Thursday, June 13, 2013

Inside, Outside

So often I find myself looking at people and thinking, "Wow, they really have their act together" or "They are so confident" or "They have a great life, they seem so happy".  I will admit, sometimes I am bitten by the little green monster.  I know it's not right to compare ourselves to others and I hate when I do because it always causes stress, but sometimes I can't help it.  Sometimes I wish I was more like someone else.  I wish I was more Zen, more calm, more peaceful, more on an even keel.

Jason and I had this conversation tonight.  I know what he looks like sitting across from me, sipping his beer, legs crossed, head cocked to the side and he knows what I look like sitting Indian style on a chair on our deck, but as well as I know him, I don't necessarily know what he is thinking or feeling, unless he tells me.  He could have had a shitty day at work or he could have a headache or be really self conscious about something and unless he tells me, I don't know.  The same goes for me, unless I tell him about something that is stressing me out or something I am feeling he has no idea.  We can sit there and each have a totally different experience.

A few months ago, a friend of mine from high school who lives in Texas spent some time with another high school classmate who was visiting Texas.  My friend called me on her way home and told me what a great time she had and how we really should all have gotten out of our shells more in school, we had the same impressions of different people and similar experiences.  Then my friend told me that our classmate said, "I know you keep in touch with Theresa.  Is her life really as perfect as it seems?"  WHA? I felt like I had been socked in the stomach.  I never, ever, EVER want to be one of those people that gets on facebook and brags about stuff or gives this impression of thinking I am so great or my life is any better than anyone else's life.  I felt like a failure at facebook.  What was I doing wrong?  How did my life look any more perfect than anyone else's?  The classmate that said this has a thriving career and travels the globe selling fine wine and eating in five star restaurants and staying in five star hotels.  She lives in a gorgeous part of the country and has two adorable kids and a hot tub with a view of mountains.  I tend to overanalyze things that upset me and I started to wonder if our classmate was being sarcastic?  Why would she think my life is perfect?  My friend calmed me down and said, "You are happy.  You are really, truly, genuinely happy and it shows.  A lot of people don't feel that way."

It really made me think.  I know all of the anxiety I feel or all the ways I feel I am not living up to my potential because I don't have a big career or how insecure I feel over some things or how I feel I have messed some things up, but no one else knows that unless I tell them.  None of us knows what anyone else's internal world is.  We don't know the little voices that maybe say we are not good enough or worthy or whatever.  We don't really ever know how someone else feels, really FEELS or what the experience of that feeling is for that person.  Our insides don't necessarily match our outsides.

One of my friends from college recently went back to school to get another degree and we were emailing and something came up about how this friend was never confident socially.  Huh?  This friend was the planner/organizer of our group, he was the one that made things happen.  I always admired that about him.  He also got me out of a few tricky situations back in the day.  How could he not be confident socially?  But he wasn't.  He said he was really shy, he had all these insecurities, but I always thought of him as super confident.  We talked about how you never really know what someone is feeling unless they tell you.  He told me his opinion of me and I will be honest, it is what I want people to think of me but it's just the part of me that I radiate outwards, it's not all the inside "stuff", the anxiety, regret, etc.  I guess what I show the world is different than what I may be feeling inside.

When we first began homeschooling I had some moms and kids over.  One of the moms, also new to the group, said to the other mom, "You are so Zen, so calm, how do you do it?"  And the other mom just laughed and said, "I am a wreck.  A bundle of nerves."  The mom who asked the question and I looked at each other and the other mom, the homeschool neighbor mom, and were like, "Oh, no, you seem calm!"  I didn't know it at the time, but I found out a few weeks later, the homeschool neighbor mom we thought was so Zen was going through a divorce and her whole world was upside down, but she was still able to look calm to the outside world.  Her outside image and what she was feeling inside were two completely different things.

It is so easy on blogs, in social media, even in real life to get an impression of someone as being confident or having it all, but we never really know what that person is feeling, what is going on inside them.  We all do a pretty good job of masking our insecurities and showing the world what we want them to see, we save the anxieties and insecurities for our therapists and closest friends and even then they never really know everything.  So, maybe that person you think has it all together, maybe they are worrying about something bigger than you can imagine; maybe they feel like they are juggling or treading water and can drown at any moment.  Maybe that person who seems so confident really wishes they could spend more time with their kids and maybe they are admiring you for spending that time with your kids.  Maybe that person who seems to have a great life is feeling like they were abandoned as a child and while they appreciate what they have now, they are always missing that love from their parent.

I have a terrible habit of projecting what I think other people think of me.  I always think people are thinking bad things about me like I look fat in those pants or I talk too loud or I should have a better career and make more money or I am a nerd because I love to read or I am weird because I homeschool.

It has taken me a long time to realize that everyone has insecurities, everyone has feelings.  I am not the only one that carries around all these emotions, we all do.