I want to talk about the topic of "hurt feelings", because I was born with a really thin skin, and I am hoping there are others out there like me. My feelings get hurt very easily and, because of that, I go above and beyond to make sure I don't hurt the feelings of others. "Do unto others....", I guess. Sometimes, my sense of humor inadvertently wounds people, and when it does, I feel awful.
I often think about nature vs. nurture. Which is predominant? I believe that we are born into the world exactly who we are and will always be, and that how we react to the world is based upon these traits. However, I also believe we can be nurtured to learn adaptive techniques that help us monitor and control our natural chemical response to what we experience.
Picture me: 4 years old and totally cute. I'm wearing a miniature pair of khakis and am proudly donning a sweater with my initials, "JAL", monogrammed on the chest (it was big in the 80s, forgive us...and grant us pardon for neon colors too...oh, and net shirts and parachute pants). It is Christmas Eve and I am at my grandmother's, surrounded by my totally cool and loving family. This should be a setting steeped with comfort. Nothing should be able to bother me here...right? You know it's coming...wrong!
I walk in, big doe eyes and 6 cowlicks in my hair, feeling all proud of my new sweater. Right there on my left pec was proof of who I was - Jason Arthur Lawrence...JAL. So cool. But then, Walter, my uncle's father, but always another grandfather to me and a very witty man, said "What does that stand for? Japanese Airlines?"
I lost it. I burst into tears and ran out of the room. I wanted to rip off the sweater and hide for the rest of the night. When I had calmed down a bit, the embarrassment I felt for having run away was equally painful. I had to be convinced to walk back in and face the crowd, and Walter, who felt horrible for hurting me. My reaction, and the reaction to my reaction, were equally uncomfortable. I had allowed myself to feel hurt, then felt ashamed for my reaction, and then overcompensated for the rest of the evening to make it seem like nothing had ever happened. And that describes a typical day for me. I've worked to overcome and temper it a bit, but I can't overpower my natural tendency to assume negative intent.
If you were a psychiatrist, and you very well may be (if so, welcome to my blog doctor), you would think that all of this must be due to some issue with my self esteem. And I would agree with you. But, what could have happened between my birth and the time I started preschool to set me up for this kind of self doubt? No, I'm really asking. My home life was pretty idyllic as a kid, so unless I am stashing away some repressed memories, I can't explain it other than to say, "this is me." At my core, I am a deeply shy and scared individual and I've developed a giant arsenal of talents to distract you. Would you like to hear me play the piano? How about viola? Or the bassoon? The mandolin? I could also paint your portrait, or write you a funny story. Would you like to see me reenact a scene from a movie? Let me entertain you -- just as long as you don't observe me.
The horrible thing is that, the more I trust and am comfortable with you, the more you can hurt me. That's a bitch, ain't it? I've learned to ignore comments from anyone outside of my circle, but if someone I care about points out a bad trait of mine, misinterprets me or takes me for granted, it is as if I'm being stabbed in the chest. I can literally lose my breath. And my "fight or flight" reaction always turns to "flight". I just want to remove my faulty presence from the situation.
So, now you know I've got problems - but why is it important? Because I'm not insane. Insanity would be simply resigning myself to being overpowered by nature and forgetting nurture. I recognize who I am and I fight it. I work hard to focus on my good qualities enough to trust them and to recognize when my reactions are overdone. It doesn't always work, but that's not your fault, is it? Or, is it? I live in a world where I can never tell if someone is trying to put me down or whether I'm just taking their words and using them to fortify my own view of myself.
But here's the silver lining. I am hyper-sensitive to understanding other people's pain points - what hurts them...where they are insecure...those areas of their life they'd rather not have addressed. I'm aware because I know what it feels like. So, if you need a shoulder to cry on, or someone to tell your most embarrassing secret to, know that I will never throw it into your face. Because I know what shame feels like. I know what it is to be the one left out. I know what it feels like to be an oddball.
And, the weird thing is, that I like being an oddball. I can't say that I'm not complex. As much as I hate being made fun of, I hate being thought of as normal. How boring!
So, in closing, here I am. JAL - Japanese Airlines. I'm smart, sexy and capable of playing at least a dozen musical instruments. Just don't make fun of me.