For the last 8 years—no, scratch that—my whole socially conscious life, I’ve wondered what the absolute HELL was wrong with me. There’s a quotation in Season 6 of OITNB, when Piper Chapman confides in Taystee and asks, “What is it about me that makes people want to fuck with me?”
Of course, the answer to Piper’s question was that she is an educated, wealthy, white, cis woman and therefore reminds the other inmates of what they can never have in life. I don’t think that is 100% my case, though. I am a low-income, mentally ill, fat, disabled, woman of colour with minimal education and never more than minimum wage job experience. I do however acknowledge, even from a young age because of my mother, that I do enjoy a great deal of privilege because I am white-passing. For a brief few years I was considered underweight for my age, until about 8 years old, then puberty began to rear its ugly head and start its hormonal nonsense. Still, as a young child, I couldn’t really understand why it was me that the other children ostracized.
I had a lot of difficulty making friends and when I did they usually didn’t stick around long or they would turn on me for popularity points. I think it’s fair to say I had a warped view of what friendship looked like and it didn’t help that I was hypersensitive—I was the kid with their head down at the desk, weeping after recess or lunch because of even the slightest hint of a negative interaction. I was the kid always having to report bullying incidents in the office, so often that when I came in, I was greeted with, “What is it THIS time?” or even a full-blown eye-roll.
It wasn’t all bad in elementary school, though. I usually had okay relationships with the adults and decent grades in a few subjects. I was considered to be “above average” in intelligence and I was tested at reading levels far beyond my peers. That being said, my mother always said that those things about me were like wearing a target on my back. I didn’t really understand. I STILL don’t understand. Why wouldn’t people want to be friends with a smart person?
To this day, I’m tormented by self-deprecating thoughts and anxiety. My fear of rejection can be so overwhelming hat even with my most trusted peers, I more often than not find myself not communicating directly, not saying what I really feel, or saying nothing at all. Sometimes I get so flustered or caught up in over-analytic thought that when I do say something, I say the wrong thing entirely and when I am confronted or corrected, I immediately panic or become defensive.
Maybe this makes me a hard person to be around, and I also believe that I possess several decent qualities as a person, too. When I’ve decided that I like someone and want to be friends with them, I go above and beyond to try to treat them the way probably the way I’d like to be treated: with kindness, compassion, generosity (not just with material things), and honesty. I used to be the kind of person who rarely puts themselves first. I felt like I had to prove my worth and still balance it so I’m not exposed as the needy, over-trusting person I tend to be. I have a strange tendency to over-share, over-apologize, over-appreciate…is there a pattern there? I can definitely pinpoint the basic root of those, though:
Over-sharing: I was raised to be very secretive, keep to myself, and repress my feelings.
Over-apologizing: I grew up with an abusive family. I walked on eggshells for survival. ‘Nuff said.
Over-appreciation: Okay, so this isn’t 100% clear but I have a compulsion to be SURE someone feels appreciated for doing something for me. I guess I don’t want to appear rude or unappreciative to friends doing me a favour, coworkers doing the smallest task, doctors taking the time to see me as part of their job, baristas handing me my chai latte… I’m undecided whether this is just “Canadian manners” or my BPD taking good manners to the extreme the way it does everything else.
Many assure me that my insecurities and hang-ups aren’t others’ problem, and to a degree, they’re right. I’m actively changing my language, inward and outward, to better communicate my wants and needs, my feelings, and my boundaries with other people. Maybe with some confidence—instead of passive-aggressiveness—people will stop fucking with me.