I’ve heard from a few people I care about in recent days, apologizing for ‘bothering me,’ and fearing they’re ‘not good enough’ for me. So obviously first, to those people…you aren’t bothering me. And you’re certainly good enough for me.
A main presentation of my social anxiety is to feel like I’m bothering people. Like no one wants to hear from me, like they think I’m annoying or boring or a pest or stupid or ‘too much’ or…not enough for them. Not good enough. Or just not enough.
But honestly, it takes a lot for me to feel that way about another person…that they’re bothering me. I mean A LOT. And if and when I get to that point with a person, I always tell them so, and then they usually call me mean or intimidating or aggressive, which is…another post for another time in itself, but my point here is…people never have to worry and wonder if they’re bothering me. If I haven’t told you bluntly that you are? You aren’t. And I’ve never felt like someone else wasn’t enough or wasn’t good enough for me. Never. I never want anyone to feel this way regarding me…to wonder or worry that they aren’t good enough or not enough for me or if they are bothering me and too much for me. No one’s ever not been enough and I’ll always say if they’re too much.
To hopefully illustrate to the people who want to communicate with me in no uncertain terms that I never want them to feel like they’re bothering me or like they aren’t enough, I thought I’d write a piece about the beginnings of those feelings in myself, and how I know what they feel like and I’d never place those feelings on someone else.
So first…’bothering me.’
I love words, and have since I was little. That was my favorite book as Very Small Jen. I’m not sure how many of you have Very Small People in your lives, or remember having them in your lives if you once did but no longer do, but Very Small People sometimes like repetition of their favorite things. I did. I wanted this book read to me so often, I wore out the spine and most of the pages. I didn’t really even need it read to me after a few repeats…I could recite it by heart even though I didn’t know how to read. My grandparents (maybe incorrectly) indulged me and DID read it over and over again. They probably gave in to every single ‘again!’ request and demand. And my dad pretty much did too, although I didn’t ask my dad for much. I have a very clear memory (and so does she) of asking my mom to read me this book after she got home from work one evening and she snapped at me. ‘No. You’re bothering me. Go do something else. I said no. I just want to relax. Can’t you go away? Go play or something. I don’t want to read that damn book to you. I swear, if you ask me to read that book one more time, I’m gonna…’ That’s when my dad told me to, ‘Come over here with me. I’ll read your book to you.’
Obviously, my mom isn’t the only person to tell me point blank that I was bothering them and annoying them and to go away; that they weren’t interested in what I wanted to do or tell them or what I needed to feel calm or happy or whatever, and reading that book to me obviously wasn’t the only time she told me that either. I’ve had a lot of reinforcement leading to my constant, ‘I’m bothering them,’ inner monologue. But I just wanted to show my readers and friends that…I mean I know what that’s like. You’re not bothering me. Not if you want to tell me about something that’s making you sad or worried or angry. And especially not if you want to tell me about something you love…that you’re excited about…that makes you feel calm and happy.
And not good enough? Sheesh.
I was That Kid growing up.
An overachiever. All A’s. ‘A joy to have in class.’ National Honor Society. High class rank. Did community service projects. Babysat…not just my kid brother, but for basically anyone who asked. Never smoked a cigarette. Never drank alcohol. Never went to parties or even on many dates. No drugs. The few and far between late nights I had were working at my coffee shop job or playing card games with my friends in a dry basement and watching cartoons. Yes, really. But my parents, particularly my mom, were never happy with me. We still fought all the time. About…all kinds of things. She always suspected the worst of me. I was always, in her eyes, making bad decisions and up to no good.
I can’t count the number of ‘friends’ who ditched me for not conforming exactly to whatever (normally unvoiced) standards they had for friendship. I’ve never had a group of friends, because I can’t relate to groups of people. I’ve only been able to cultivate individual relationships with people. And that lends itself to getting left off a lot of lists and excluded from stuff, sometimes conspicuously. I mean, I don’t even like group activities, but…it still kind of hurts to know everyone you know doesn’t invite you to things; not because they’re caring about your boundaries, but because ‘Jen doesn’t ‘fit in’ with this group of people I’m inviting, so…’
All the guys I ever dated except for J broke up with me, and without much ambiguity, let me know it was because I was ‘not good enough,’ or just ‘not enough.’ Or that I was ‘too much’ for them and bothering them. Several guys were so ashamed of me they wanted to keep our relationship a secret from their family and friends.
All of this stuff has led me to a pretty weird self-image and some major trust issues. So believe me when I say, I DO know exactly how you feel. I hope to NEVER make you feel that way. You don’t have to entertain me and you don’t have to ‘achieve’ to be good enough. And reaching out to me is rarely if ever bothering me and you will KNOW if it is…so if you haven’t seen or heard the actual words ‘bothering me’ or ‘hurting me’ from me? You’re not.
I’m thankful to you (you know who you are) for helping me to feel safe to share myself here and in other works of my writing without constantly worrying if I’m too much or not enough or if I’m bothering people or if what I write isn’t good enough. Thank you. It can’t be overstated how much that means to me. I just want to return those feelings to you. Please believe that you’re enough. You’re good enough. And you’re not too much. And you’re not bothering me. You don’t have to be perfect. You can be good. That John Steinbeck was a smart guy and a hell of a writer, huh?