Friday, October 11, 2013

But How Do You REALLY Feel?

I'm going to assume that most people have asked for reassurance at some point in their lives. Asking a friend if an outfit looks good. Asking a coworker to look over something for you. Asking someone to wish you luck. It's a nice feeling to know that someone else believes in us, no matter how trivial it might seem.

But wanting reassurance from time to time is a lot different than needing constant reassurance. You know that friend or acquaintance that's always asking people things like, "We're friends, right?" or "You're sure you like hanging out with me?" The person that seems to be forever fishing for compliments or positivity; talking about how terrible her singing voice is or how he'll never find a significant other. The person that you really did like once upon a time, but all of the negativity and neediness has just gotten to be too much and you're not as sure anymore.

Yep. That's me. I am that person.

Or maybe it was me. I like to think I've grown past some of that, but I do find myself with that itch for someone to tell me I'm doing a good job or that I'm as funny as I think I am. It's a hard habit to break. And it's a possible risk factor for depression.

Ru Paul is famous for saying, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell you gonna love somebody else?" This is more like, "If you can't love yourself, how the hell is anybody else gonna love you?" 

When you have low self-esteem, believing in yourself is pretty much impossible. Or at least it felt that way to me. So I went looking for other people to believe in me. And while I loved the reassurance and praise, the positive feelings I took away never lasted. I was constantly wondering if the reassurance had been genuine. Did they really mean it, or did they say it to be nice? And for that matter, do they even really like me or are they just putting up with me? How could I know for sure?

And so I kept asking. I'm sure to a lot of people it seemed like I was purely fishing for compliments, but it was beyond that. Pardon the cliche, but it's like an addiction in some ways. You go looking for the reassurance. You get some and it feels good. So good! But only for awhile. Then you come down and you feel worse than you did before. You need MORE reassurance. So you go looking for more, and the cycle repeats. 

At a certain point, your questions become ridiculous. Even after someone has reassured you, you ask, "Are you sure? Is that how you REALLY feel?" And my bet is that gets old REALLY fast. Logic told me that if people were willingly hanging out with me, they were friends. If they confided in me, shared things with me, they were good friends. Maybe even best friends. But depression kicks logic to the curb. I would start wondering if particular friends really liked me, or if it was something else. Convenience, maybe. Or just being nice. Or maybe they needed or wanted something from me (though, I couldn't imagine what, since I thought I had nothing to offer). I thought K (yes, my "sister") was only my friend because we've known each other my whole life. I thought Bestie was just being nice to me. Hell, I even thought Hubby was just trying to be a nice guy and cheer me up when we first started dating.

Even now I struggle from time to time. It's impossible to know exactly how someone else feels about you; you can't read minds (much as you might try). Some people are going to lie or sugarcoat things. But for the most part, if you consider someone a good friend and you genuinely like them, there's a good chance the feeling is mutual. I know that my sister doesn't just put up with me. I know that Bestie is one of the best friends I've ever had. And I know that Hubby loves me to no end. I know this because it's how I feel about them. And unless they ever give me a reason to doubt that, I'm going to choose to keep believing it.

So piggybacking on my last post, if you know a habitual reassurance-seeker (or if you are one), don't assume they're just attention whores. Some of them are. It happens. But if you see some other potential symptoms of depression or low self-esteem, they may just need to be reminded that they ARE worth something. And they might need a nudge, push, or shove toward a long-term fix. You can't be there to reassure them 100% of the time, but you can be a friend 100% of the time. 

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