One of the most annoying things about mental illness is going into therapy thinking you’re in an awesome place and leaving with emotional burdens you didn’t even know you had been carrying. That’s what happened to me on Monday. I walked in, proud to tell my therapist about how I had spent my Sunday meal prepping and finally felt like I was beginning to grasp healthy outlets for the need for control that so often drives my anorexia.
I left realizing my self-worth issues are a lot more deep-seeded than I realized.
I know I have self-worth issues. I mean, duh. What I didn’t know was just how deep-seeded they are, and how much they can affect the way I perceive my interactions with other people. I have a habit of trying to downplay when I’m dealing with a stressful situation or a mental health obstacle, so much so that I sometimes trick myself into thinking that whatever it is I’m dealing with is completely inconsequential.
Knowing when and how to discuss things like mental health or stress is an important social skill…but downplaying things to the point that I’m not being forthcoming in therapy (a place literally designed for talking about your problems) or that I’m ignoring the facts of my situation entirely isn’t really healthy. That also means the hurt and insecurity I’m feeling comes out in weird ways — like when a friend gives me a “weird look” when I’m trying to explain something.
I was telling my therapist how talking about these things (outside of a blog context, because for some reason writing about it feels less intimidating than having an actual conversation with someone) makes me feel “dramatic” or “burdensome” or “annoying” or “selfish” or any number of bad things. And the disproportionate emotional reactions that sometimes ensue from bottling everything up make me feel even more horrible and ridiculous and stressful and unworthy (and on…and on…and on…).
I just kind of assumed all those negative things I think about myself when I have an imperfect emotional reaction or am going through a tough time were true. But when I got done unloading all of that in therapy on Monday, my therapist said, “Do you think maybe the reason you worry that other people think those things about you is because that’s how you feel about yourself? Not because it’s actually what they think about you?”
Assuming you’re a Rational Human™, you’re probably thinking something like, “Well, yeah. That makes sense.” Bear in mind that I do not, in fact, often fall into the category of “rational.” Especially when it comes to my self-perception. It was news to me that perhaps I am not an actual garbage human — I just assume I’m one and project that onto everyone else.
Relinquishing the identity of worthlessness inside me is going to take a lot of work. I’m starting to understand the seeds that grew into the giant weed in my mind now, which will (hopefully) help me figure out how to remove it…but it’s also going to take giving myself and other people the benefit of the doubt. I’ve spent pretty much my whole life preparing for the worst because I believe that I’m just one bad day or bad moment away from being “found out” for the worthless loser I am.
I need to figure out how to give myself permission to be enough without having to check things off a never-ending list of things I need to complete before that happens, and I need to accept that not everyone in my life has one foot already out the door. And that’s really scary. It’s scary to embrace yourself as a “good enough” human as you are, especially when you’re privy to all your greatest insecurities and perceived flaws.
It’s even scarier to accept that some people want to be around you in spite of all those insecurities and perceived flaws — that they might be able to understand and accept that you’re a human being with imperfect moments and aspects, and be okay with it if you mess up. Just like I know the people I love are still enough in all their human imperfections, they know I am enough in all my human imperfections. I just need to figure out how to know myself as enough, too.