3.05.2010

Of the many blog posts I've been writing in my head this winter, the foremost topic is this one:
Self-consciousness.

I don't mean, like, self-awareness. I mean, whatever it is that makes people embarrassed, shy, indirect or judgmental. My viewable-only-via-mental-telepathy posts in February generally centered around how being self-conscious is a destructive waste of time, how trying to make others self-conscious is lame, and how crucial it is to me as a parent that my daughter feels proud and strong in herself, and tries things no matter what others think. Having a child threw this value, previously part of my daily tapestry, into bas relief.

But now I have a new take on it. As an introvert who does a LOT of extroverted things in daily life, I need time and space to recharge in private, both alone and with my husband and baby. When I don't get it, I literally begin to fall apart. It doesn't take long. My work is affected, my emotional consistency is challenged, and I quickly become a less happy, reliable, friendly, functional person. The recent experience of having a houseguest for a full week has burned this knowledge into being. And it's because I feel...self-conscious. And I can't shake it. Conversations with my family, on the phone, time alone, time with my child: it's all fodder onto which others can project and insert their own expectations and needs, if they choose, and if they are staying with you. A 24/7 audience. For me, that's an easy and quick undoing.

I can't imagine living like this all the time, but people who spend a lot of time caring about what others think must dwell in this sort of distracted hell more often. Just now, as I was leaving the gym, a young woman began to throw me the sort of look that invited competition. She wanted to judge me. She tried. This happens a lot, every day. I'm not exactly sure what it is I do in return, but whatever it is, I am always able to almost immediately disengage with that kind of thinking. I think it's part of the gift of being genuinely happy as an outsider; I simply offer her compassion and self-pride, and it's over. Make judging not work. When I have restorative family time (and cardio workouts, and yoga, and healthy food, and satisfying work, and alone time) I can do this all the time in the most beautiful, peaceful and enjoyable way. I wish that for my daughter.