20) What is some of the best advice you have ever received?
On my first day of college my adviser said to us, “Don’t worry about what you say. Everyone else is as concerned with what they have to say, so no one is as focused on you as you think. Don’t be afraid to speak.” She said it more eloquently, but it was 13 years ago so it’s hard to remember. As a shy person, having been home schooled for a few years, I was surprised and really touched by what she said. That moment stuck with me. Everyone is living the “Me” show. In class, I learned to raise my hand and speak my mind. I also have the misfortune of having a very expressive face, so in seminars I would get called on a lot because the professor would say, “Hey, it looks like you have something to say.” I would have to talk in those instances so I had to get over my fear of speaking in front of others. I still shake when I have to give a toast. My sister’s wedding was my last hoorah of public speaking. My speech was a hit but I was working so hard not to look at anybody or let my voice crack. My hands and whole body were shaking, but I managed to fidget and look somewhat composed, I think. I have a knack for writing toasts, so I always feel this incredibly confusing blend of confidence and terror. That’s how I feel about writing in general though. Confidence and terror. I know I can write, I will not argue that point, but it’s still that same fear: “What will they think of me?”
Now that I’m going back to school at the ripe old age of 31, I feel like I have to remember to have faith in myself. I feel like it is alright to fear failure as long as it doesn’t outweigh your confidence in success. I’m not “bad” if the work is hard. I won’t be “the worst person” if I don’t ace everything. I wouldn’t deserve “nothing” and “no one.” These types of thoughts swirl around my head every day. I think part of why I’ve been at home so much is because I can avoid confrontations or situations that might cause emotions. Emotions are scary and often out of my control, though I try to keep them in check. Sometimes they are dangerous, like last year. Tonight, for instance, I freaked out at Husband because he left the room and didn’t come back when I thought we were watching a TV show together. It’s such a minor thing but it clicked into so many complex emotions that I was very suddenly out of control. I was incredibly hurt, sad, crying, for a moment, and then I was frantically angry and cleaning, and then I was just talking to him and trying to explain why I was upset, which wasn’t coming across. Then we reached an equilibrium and were fine, as always. Sometimes I think we speak two different languages. Most of the time I think I speak my own language. Therapist tells me not to think of myself as diagnoses, and I don’t, but that moment felt so Borderline I almost laughed. The worst is having my wise mind watching my actions but not being able to stop them. I could hear myself talking, I knew it wasn’t going to come out well, and I continued anyway. I took my adviser’s advice, sort of.
Similar advice has come from Therapists over the years. “It’s not all about you. You’re not that important.” It sounds harsh but they mean it in the nicest way possible. I blame myself for everything, I think everything is my fault when things go south. So it is important to remember that I really am not the star of everyone’s show, I’m not the one to blame for everything (some things of course but a reasonable amount instead of the absurd amount that I typically assume), and no one is as concerned with my failings as I am. This is a hugely important lesson, one that I work on daily. I’m not that important, I’m not that important, I’m not that important. It gives me freedom. It untethers me from guilt and self-doubt, when I can believe it. I always say that there’s two parts of my brain: the emotional side (where I wave above the left side of my head) and the intellectual side that understands things, really gets them, but can’t communicate well enough through the emotion side to apply what I “know” in my intellectual mind. In DBT combining those two aspects of the brain is called using “wise mind.” I am getting increasingly better at integrating my selves and sitting in wise mind, but it’s work and I definitely cannot always do it.