As an adult it is good to try to understand a reoccurring behavior. The other day I think I figured out why I have some anxiety when I go to a gathering of women whom I have never met before. I always feel at ease once I get there and start greeting the other attendees, so there is no reason to be worried really.
Several years ago I attended a product “party” with several women, most of whom I had never met. That morning, before I even showered, I scanned my wardrobe, trying to decide what I should wear. Going through skirts, tops, and finally dresses I chose a summery dress. But what if the other women are wearing slacks? Should I wear a bracelet or ring? I have no idea how dressy these women are!
Then the words from a song re-enforced what I had read in an inspiring blog the day before that we shouldn’t be worried so much about what people think of us. Ricky Nelson sang it well in chorus of “The Garden Party:”
“It’s alright now. I learned my lesson well. Ya see, ya can’t please everyone, so ya got to please yourself!”
So where did this anxiety and insecurity come from? I grew up in a loving home with a loving family. We were what has been called a Gestalt family. Each of us was part of the whole. We didn’t compete with each other much; there was no real need to. Well, there may have been a little sibling rivalry but that’s normal.
We were poor at first, but we had what we needed. My mother stayed home to care for us kids, while Daddy sold insurance, encyclopedias, tools, drove buses, and flew commercial flights, all over 15 years. My younger sister and I were two years apart in age. Then my brother was born when I was six. Our lifestyle improved soon after our brother was born. Then my youngest sister was born when I was 12 years old.
Until then my sister and I wore hand-me-downs which were in excellent condition but not “in style.” We were in three different schools from 1-6th grade. I never quite felt like I fit in. I was one of the “grade curve breakers.” I was not athletic; never dressed very fashionably but was always clean and neat (I wore “chubby” sizes. Ugh!) I never had a lot of friends but always had two or three who were close friends and not popular (like me.)
Two other major attributes set me apart from the other kids. I was the tallest kid in my class from about the 4th grade to the 6th grade when the boys started their growth spurts. My family was not at that point athletic in the sense of football etc. But we enjoyed swimming, volleyball, and hiking at parks. My brother did play soccer.
Another factor that influenced me was that I needed glasses but didn’t know it until I was in about the fourth or fifth grade. Nearsightedness does make it rather difficult to participate vigorously in many athletics. (Duh, it is difficult to hit a softball when it is hard to see!!)
So between being called fat, being pretty intelligent, not dressing up to the standards of my classmates, and not being athletic, I was kind of an oddball. I realize other kids are tortured worse nowadays, but considering the world I grew up in was much gentler, at least to white kids, I took a lot of meanness from other kids.
So I understandably felt uneasy at times with other kids where competition was involved, and with more uncertainty when thrown together with other kids I didn’t know.
The truth of the matter is however, that I was raised to love people. Once I am actually with a small group, I start conversations and “stick it out there” to see how things go. I truly love to be around people and usually feel at ease once I get involved in conversations. But I do need to recover at home where it is quiet afterwards.
The other influence was my mother. Moma grew up in a poor mill town, her father was laid off during the depression and grandmother went to work in the mill to help out. So my mother had self confidence issues too at my age and into her early thirties.
I remember my mother comparing herself and her home to other women and their homes. I remember how she seemed to feel inferior to other people, at least until I was about ten. The fact is, she was really beautiful, intelligent and quite charming. But she, like me, didn’t accept herself until she was in her thirties. Then she like me began to love herself as she grew older.
So that explains alot about me. I identified with my mother on many levels. Daddy loved Moma and always told her so, bought her presents, flowers, cards, and wrote when he had to be away on a trip.
Finally, I think she found her confidence and stopped comparing herself to other women. I, like her, am learning not to “compete” with other women in my mind. There is no need to compare myself anymore; actually there never was a reason for comparisons! I am me!! I like me! Generally speaking there have been few people that I couldn’t at least get along with or make conversation with, with a degree of confidence and even enjoyment.
Now I find that although I enjoy being with other women and men, I still treasure my alone time at home. I also stopped criticizing myself and the way I looked. My life is better now and I am happier than I used to be. “Life is Good.”