Getting past the stories my ego tells me
hello everyone! I have long newsletter about the many things I have been thinking about. they seem a bit disjoined but here they are. Please feel free write back.
Recently, at a friend’s kid’s birthday party I saw a scene which stayed with me. The birthday party was at a cake studio. There were two tables around which the children were seated. One big table where most of the kids sat facing each other, making a lot of noise, having fun and mixing their cake batter. There was another table, about 5-6 kids sat there facing the wall and mixing their cake batter. Clearly fun was being had at the big table. So a kid who decided to switch tables after the first set of activities and all the kids shooed him away. Because apparently one could only sit in the place that they took up initially. The kid, a little dismayed, went back to the table facing the wall and baked his cake. I knew that hurt that little boy felt because a child I have tried often to be part of groups that seemed to be having more fun, the cool gangs and have been shooed away like I don’t belong.
I was scrawny, not too strong, not so good at sports, so I was always chosen last and sometimes traded like how folks pass on something that is liability. If the ball ever came my way, I was worried I would disappoint. I usually did and they often expressed their disappointment loudly. I’d be scared to play because I was not very good.
When teachers picked students for cultural programmes, they picked the pretty ones or the ones they liked, again I didn’t figure. At home I knew what it was not be picked too well.
Not sure if you have been the third wheeler where you always worried if they’d pick each other over you when on school picnics and on school buses? I have. How would you even articulate this pain? You had no words to explain the unfairness that existed in the world. At home, if you ever brought it up would they didn’t think it was important enough?
My young brain told a story of unworthiness. It said if you were any good, they’d pick you. It told me to be picked i had to be the best. Who I was not enough. And I slowly forgot who I was to be who they needed me to be. I learned to abandon myself.
I kept accumulating knowledge, skills, got cooler friends, showed them off to people, dressed well, learned about cuisines, learned about world music and poetry and politics and did everything to prove myself and constantly walked with the fear of being worthless or being tossed over for someone better.
The body became a project. You picked up that if you make it great and sexy, no one can reject you. You gave sex to folks you didn’t like in the hope of some acceptance.
You played cool. You cooked and cleaned. You exuded warmth and compassion. You made everything look effortless. You baked the best cakes. You thought relentlessly. You shined at the cost of yourself, so people don’t forget you. You cracked jokes. You overshared. You pushed away people who like you are trying to belong but would not help you get where you want to and could be a liability. You people pleased. You second guessed what people want and did it before they asked for it. You thought you were superior to others because you are after all a better person. You judged constantly, so no one comes close to you and see the rot within. But all you wanted is connection.
But connection felt so damn scary because you are worthless and if they come closer they are going to see through your well curated parts of you and see the rot inside you. Who would want to want that because if someone did , you’d not have felt left out as a child and experienced exclusion as an adult. You would be picked. You were not. You know you will never be picked.
So when by chance someone treats you well and fills your heart with warmth, you love it but you also feel scared. You want the warmth but you know you are not worthy and they are going to leave, so you do everything to push them away. You are accusatory. You paint them in bad light, only complain about everything they didn’t do. There is security in being places where you are being abandoned because you have done it to yourself and you know how to deal with it. Hope is too new and scary.
Then you start to pick up the scabs as you keep hoping the person you pushed away will come and tell you that you matter and you slowly start to soothe yourself and then you see different parts of yourself. Under the anger and anxiety is fear and under that hurt. You keep opening slowly so you are not overwhelmed. You grieve losses, you grieve old pains and new ones. Your ego is there, telling you, “I told you not to trust, people always treat you poorly because you are so naive and stupid and you trust so easily. Be cautious and not stupid. You are unsafe” Old pain resurfaces. You see that someone withdrawing is not abandonment, they are doing what seems safe to them. You are no more a child, you can take care of yourself. It still hurts but it is not because your unworthy like your ego would like to believe. It hurts because they have triggered old hurt in you. People don’t have follow your strict rules to prove to you that you are worthy. You are worthy even if they don’t toe the line.
In this year, I have little outside validation (outside validation is usually a project that pays well or money or love). When I have that I can finally tell the world you thought I was worthless and look at me. But this winning or validation is just a temporary fix. This year the temporary fixes were not enough for my worthlessness to surface.
With pretty much making no money this year, I have seen either that I have clung to people to soothe my pain or scrolled on social media, kept myself abreast with the news, analysed stuff and felt smart and judged unceremoniously. And constantly told myself that there is no value for real talent. People don’t treat nice people well.
I have seen some of my friends do well and felt jealous and felt terrible that I was being a bad friend. But with the yoga and meditation that I have been practicing, I am now able to no more numb myself. I am able to see that under this jealousy is my fear of not having stability and am able to question myself - if everyone does well, will I be abandoned?
I am able to sit with my fears. at least some of them. And rewire some of my thoughts. So I don’t have to go to war in what I feel is a hostile place. When I don’t have validation, the world does feel like a hostile place.
Recently I went to meet a friend’s father who was unwell. I went with my father who left after a little time and I stayed and chatted. Then my friend’s mum remarked how I should go and visit uncle more often because he is unwell and suddenly added how my father was so healthy. Now I found that odd and would have usually been upset and not said anything and thought, “Why are people putting nazar, people just can’t see others happy.” But I stepped in and said, “yes, he is!” I had to constantly tell myself, her stating that wouldn’t make my father unhealthy and that her words didn’t have the power and I didn’t have to see her as a threat. Otherwise I would have another story to add to my narrative that people are unhappy to see you happy. Mostly because they hate you.
This was a huge jump for me.
I also went out with my friend and her kids and on our way back we were booking a cab. It was 10:20 in the night and I felt no fear. There was some film shooting happening in the place where we were standing, so there were lots of people too. Plus, I had my friend. My friend who wa booking the cab was feel a bit scared and I din’t know about this. We were leaning on a sedan and there were people around. A man asked us if we were booking a cab. The sedan belonged to him, he was a driver. I said yes. He wanted to know where we were going and what price the app was showing. I didn’t mind sharing these details but my friend seemed rather cagey and told me, “You can give information if you like but I don’t talk to strangers and especially in the night.” Now usually I’d be furious by such a comment. Her fear meant that I should be scared too or I am less alone in feeling safe and that affects me. I was irritated but let it pass. We eventually got another cab and left. when I woke up, my mind was still playing the story. It had made me a more compassionate person who didn’t have to be hostile to a person from another class and it had made me feel more fearless compared to my friend who I dearly love. Then I asked myself why did I need to compete and why was my compassion only for a person who belonged to a lower class and not for my friend. And if that was true was it is compassion or just patronising behaviour. This could have been scary for my friend from her own experiences, why did I need to feel the need to judge her and come out as a winner?
These are all survival techniques that we have learned, if we are better than others, if we are smarter, hotter, have more money, more knowledge, more compassion, we are safer. But what we will not have even if we think we are doing the ‘right’ morally superior thing by being kind to the ‘poor service staff’ and by feeling superior to our friend is connection. One that we so want. To relate to rather than separate from like my friend Unum said.
Like she said, “We take all our wounding with us where we go and keep separating ourselves.” So I sent myself some compassion and found out that I also felt superior because I wasn’t sure if she wanted to go to the expensive cafe we went to. I picked it without consulting with her and she paid. I felt indebted and had to make myself feel better.
I see under that exterior of doing our politics right (which is left), compassion, great clothes, intelligence, beauty and we are all struggling and very alone. We sometimes numb ourselves withs social media, films, sex, alcohol and other stuff but it catches up with us some time or the other.
I have no solutions but I want to say I am doing this