and humanity. I want to lean on Steve, and on my friends, and I want them to lean on me. Even here, fellow tumblrs, I want to tell you more about my inner reality than I do. And I will.
All I can do is just do it. Breathe deep. Stay at peace. Open up and say genuine things. Be a genuine flawed human being. Beat the fear and anger. Every time I feel that horribly constant familiar feeling welling up inside my torso, every time I am tempted to lash out… breathe deep. Remember I am okay. That it’s okay to be imperfect. To not know things. To be weak, in tears, and in need of love.
Working on it.