Recently I’ve spent a lot of time allowing myself to fade into the background.
I do this by:
• Keeping quiet. I join in discussions, but tend not to engage people in conversation; in particular I don’t really do small talk. I just listen to other people mostly, and just speak when I’m spoken to.
• Wearing really boring clothes. Jeans, trainers, baggy T-shirts in brown or sludge green, hair tied back in a low ponytail. Not wearing makeup.
• Pretending to be distracted. Sometimes if I see someone I know, I’ll act as if I don’t see them. If they say hello to me I’ll talk, but if not I won’t. I think it’s in case they didn’t want to say hi, and then I don’t embarrass myself by talking to them when they intended to just walk past. Which truly is stupid.
• Playing down the things that make me unique, like my intelligence and knowledge and musical ability and enthusiasm and all the little things that make me stand out. Similarly exaggerating things I’m lacking, or not so good at, and unfavourably comparing myself to other people.
• Continuing to do the same boring things I do every day, and never challenging myself with something new.
I hate how easy it is for me to lose confidence in myself. I really thought that it would just be a matter of time before I felt happy in my own skin, like once I started doing something I enjoy and am good at (i.e. studying, singing) things would just fall into place, but of course it doesn’t happen like that.
For me to explain this properly I’ll have to delve a little bit into my background, so bear with me.
While I was at school I was, while not exactly systematically bullied, teased about my appearance, and pretty much told that I’d never be able to attract men, never have a boyfriend, etc (as if that’s the be all and end all of life anyway!) so by the time I left at 16 I was pretty much settled with the idea that my brains were a deficit rather than an asset, that I wasn’t pretty and popular like my “friends”, and that while they could expect to pull on a night out I should simply resign myself to the fact that I’d always be the one left out. By that age I’d had exactly one short encounter with a guy I met on holiday, who certainly wasn’t an Adonis.
So I took the opportunity when I moved to a new school to do A levels to start afresh. New friends - real friends, more socialising, not caring what people thought and what I “should” be doing. Suddenly I got male attention, and quite a lot of it, from guys I actually found attractive. And there was confidence. I got a boyfriend, who I was with for 5 years. I flirted. I slept with guys. I did things because I wanted to do them, and I did the things I wanted to do.
I think I built up a persona as a sexy, funny, energetic, sexual person, and I realised that there are different types of attractive. I was happy with myself, I think the persona reflected a genuine part of my personality and it was close to the way I think I naturally am, if things are going well.
And somewhere between then and my depression all that evaporated.
I don’t know how, but my self-confidence was eroded away until I was back at the just-left-school no-one-will-ever-love-me stage, and even worse. I desperately wanted care and attention, but I didn’t believe the love people showed me. Anyway, I’m not going to dwell on that because I came out of it, and built myself back up again, but I’ve never quite achieved the confidence of my late teens/early twenties.
So really it’s just been this weekend that I’ve realised that I’m not happy, that I’m hiding myself because of some pitiful belief that I’m not good enough. I’m not the type to blame other people in my past for my problems today, but it’s easy to see what effect the negative views of my so-called friends have had on me, and how long-lasting it’s been. And that pisses me off, how dare they steal my real personality like that? And how could I let them?
I think that their motivation can only have been jealousy. I’m clever, funny, talented, good at solving problems and learning new things, and I have breasts. And all they had was prettiness, and fashionable clothes.
But anyway. I’m not hiding anymore. To paraphrase Boo the other day, of course I can, I am Anna.
Starting tonight, I’m planning to be me.
April flowers ... but no showers
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