Every time I write something here and subsequently share it, I go through an awkward process in which I anxiously ask my husband to read it, then he usually asks me to clarify certain sections or asks a couple questions. He offers criticism if I’m off the mark, or tells me if he thinks I’m holding back out of fear.
Me: “Should it exist in the world? Is it useful?”
(For the moment, I’m going to ignore how often I ask that about myself and stick to the subject at hand.)
Narcissism comes up so frequently in online exchanges that it seems plausible we are all suffering from narcissistic phobia. Everyone seems afraid of appearing like they care about themselves, experience vanity or insecurity. Frequently I find myself embarrassed about my – gulp – blog. I don’t even like saying the word. Blog. Yuck. Yet Space In Which I Write Things And Other People Can Read Them On Their Computers Or Phones seems a bit long.
Full disclosure: I’m pretty narcissistic. Or at least I think I am. I spend a whole lot of time thinking about myself, about why I do things, about my hair and my nails. No matter how much reassurance and love and support you give me, it will never be enough. I will swallow it whole, not even bothering to chew, then look at you expectantly for more. I have asked myself if I deserve it, and honestly the answer seems irrelevant. These qualities are charming in cats, but deplorable in humans. Who can talk. And have thumbs.
If you’re still reading, know that I always hope what I have written will be useful in some capacity to another person and if it weren’t for the dozen or so people who have told me they’ve gotten something out of my blog, I would have stopped sharing my writing already. Still, this whole icky process seems like flaming narcissism.
What I actually feel is that I am making room for some humility.
The reason I never learned how to skate board is because I couldn’t do it alone in my bedroom. The reason I don’t sing if anyone else is home is because someone might hear me. The reason I have quit multiple piano classes and Spanish or French classes is because inevitably someone else will hear me fumbling through the learning process.
I have repeatedly made choices to avoid appearing, by my harsh generalization, pathetically inept. I wouldn’t judge someone else for messing up the pronunciation of “Puis-je aller aux toilettes?” yet I would practice this phrase over and over just in case I needed to use the restroom during class.
It’s the only thing I can remember from four years of French in high school.
The very first time I took a piano class and was tested on a short fragment of a song, I wept because I made a mistake. Actually, I didn’t make a mistake. I thought I did. I wasn’t 5 years old. I wasn’t 12. I was 18. My teacher said, “Oh, you’re one of those perfectionists.” I’m really not a perfectionist. Look at my writing. Look at my art. Look at my makeup and hair. I’m not a perfectionist.
In fact, my sense of inherent personal failings has led me to cultivate a style of imperfectionism so as to appear confident and entirely self-accepting. (Although I genuinely, truly don’t care about perfecting my braids or having creepy American Psycho white teeth.)
It’s just very painful for me to be “wrong”.
Anyone who has experience writing over the span of at least five to ten years knows that you will come to disagree with or downright feel embarrassed by things you have written before. Even things that you felt strongly and confidently about. There are articles I have written that I remember thinking I did such a good job on this only to years later experience repulsion after reading.
Writing helps me figure out what I think and feel. There’s a lot of upheaval occurring in my life at the moment so it makes sense that I would be writing now more than ever before. Believe it or not, I keep most of said writing private. Sharing the writing is another matter.
How can I determine if I’ve actually made a mistake if my means of self measurement are permanently skewed in the direction of negative criticism? How can I learn new things and engage that process with others if I cannot allow myself at times to be wrong? I don’t want to require the passage of years before I can adjust my position or return to a subject.
All of this feels like a foolish endeavor to me. Which is why, for now, I need to do it. Flexibility does not develop in stagnation. One has to stretch.