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Fear of Intimacy, Social Inadequacy, and Breaking Free

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  • #303181

    Aria
    Participant

    Hi everyone. This is my first post here so bear with me if it’s somewhat long. You can skim parts, I tend to be loquacious with my writing and this is partly venting. There are several issues/topics here so commentary or advice on any one of them would be greatly appreciated! Would love to know if anyone relates or has had similar experiences too.

    I’ll begin with the basics. I’m a 21 year old female attending community college (which I’ve began and dropped out multiple times) living with my mom and 19 year old brother. Introvert. No lasting friendships. Has had Have only had two short romantic relationships (one at 19, the other ended a few weeks ago).

    Okay, so I’ve written a summary of my past but it was lengthy so I took it out. Feel free to ask additional questions, as I believe my current conundrums stem from past experience. But basically, I was an expressive kid, a thing happened where I was socially ostracized, became mute for a year, then talked but was painfully shy, carried deep shame throughout my childhood, always felt different, an outsider (I was in a homogenous small town, and my mother is Iranian so always stood out), despite that had good childhood, close with brother, lot of fun in nature/outdoors. Parents divorced aged 12, witnessed lot of yelling/abuse with them. Closer with my dad than mother. Became self conscious, wanted to conform/fit in. Moved across the country w mom and brother for high school. Been up and down through my teenage years. Went in depression, brought myself out/had spiritual awakenings. Had anorexia and body dysmorphic disorder at one point. Placed a lot of emphasis on my looks. Good and bad times socially, but never got very close with anyone/had lasting friendships. Started college and dropped several times due to mental issues. Lot of self-reflection, time spent philosophizing. I don’t regret the past, and the hard times have shaped and taught me so much. But I carry wounds/side effects from childhood onward to this day that I desire to overcome.

    Now to the current! So I think I’m in a pretty good place mentally most of the time. I can shift into a greater perspective and realize the extraordinary power of our perceptions of events/ourselves/others. The world is a lot bigger than “me and my problems”. Life is fleeting, we never know when we’ll die, and therefore I want to enjoy each day to the fullest and reach my greatest potential and help others.  However I have emotional wounds and effects from my upbringing that resurface, and I am missing the deep intimate connection with other human beings that I so crave. I love my alone time, and I know not to seek happiness from those outside myself. I have passion in art and writing and I love learning so I can be pretty occupied. However many days, even when I’m productive, positive, I still feel empty. When I see others my age with friends, in relationships, it stirs envy in me. But it’s more than envy. It’s pain. Because when you desire something and believe you are somehow incapable of ever having it, it hurts. And deep down, I know I feel defective in some way. Why can’t I connect easily with others? Be myself around them? Form lasting friendships? I’m afraid of intimacy, and so I feel safer alone. I’m afraid of sharing myself with another and being rejected. My true authentic self. Expressiveness. The shy exterior is a shield, and when it’s active, no true connection can be made. So many times in my past have I shared something personal with someone, and it was ignored, overlooked, or I wasn’t given a response I have wanted, and I perceived it as rejection.

    I try to be content being alone, using my mentality. It works to a degree, but that desire for connection, to be heard and known and loved, never leaves. Books, and art and music and writing do not satisfy it. In turn, during the times in my past I have socialized more/been more active outside the house, I enjoy my alone time more. It becomes special. I feel more balanced. My downfall many times has been I’ve been too isolated. That is when I start wasting time, self-sabotaging, becoming self-centered and focused on my problems. However I am appreciative because that has allowed me to seek truth, philoposhy, become self-aware. But I need the social aspect. Do any introverts on here have tips on how they stay balanced? On getting more active and out of one’s comfort zone? Especially in the beginning, without the confidence of past experiences affirming they CAN do it. Or should I learn to be okay being alone for now? I have my brother and Dad to talk to at least, and a few people I text. Maybe if I focus on developing my hobbies, working on a positive mindset, loving myself, then I’ll meet the right people? Has anyone been in a situation where they thought they’d never find love/true friends, thought they’re socially inept, but later on did? That would be very encouraging to hear.

    Rejection is a difficult thing.  How does one overcome this deeply rooted fear I think so many of us have? It’s manifested in my life in many ways and holds me back from a great deal. I had trouble letting my ex go because of this. He broke up with me, and I was okay because I knew we weren’t totally compatible and I thought we could still get closer as friends (we had a lot in common still, and he was the only one I spent so much time with) I wanted to stay in contact even if not romantically. I was clinging to any possibility for deep connection with someone and extremely afraid that he would want to cut off contact/never see me again, which would resurface those childhood wounds. I was afraid that he never liked me either. And that is a fear with most guys. I think they only like me for my appearance and not who I am. I have felt used a lot before. They like something so fleeting, that will fade with time. Something that I still value and find worth in. Something I didn’t choose. I realized my looks are one of the only things my mom compliments me on–and I look a lot like her. I wear makeup and have always liked dressing up and I feel I wouldn’t be as confident if I didn’t. I used to be extremely critical of my looks, and they directly correlated with my self esteem. Now it’s gotten better (after all, dow how I look affect how well I write, draw, or my ability to be a good person?) But I know I’m affected by it still. I also feel the way I dress and carry myself might create a wall between me and others… I may seem “too good” for everyone. I wonder if I make anyone jealous. And at the same time, I still feel jealous of others. There are times I do feel vain, though I hate to admit it. When I think I look really good. But I’m also very aware of my “flaws”. Kind of off topic sorry. But basically I want to be liked for who I am, not how I look like. Cause I’ll never look put together all the time. People only see me when I want to be seen, but a long term partner will see me when I’m sick, tired, just wake up, etc. I’m partly afraid of being rejected if I’m seen like that….wow. Just realized I project my shallow fears onto others.

    Fear of rejection has made me afraid to express my opinions as well. Even afraid to share music/songs with others that they might not like. Or anything personal. The issue manifests socially most of all, being reserved, afraid to express anything that could be perceived as “Weird”. Sometimes I don’t care, but in general I think it creates a barrier between me and others.

    I think I have pushed people away, or not done my best to maintain relationships. I end up in a lot of one-sided things. People like me cause I listen. And I do like listening, hearing from other people, but often I feel I’m just their venting-bag. No interest in knowing me at all. And that hurts deep down. My ex didn’t seem to want to truly know me either. He’d just gotten out of a three year relationship and wasn’t ready for a new one. He had trust issues and fear of intimacy. I think I was his rebound too. Oh well. My other ex just wanted me to boost his ego basically. Never actually liked me. I hope to meet a friend or romantic partner one day who will truly want to know me, who I can express my authentic self with. Be silly, weird, have fun. The inner child me that was suppressed at a young age. And I the same for him. I have so much love to give someone. I poured my heart out with my ex. I love making people special gifts/cute things. I like writing letters. I don’t expect that in turn, I enjoy giving for the sake of giving. But I hope one day to meet someone who’ll love me back. Truly and deeply.

    My mom has rejected me unknowingly many times. I do not blame her for it. She is very critical of me because she’s so critical of herself. She can’t give me the emotional comfort and love I desire from her because she doesn’t have it herself. And it hurts, I won’t lie. I wish it didn’t effect me, but I’ve learned I need to provide that love myself. I love her, but I feel a wall around her, and perhaps some resentment. There’s no trust between us. She treats me like a child, constantly critiquing everything I do wrong or don’t do. She says “why can’t you be normal? everyone else is out enjoying their lives, doing xyzzy, and you’re like this? What did I do to deserve this?” She has said “What did I do wrong to raise you like this? It’s my fault.” She has called me lazy, selfish, childish, immature, naive, irresponsible many times over the years. And in turn I do feel those things at times. I feel dependent on her. I can’t function as an adult in society yet. I’m afraid of phone calls. I don’t have a car, and rely on her for rides still. I wouldn’t know how to survive on my own. Others my age do all these things. I know we’re all on different paths, so them being “ahead” is not a problem. But I’m 21 and feel 16.  I wish to go off and live on my own, but because of all these internalized beliefs, I’m afraid I’m incapable of doing it.

    I know I can alter my view of myself if I try. But I can’t picture myself in most social situations. How does someone change their view of themself without past experience to confirm it? I’ve been told who I am by so many people all my life. I act differently around them too, in a way, I conform to roles. I have a friend who told me that I’m so shy/introverted unlike my brother. It didn’t sound like a compliment, just someone labeling you. It bothered me because I have many sides. I have a silly/outgoing/expressive side. It feels like a lie even saying that, but I do. It only comes out when I feel completely safe. Not judged. And when someone labels me, I instantly shut down and can’t express my other sides, even though I want to “prove” it to them that I’m NOT shy. I had a realization after that. No one can put me in a box if I don’t box myself. But I do box myself, with these subconscious beliefs I’ve accumulated over the years. How does one become authentic? Escape the labels society and people put on us? My biggest desire is to be seen and heard. My biggest fear is to be seen and heard. It’ a paradox that continues to vex me.

    I’ve always been a dreamer. My imagination is vivid, and I can spend a lot of time lost in it. I have visions of the future, of travel and friends, of my ideal relationship, fun things I’ll do, dreams I don’t even dare voice sometimes. It’s a blessing and a curse, because reality often disappoints. So I’ve told myself all relationships will have problems, I’ll have to settle in ways. That’s why I wanted to stick with my ex and work through any issues, despite blatant areas we weren’t compatible. Yet I dream of the type of man I want to meet. All my life I’ve dreamed of friends, a group of people I’m close and intimate with. It only hurts when I think it’s not possible. When I think I’m broken and can’t make friends like that. One time I wrote a bucket list, of all the things I’d do if I had no fear holding me back, no “I could never do that!”s. And I wrote so so much. I’m an adventurous person. I love humanity, I want to use my talents to help others. Life’s so short, and I don’t want to waste it being stuck in my head, in my little bubble of self-perpetuated fear. I want to meet all kinds of people. Expand my horizons. Take oppourtinites. Do things I can’t even picture myself doing right now.  But the world tells me to be practical. I don’t have the money, means, and social capacity/confidence to do those things.  I’m not mature enough, stable enough, independent enough. Maybe it’s true, I don’t know. But I think I’ll never be “ready” until I do it.

    I’m a fledgling on the brink of maturity, a little bird with big dreams, residing in this nest. I have two wings, but the world tells me they’re broken. And now I believe they are indeed broken. And if I don’t overcome this fear, if I never take the first leap, I’ll never find out if I can fly.

    #303241

    Peggy
    Participant

    Dear Aria,

    I consider, overall, that I had a very good and loving upbringing.  However, I was labelled by my mother, ridiculed by my father and subtly bullied by my brother and sister.  None of it was meant unkindly but being a sensitive person it had the effect of making me feel rejected, not accepted for who I was.  The antidote for this was accepting myself for who I was/am and loving myself as I am.  This is very empowering and gives rise to confidence.

    I would ask you not to concern yourself with what might be but focus on what is in the present.

    You can’t do everything at once.  Break your ambitions/desires down into manageable chunks.  You are a good listener, artistic and want to help people.  There are career opportunities for which you would be ideally suited.  Using your talents in a therapeutic setting might be a good place to start.

    You have a bucket list.  Chose the easiest one and make it happen.

    Someone once said that there is nothing to fear but fear itself.  Take tiny steps towards facing your fears.  It’s empowering and helps build confidence.  Talk to someone in the check out queue.  It’s a social interaction.  Just a small one.

    It is possible for you to have friends and it is possible for you to have a man who can see beyond the outer appearance.  It can happen and it does happen.

    In the end, you are the one who decides whether you stay on the ground with her wings clipped or whether you learn to fly.  Even our feathered friends have to learn life skills.

    With best wishes

    Peggy

     

    #303243

    Stevano
    Participant

    Hi Aria,

    Rejection is part of our lives and it is normal to feel offended by rejection. Take it as  a battle scar to be proud of because from this experience, I am sure that you can bring some lessons home with you. Take some responsibility for the outcome and contemplate on the reason why the rejection happens. Sometimes, it has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the other person.  But if you feel you play a part in it, then you can lean in a little bit more to the problem and create a solution of how to better handle the situation next time. It is an opportunity to improve ourselves and grow. Most importantly, don’t take life too seriously, have fun in trying out new things 🙂

    For social anxiety, I find this trick very useful: the next time you find someone interesting to talk to but feel anxious, you can experiment in raising your volume a little. It makes such a big difference by raising your voice. Keep doing it not once, but several times. And, express yourself more without thinking how people might judge you. What you think how they might react may not be accurate and at most a speculation of your mind. If people can’t accept you for who you are, then there are others who will accept you. Just like that saying, there’s someone for everyone 🙂

    Lastly, everyone who is never hurt is not living properly! The fact you are hurt means you do just fine. I say, get comfortable with painful situations and take the lessons with you.

    Cheers,
    Stevano Otto

    #303437

    anita
    Participant

    Dear Aria:

    The mother is the most important person in a little girl’s mind, heart and life. Let’s look  at your mother in your life: “my looks are one of the only things my mom compliments me on… There are times I do feel vain.. When I think I look really good”- that vain feeling is as close to feeling loved by your mother, in your childhood and ongoing experience.

    “My mom has rejected me.. many times.. She is very critical of me… and  it hurts… I feel a wall around her, and perhaps some resentment. There’s no trust between us. She… constantly critiquing everything I do .. or don’t do. She says ‘why can’t you be normal?.. What did I do to deserve this?’… She has called me lazy, selfish, childish, immature”.

    You wrote: I try to  be content being alone.. but that desire for connection, to be heard and known and loved, never leaves… when you desire something and believe you are somehow incapable of ever having it, it hurts. And deep down, I know I feel defective.. Why can’t I connect easily with others? Be myself around them?.. I’m afraid of sharing myself with another and being rejected”.

    My thoughts: you are afraid of sharing yourself with another because as a child you shared yourself with your mother, all children do. She rejected you, it hurt a lot and so, you are afraid.

    She rejected you, therefore you believed that you were defective and that is why she rejected you. A child is not capable of thinking that her  mother may be defective/ unable to love/ hateful, so the child believes the problem must be with her, with the child, not being worthy of love,  defective.

    The painful emptiness is that desire a girl has to be loved by her rejecting, unloving mother. This painful emptiness does not  go away.

    We are angry at  our unloving mother, we don’t trust her because she has hurt us so many times, we tried  to make her love us but fail.. and yet we still try. We try to not love her, to not care,  but we still love her, we care more than anything.. to be loved by her.

    It hurts badly for a child loving her mother deeply, naturally,intensely, needing her love  so desperately, and yet, fail at any and all attempts to get her love. It leaves us with a desire so  intense, to be loved, a desire coupled with fear  of yet another rejection.

    I hope to read more from you.

    anita

     

     

    #304061

    Lucy
    Participant

    Dear Aria,

    Thank you for writing such a detailed post. I could relate to it in several different ways, therefore, I would like to share with you a little bit about myself and my experiences. I’m a 28 year-old female who is currently learning to accept and love herself.

    I’m an only child and I grew up in a rather chaotic and contradictory environment. My mother was overly protective, but she simultaneously rejected me, which sent me several mixed signals. She was loving if I acted the way she intended me to, but I quickly learned that showing emotions or independence was a big problem in my family, so for years I felt compelled to hide my true self. In the meantime, I was heavily bullied at school for being shy and quirky, and I also struggled with an eating disorder as well as body dysmorphia. I had no one to discuss such matters with, so I learned to internalize everything, which led to “fun” times dealing with anxiety and panic attacks. When I eventually started making friends after high school, I was incapable of establishing a true connection with them. I had developed a certain aversion to emotions and was incapable of making myself vulnerable, due to my upbringing. In addition to that, I deeply disliked myself, so I naturally couldn’t connect with others without feeling discomfort. In some ways, I also looked for troubled people who used me as their personal therapist. They loved the version of me that helped them, but were uninterested in knowing my true self. I buried myself in my spiritual studies, paintings, and books. I convinced myself that I was incapable of establishing meaningful relationships and that I was too detached to feel anything real (even though I had so much love to give).

    When I turned eighteen, I moved abroad for college. I struggled with self-loathing and had difficulty fitting in, although I was quite successful in my studies. When I turned twenty, I was fortunate enough to meet someone special who is currently my spouse. This happened soon after I hit rock bottom. I was suffering from daily panic attacks, so I turned to meditation and Buddhism for answers—they came as a quick spiritual awakening, which helped me free myself from a lot of issues from the past. Due to this awakening, I opened myself to this new person and he accepted me in ways that I couldn’t. His support accelerated my self-acceptance journey very significantly, which led me to become more confident and true to myself. This change didn’t happen overnight. It took several years and he wasn’t the only person involved. His support was helpful, but I also worked hard to become a better person. As I worked hard, I kept on meeting more and more people who helped me to grow. If I weren’t working hard to open up for them, I probably wouldn’t have given those people a chance. It took me eight years to get to a point where I can comfortably say that I am my true self. I’m still afraid of rejection, but that fear is far less powerful than before, and I learned that there are people out there who I can love and who will love me in return (even with my faults, my quirks, and my somewhat unusual beliefs). I think this post might be a little bit convoluted, but I wanted to share a summarized version of my story with you in hopes that you will believe me when I say that things will likely get easier as you grow older. You just need to be patient and forgiving with yourself. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a “broken” person, but I believe that there are people out there who are going to love you for who you are, and I also believe that you will learn to find these people. Nowadays, I understand myself quite well and I know what kinds of people that make me feel at home. I found my community. I don’t know you, and I can’t say anything about your physical appearance, but your writing alone is quite powerful and you seem to have a beautiful mind. Please give yourself some credit and I hope you find the right people who will appreciate you. Don’t be ashamed of being yourself. I think most people are afraid of being their true selves (society can be pretty ruthless), but I also think this gets easier and easier with time. You seem to have your heart in the right place; I’m confident you will find what you are looking for.

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