In pre-school, I think it was, we had a photo day and I remember both the photographer and my mother constantly telling me to smile. I lifted my cheeks, thinking I was but not once did I satisfy their request nor definition of smiling. They continued to chide me and I grew frustrated as I couldn’t bring myself to satisfy what they wanted. Finally, they snapped the photo and after years of looking at the final picture I realized they were right. I wasn’t smiling.
This photo was one of the first times I remember being on display. I was dressed up, I sat by myself and was expected to pose and be adorable for the camera. But I couldn’t smile. And while I’m not sure it’s uncommon for a young child to freak out a little in new circumstances, it was just the first in a long line of circumstances where I just flat out refused to do something because ultimately, I feared judgment. Though that wasn’t the conscious thought I remember, it’s just hard for me to know what else it could have been. All I know is that the idea of letting lose a huge, teeth showing smile never crossed my mind.
But as mentioned, there was a certain ambiguity as to if I was fearful of judgment from someone. The further I have gotten in life there are numerous examples of when I was. In late elementary school I was picked on quite often to the point where I would consider myself to be one of the big-time outcasts in school. You know how every school has that table where the weird kids sit? For multiple years, I was the weird kid. There were multiple reasons for this, I had surgery on my head as an infant and my head was larger than some so I received ridicule over this. I also didn’t usually wear the most fashionable outfits which wasn’t really a priority of my parents so I was made fun for this too, being told that I bought my clothes at low class establishments that weren’t good enough for the middle school society and there were probably other reasons too. What ended up happening from this is I made withdrawing my go to. My goal was to just be ignored by everyone because if I am being ignored I won’t be picked on and that is something that then followed me through high school and into adult hood.
In high school, I missed activities such as prom, graduation parties, and whatever else mostly because I tried my best to be isolated. I didn’t want anyone to even try to talk to me because if they did they were probably judging me. If I could ignore such judgments I could get home and play my video games and make it to the next day. This desire to completely isolate myself felt good to an extent but of course it made me feel lonely. The few friends I had never really got to close to me and this is a pattern that continues to this day I had crushes on girls that, okay are normally painful and annoying, became excruciating for me because I knew I would never even come close to dating anyone because I wouldn’t even let myself come close to getting to know any of them. Plus, I flat out thought I was hideous. Quite frankly it was easy to let myself continue to be the isolated outcast and then pretend I didn’t care about anyone’s approval than to give a shit and feel the pain of rejection and judgment. So, while I got to feel safe I really did miss out a lot.
To this day that continues. I would say in adult hood I have had maybe 1 or 2 close friends. It’s possible that I am exaggerating this. In college, despite attending a big party school I mostly kept too myself. I went to football games alone and rarely hung out with anyone, if it did it was because a close childhood friend had visited. To say I got anything out of my college experience would mostly be a lie. Fact is, I never let myself. I lived a long time within a bubble of fear. I never wanted to take the chance of leaving that bubble because it was comfortable and safe. I even took the attitude of not trying to my work. As a student, I did okay but definitely never excelled and I didn’t really make an effort to do anything extracurricular so when the recession hit in 2008 I really had nothing to sell myself with. On top of that I have always been afraid to attempt any job that involved people, especially something like sales. Quite frankly I know I am intelligent enough to sell but to take “no” for an answer from someone is hard. For them to express annoyance with me as an individual is worse.
I have unofficially been told by someone who would know, someone who is close to being a PhD holder in psychology but not quite yet, that I have Avoidant Personality Disorder, you can read about it here if you want https://psychcentral.com/disorders/avoidant-personality-disorder-symptoms/
And weather it’s true that I have something like that or not, I have all the damn symptoms, I’m not sure if it matters too much. I am not 100% sure if putting a label on myself really fixes anything. I do know that living a life where I am feeling like the creepy, quiet kid in the room is incredibly frustrating. Especially when I know that I have interesting things to say and I know that adults aren’t completely like middle-schoolers ready to pounce all over you immediately. Also, I know that every adult goes through something similar in new situations themselves, they just don’t respond like I do. It’s very irritating to know that someone feels uncomfortable when they talk to a new person but they don’t want to run in a corner and hide, they just do it anyways and the fact is I am trying to do this for myself.
I want to be an outgoing, happy fun person but something prevents me. Weather it’s trauma from the bullying in school or something just deeply rooted within me it is very annoying to constantly be told how quiet you are. For fifteen years, I have had someone mention this and then when I finally gain some comfort around them I pull a 180 and then I get to hear repeatedly about how I used to be quiet. The bottom-line is I have to fight through some barriers and while it sucks, it’s the only way I get to escape this because the alternative is another 30 years of possible safety, but isolation that sucks so friggin hard. I suppose the first step is to just smile so pre-school photographer doesn’t