A few years ago, a guy who I thought was the love of my life dumped me. We didn’t have a fight. No one was caught cheating or doing illicit drugs. He just fell straight out of love with me. When pressed for details behind the split, he finally said that I was “too needy” and “too sad” and that he wasn’t happy anymore.
Let me give some context: at the risk of sounding like a John Mayer song, I was having a quarter-life crisis. I was broke, unemployed, and a million miles astray from where I thought I would be. Admittedly, I was not my best self. I cried a lot, and I was irritable. But I thought it was safe for me to be a hot mess around my boyfriend. After all, wasn’t it his duty to provide the proverbial shoulder on which I cried? Wasn’t he supposed to love me through the snot and the tears and the cries of, “What am I doing with my life?” I thought he was, and that he would, because we loved each other and I needed him. But I would prove to be “too much” for him to handle. That was the first time in my adult life in which I felt there was something wrong with being “me.” All of me: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
A similar thing happened a couple years later when my best friend dumped me via a four-page email. We didn’t have a fight either. No disagreement. She just suddenly decided she didn’t want to be friends with me anymore. Her reasoning? She didn’t like me being me. In her email, she brought up not only the worst parts of myself – the yucky parts that you share only with your tried-and-true best friends – but also traits of my personality, my essence, for reasons to not continue our friendship. Things like, I was “too opinionated” and “too ambitious,” or that I was “too showy” with my birthday parties. Her one-sided email was basically a rehashing our decade-long friendship and everything that was “wrong” with me. It was a betrayal of trust that hit me in the gut because, if I couldn’t be myself around those I loved and trusted, then whom could I ever trust and love again? More importantly, who would ever love me for me?
For years, I lived with the belief that I was “too this” or “too that,” and never enough. I would leave social interactions, including those with close friends, riddled with anxiety and fear. “Did I say too much? Did I say too little? Did they know I was joking? Did they like me? Do they still like me?” These thoughts would race through my head as I would replay the night’s events for days and days, worried that I had somehow messed things up simply by being myself.
Of course when you are so hyper-aware of what you are doing and saying, and not living in the moment, then you aren’t really being your true self. In relationships with men, I found myself playing the nauseating role of the dutiful girlfriend. Never rocking the boat. Saying, “I’m fine” when I wasn’t (not ever, ever being sad). Going along with situations that I knew weren’t aligned with my relationship goals because I was scared of being “that woman” – the one who is needy and difficult to get along with. Mostly, I was scared to be myself. I had alienated others I had cared about before by exposing myself. Who was to say it wouldn’t happen again?
I lived with this deep-rooted insecurity, thinking there was something inherently wrong with me, for a long time. I stayed aloof from new friends and lovers; concerned they would believe me to be “too much” for them as well.
What initially made things worse – but ultimately made things better – was my being the most self-aware person you will ever meet. There is a medium-sized IKEA bookcase in my bedroom that has been strictly filled with self-help books since I was fourteen years old. Some of them are more “woo woo” than others (The Four Agreements, The Secret, The Law of Attraction), but they all pretty much carry the same gist: There is a better you out there, so go out and BE her!
So I did. Or, at least, I tried. I analyzed the shit out of my thoughts and actions and behaviour. I worked on myself harder than ever before, which finally allowed my guard to fall and let people in again. It’s been an ongoing process that has almost lasted a decade. I was only able to talk to my close friends about my fears and anxieties recently because it has taken me that long to get over my fear of being judged and found wanting. All the while I continued to worship the Gospel according to Oprah, and meditated and journaled, trying to find that “better” me out there. The ironic thing that happens when you are addicted to self-growth is that you get lost in a cycle of never thinking you are enough. Here I was trying to prove to people I was enough, yet I didn’t believe that I was, either. Huh?
I had a breakthrough not too long ago when I heard someone say, “We don’t always need to be working on ourselves. We need to be okay with our insecurities and flaws and the right people around us will be okay with them, too.” It was like a major weight had been lifted from my chest (my girl Oprah would call it an “aha moment”). Hell, yes, I have flaws. Sometimes I am too bossy. Sometimes I have control issues. Sometimes I need lots of repetitive reassurance. Sometimes I think the worst of others and myself. Sometimes I am too short-fused and way too impatient. I try to work on those things every day, but fuck it – no one is perfect. NO ONE. I still believe in self-growth and actualization, but I also now believe that as long as you aren’t being a self-righteous asshole who’s hurting people, it’s perfectly okay to be “too this” and “too that” and still be enough.
On my last birthday, my friend and I got into a heated squabble over charades. (It should be noted that when it comes to board games, I am the equivalent of Monica from Friends). It was the kind of situation that would have previously left me racked with guilt and worry, concerned that my friend would dump me for being “too competitive.” But, afterwards, my friend laughed about it, telling me, “That’s just you being you.” And then we played another round.
Oh, and the party itself was “showy” as shit.