A close friend of mine called me out on something recently, and it led to a really great conversation. I spend a lot of time thinking about things, but rarely put them into words for other people– a lot of times things become clearer for me when I’m forced to express them.
Simply put, most of the time I don’t trust myself. It’s a odd thought to mull over, and my hope is that putting it more into words here will help clarify it. Some people put up walls and keep people at a distance because they’re afraid of being hurt. I understand that, and I get those motivations, but it’s not what happens with me. I’ve been hurt by other people, but it’s never shaken my belief that most people aren’t going to intentionally hurt me. Instead, I’m more afraid of hurting other people.
It manifests in strange ways. I prefer the man-behind-the-curtain approach, and I’m very reticent to commit to things with people unless I’m absolutely sure I can make it work. I’ve caught myself making jokes about “I don’t know why anyone follows me”, expressed as a warning to others that maybe they shouldn’t follow me. People still do, and for all the jokes about not knowing why, I really do know why they do.
I don’t trust myself; I have a deep-seated belief that I am a hair’s breadth away from letting everyone down all the time. I put a lot of effort into being a good leader and a perceptive friend and an attentive lover because I don’t want to let people down (more than I, in my mind, already have). It drives me to be a good leader, it drives me to pursue excellence, because that looming shadow is always behind me. People trust me, and that scares me because I don’t share their feelings.
At the same time, I know what I’m capable of, and I’m well aware of my skills. There’s an Infinity tournament this weekend, and I’ve been agonizing over what to play. I’ve been repeatedly told “bring whatever you feel like!” or even “bring something really brutal, we want to see it,” and it makes me anxious. I know I can take pretty much any list and be very effective with it. I’ve been playing the game a long time and I’m confident in my skills. What I worry about is my reputation. I don’t want to be That Guy Who Just Moved Here And Wins Constantly, but it’s not respectful to my opponents to play intentionally unplayable lists or otherwise let them win. In the meantime, people are consistently happy to play against me, even when they lose. I’ve had one or two local players ask me to bring something just utterly crushing, and when I do and beat them soundly, they’re EXCITED, like losing so badly was the coolest thing ever, and it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around that.
I have a habit that I’ve been trying to break lately. I have, over many years, become an expert at crafting ornate little (metaphorical) masks that I use to interact with people. To compartmentalize my interactions with others, I only show them one of a number of masks that represent some facet of myself, and the rest stays hidden away. As I get to know someone better, I’ll use a few more, showing off different facets, but there’s still that barrier. It’s always a small thrill when someone can see past the mask and calls me out on it, but it doesn’t happen often, and I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are very familiar with a mask and have barely any idea who I really am underneath. I have, at times, wondered whether there is anything underneath all the masks, or if that’s really all of me. I would have, at one point, argued that point very convincingly.
Very, very rarely, I will get close enough to someone and they’ll have seen enough of my masks that I don’t have to wear them anymore. This is true of a very, very small number of people, and they tend to be friendships that last me for years. I’ve been trying, lately, to let more people in. Someone commented to me, when I talked about my masks, that keeping that up constantly must be exhausting. I can’t really say. If it is, it’s a thing I’ve been doing so long that the effort isn’t noticable anymore. What I do know is that, every so often, I’m close enough to someone that in order to be honest with them, I have to trust myself, just a little bit. It’s hard, and I don’t get there with many people.
I am, as a result, very thoughtful and considering when it comes to love. For all that I’m a romantic, actually loving someone is a tough hurdle, because I have to have first taken off all the masks, and then I have to remember how to trust myself. When I’m there, though, it’s a continual feedback loop. I’m a better, more open, less detached person, and in addition to being someone I respect and care for, the person I’m with is a constant reminder to remember how to trust myself, because I often forget.
Another friend of mine asked me if I trusted other people. I think I surprised him when I said I did– I’ve never had a problem trusting others, once they’ve been given a chance to prove that they’re trustworthy. I’m not naive, but I’m not overly suspicious either. I know I have a network of friends who I can trust to have my back if/when I really need it (and even when I don’t), but for me the challenge is trusting myself, trusting that I’m the kind of person worth that sort of effort.
It’s a work in progress. Isn’t everything?
No pictures today, other than the header. Sorry not sorry for the wall of text; I’m forcing myself to post this to open up, but I secretly hope that the pictureless expanse of text will cause people to tune out, so I’m maybe not opening up as much. If you got this far, thank you. You’re helping.