Last weekend I was at a Scottish themed hens party.
I didn’t know many people there, so I mingled around, making conversation in the usual, brash way I’ve come to adopt accidentally. It’s the polar opposite of how I used to be – awkwardly lurking in the corner, going to the bathrooms and to the bar often so no one could tell I wasn’t talking to anyone.
Now I march up to a group of people I don’t know and include myself. But it never feels good. I’m only doing it so I don’t stand alone.
I laugh and make jokes and say brash things that no doubt offend 40% of the people I meet.
All the while Neville is telling me to shut the fuck up and stop being such a loser.
So I retreat for a bit, but then I realise I’m being awkward again and I jump back into brash action.
I’ve never been someone who’s “likeable”. I’ve always been either too awkward or too confronting.
I don’t think anyone has ever met me in person and immediately wanted to be best friends forever.
I don’t think anyone has ever loved talking to me so much they’ve not wanted to excuse themselves to go and talk to someone more cool.
Somehow I’ve always lacked that special something that draws people to some people, and away from others.
Often, I’ve felt more like repellent. People can sense my lack of natural social skills. They moonwalk in the opposite direction.
Even now that I appear confident and in-your-face honest. They can sense there’s something not quite right.
Which is why I’ve always been terrible in group situations.
I’m grateful that mindfulness has enabled me to be a better, nicer, kinder more charismatic person.
It’s taught me to handle group situations with a lot more ease and maybe even a smidgeon more grace. Definitely less panic.
But I’ve frequently made the mistake of using mindfulness to “fix myself”. Underneath, Neville is pretty sure I’m still broken.
At my core Neville still feels that my (our!?) original personality is flawed. Unlikeable.
Neville gets all up in my grill telling me how shit I am at social situations.
Usually I’m able to ignore him.
Lately, he’s been about 100dB louder than usual.
Apparently a jackhammer is about 100dB.
I’ve realised the most important skill I need to develop is one I’ve only recently started to understand.
The only way I’ve found that I can look on myself with compassion is by pretending I’m viewing myself as if from the outside. I’m looking at myself as if I’m looking at someone other than me, who just happens to have the same story and freckles as me.
I look back at the person I’ve been in the past, as a teenager and in my early 20s. The person who’s kept so many friendships skimming on the shallow surface. The person who’s messed up friendships with her insecurity and tendency to run away. The person that’s snapped, been moody, been passive aggressive.
On one level, I hate her, Neville hates her, we hate who I’ve been.
On another level, I can see (if I look from the outside) that that girl has been through a lot.
That anger? It’s a protective shell.
That cold indifference as I turn and walk away from friendships when I sense anyone might hurt me? It’s a shield.
That brash confidence? A cloak to disguise my insecurity.
If I look back at my life through someone else’s eyes, I can easily see how I came to develop all these difficult, unlikeable traits as protective mechanisms.
When I’m able to see that perspective I think, mate, all things considered, you’ve done alright.
If I look back through my own eyes, I see failure, shame and guilt.
So I’m learning slowly, to look at myself as though I were someone else.
And in doing so I realise,
I’m just a messy, imperfect, flawed human. We all are.
I’m learning to “go and love myself”.
I hope you’ll join me.
(You, not Beibs).