Not too long ago I had a thought pop in my head. I wish had a social anxiety/insecurity elevator speech. A three minute speech, like the safer sex elevator speech, that would let everyone know what degree of introvert/extrovert I am, that I’m incredibly terrified the first time I talk to someone and how I’ve been known to flee the room if I don’t know anyone. This would be a great help because just as we can’t tell anyone’s safer sex status just by looking at them, we can’t tell someone’s personality just by looking at them. You may think you can, but I don’t think you’d ever have the whole picture.
Case in point.
At CatalystCon East, someone at the dinner table overheard a discussion I was having about my social anxiety issue making it difficult for me to initiate at a play party the night before. The person overhearing this was stunned when she heard me talk about lacking self-confidence. So stunned she got up and practically walked over the people sitting beside her to sit next to me. How could this be? She had seen a confident person talk openly and comfortably with people all weekend. I had to explain that most of the time I’m able to suppress the fear and be quite strong. I don’t always win and I failed at the party. I had to explain that there are times I really don’t feel attractive, or desirable, or competent. The negative voice in my head that lies cannot always be drowned out. Sometimes it gains ground, it wins, and I give in. The pep talk that evening didn’t help at the time. It highlighted the issue and made me even more insecure but gave me an opportunity to look at the problem and work on it later.
Having these issues has been an added challenge since becoming non-monogamous but it’s also given me an opportunity to overcome them. When we were monogamous I lost touch with who I was as a person after having kids. I couldn’t find anything attractive about myself. One would think that having the same loving and adoring partner for most of my life that I would be quite happy and confident. Unfortunately, over the years, and after two kids, my husband has seen me in possibly every unflattering way possible. When your partner still thinks you’re hot and sexy with no makeup, in sweats, having not slept for several days, nor showered, and you’re as big as a house (in your mind at least) you tend to think differently about their judgment. For me it was like my mother telling me I’m pretty. They just see you differently than the rest of the world. That’s the way I saw it anyway.
Once we opened up our relationship and I started meeting other people, I still had that albatross hanging around my neck. Why isn’t it enough that my husband finds me attractive? Will anyone find me attractive? Why do I not believe someone when they tell me this? Why do I think people don’t really want to hang out with me and are just being polite? Why am I so terrified to say Hi, to initiate, to tell people what I want? I don’t know why I have this voice in my head that tells me I’m not worthy of anyone’s attention. I look at all those Facebook “be yourself“ or “love yourself” affirmation posts and try to apply them. Like Stuart Smalley I look in the mirror and say, “I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”
Perhaps the insecurity comes from growing up being the overweight ethnic kid in a sea of thin white girls. Thin mean girls. I discarded the idea of being accepted in high school when I became Goth. Being one of the few alt chicks at school, and a social butterfly, meant that most people talked to me. The jocks, the cheerleaders, the metal heads and the punks weren’t all my best friends but they didn’t exclude me either. Once out of this comfort zone in college I found myself the “other” again, the outsider, and never found a way back in. Cue feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem then add a short string of terrible, but brief, relationships. Maybe it was a consequence of my early, non-existent, dating years. I wasn’t allowed to date in high school so had very few partners before my husband. Perhaps it was the prom date that met his next girl friend…. at the prom. Maybe it was the Titanic style ending of a collage era summer when I was dating the coolest guy at work. He dropped me like a hot rock in front of a room full of people when a hot blond walked into the room. In fact, I think the Titanic took longer to sink and probably did less damage.
After each of these events I was devastated but would try to repair my shattered self-image. It was eventually put back together but resembled the vase the Brady kids tried to repair after breaking it. (Mom said, don’t play ball in the house.) It was put together but just couldn’t hold water.
I would truly be put to the test very soon after deciding to become non-monogamous. Finding out that I can see who viewed our profile led me to wonder about the parade of people (well not really a parade, not that many stopped by which was also troubling) who just looked and moved on. That paralyzing fear the couple that thinks you look great in your profile will be disappointed when we meet in person. The crushing Monday morning quarterbacking that I do after every event where my brain goes over ever detail and highlights the “You sounded like an idiot” or the “(facepalm) Why did I do that?!” moments. The resurfacing of the fear that I would be instantly replaced by the BBD, or worse yet, someone will just lose interest. From conferences to play parties, I’d find myself in situations where I don’t know how to break the ice. I’m overwhelmed and wonder if I even belong there. All things people never notice, or care about, and all criticisms that only exist in my head. Along with this triggering of age old issues came something wonderful.
A majority of those people who I worried would not like me, actually do. I also have the support of new found friends that point out when I’m being ridiculously insecure. Being able to openly flirt and pursue other partners has helped to build up my self-esteem and made me less insecure. Since I’m not looking for “the one,” nor hiding my interest because I’m coupled, I’m less worried about people who aren’t interested because I know somewhere out there is someone who is. The sex positive/body positive movement has also taught me to accept this version of myself as being pretty darn good and that I don’t need to rely on being constantly told this by others. Feeling rather successful at what I do helps breaks down that barrier when breaking the ice in certain environments. In a room full of sex geeks, I am at ease. Pursuing non-monogamy has not only brought back the sexy in my life but is slowly building a better me.
I’m trying to harness that “confidence is a magic wand” quality that Cooper perfected this year. I’m not there yet but when I look back at the mess I used to be, this is a vast improvement. Perhaps one day I’ll come up with an insecurity speech then get the courage to use it. Maybe I’ll just print it on cards that I can pass out to people like the hearing impaired used to back when I was a kid. “Hi, I’m Miko and I’m terrified and feeling insecure. I’m an introverted extrovert with an ice-breaking handicap. I’m also initiate deficient so if you want to get to know me better, please initiate. Thanks.”
Now, to get past the fear of handing someone the card….