Thursday, January 21, 2010

When insecurity rears its ugly head...

People talk about how extremely insecure the teen years are. For me, it seems like I've tasted insecurity more in the last few years than I ever did as a teen.

As a teen, I was nervous and somewhat insecure when we moved back to the US. I was keenly aware of my differences. Most of the time I might not have been particularly confident, but I was quite content with being exactly who I was. I figured some boy would like me and marry me, so it wasn't important if the boys in my class in high school actually liked me back. It was okay that I sucked at sports and math because those weren't really my thing, English and Art were, and I was okay with that.

What I have wrestled with over the past couple of years is the nagging fear that exactly who I am is not enough, and that me just being me is not sufficient.

Some of it stems from processing through what it was like for me to come to Dallas. I expected that it would be like previous moves, the goodbyes would be hard and I would miss my old friends, but I wasn't prepared for the hardest part to be a feeling of deep isolation and loneliness that lasted strongly for a year and more. Some of it was because I didn't have a method of transportation, it took us a while to get into a small group at church... etc. After two and a half years, I feel settled here, I feel so blessed by our friends and community and the things I'm involved in.

Now that I'm settled, in the Fall I really struggled with looking back and trying to figure out WHY I had such a hard time building relationships here. I used to think of myself as someone that was good at building friendships. Not an extrovert by any means, but someone that loves people and loves to know them. This time, though, I'm glaringly faced with my own awkwardness. I would simultaneously desperately want friendships and avoid having to actually talk to people. I would be sitting with someone and literally have absolutely no idea what to say to start or continue a conversation and would feel like an idiot.

Looking back and realizing all of that, and seeing the remnants of it now .... sort of shook my self-perception. I really value fun people, outgoing people. My favorite times in my life are the times when I have been outgoing and fun. I DISLIKE the awkward, withdrawn me. If I were in the room with that person, I would find them awkward and frustrating.

Despite feeling pretty comfortable now, I wondered - is this the adult me? Is this what it will be like for the rest of my life? Will I struggle to build friendships from here on out? Will I be trapped in awkwardness? Will it never come naturally, never be fully comfortable?

I tried to write out some of what I was thinking (I find it much easier to write things out). I wrote my closest friends - Linda, Rachel, I wrote my parents. I tried to explain some of my thoughts to my girlfriends here ... stumblingly. At one point when I had just explained my moments of awkwardness, the girls all so sweetly affirmed me and Steph said, "Aww... we love you!"

It's amazing how much more powerful those words are when you're struggling with insecurity. Linda wrote me back, and all I remember from her email was just her strong words that regardless of what I'm struggling with, she loves me JUST the way I am. I cried. So thankful that even when I am awkward and I don't know how to interact or help conversation flow, these girls love me.

When I wrote my mom she called me the very next day. Usually our conversations are pretty short and back and forth - this time I sat for nearly an hour as she talked and talked and talked, I just sniffled and listened. Because you know... I'm a lot like my mom, and this is something she's wrestled with her whole life. She says she started feeling awkward in high school and it has continued through the rest of her life - wrestling with insecurity about her own personality, her quietness and introversion. In the last couple of years through a number of things, she's come to a deeper peace with her personality than ever before.

She said things like, "Kacie, when you are in a group or with someone and you feel awkward and you don't know what to say, just remember that that is OKAY. It isn't bad. It's awkward, but it isn't bad. There's no need to feel guilty about that, or feel insufficient."

And she said mom things, like "Kacie, you are so precious and wonderful just the way you are." You know. The stuff moms have to say.... but when you're wondering if who you are IS actually precious, it's amazing how powerful that is.

Then was Thanksgiving, and one day as my dad and I made breakfast together he asked me to tell me more about everything I told mom, so I did. And we talked about friendships, and loneliness, and how that's manifested in his life and mine. We talked about where I feel most comfortable and where I feel most awkward. And I just thought... my dad is so... so wonderful. You know how amazing it is to have your parents kind of walk alongside you instead of just give you advice? I feel like they don't expect me to just figure it out, they freely admit their own struggles.

Those times of affirmation have been so helpful, and currently I feel a deep peace and contentment right here, right who I am. I hate that it takes so long to build that sometimes, but I also think I've learned a valuable lesson about how I react to being new and unknown. It will probably often be a challenge for me. It probably won't always be as tough as it was to adjust to Dallas, though. I will have times when I am more extroverted, but I will always be an introvert.

I have new sympathy for insecure teens that are desperate to find a way out of their own skin. Actually, Alice wrote a review for this new Beth Moore book called So Long, Insecurity. Beth has talked a bit about some of the self-processing she did while she was writing the book. I'm not one of those people that does every Beth Moore study that comes out, but I do appreciate her passion for scripture. I feel like she gives you the full picture, the context, the feel for things. Anyways, between those two sources they've made me really want to read it. I guess it will go onto my long "to-read" list. 


Alice said...

When I read that book for the review, I was like, "I don't think I struggle with this much, but whatever." Whoa. Yes, I do! In so many different ways. I think you will love the book. Consider doing the online study that she'll be doing on her site in February. I'd even do it with you--from one introvert to another--if you're interested. :-)

Togenberg said...

"And she said mom things, like "Kacie, you are so precious and wonderful just the way you are." You know. The stuff moms have to say.... but when you're wondering if who you are IS actually precious, it's amazing how powerful that is."

That's really beautiful, I love that.

Jaimie said...

I think you're a pretty awesome person as well.

Kacie said...

Thanks ya'll. I suppose another thing I've learned is that even the people around me who KNOW that I love them sometimes especially need to hear it and I may not know... so I need to keep affirming!

Jen said...

Oh my gosh, I could have written this (only not as articulately)! I SO resonate with everything you're saying.

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Steph said...

:) love your face. I just love how you write. And how cool of your parents to be transparent with you and think WITH you instead of for you!

It's funny how you talk about your introspection and the questions you've asked yourself...I've felt similar things lately....asking myself, "is this really the adult me? have I really not grown out of this?" Most of these thoughts are provoked by the visit of a certain person recently :), but still. I've spent so much of the last month wondering if I'll be perpetually lost in my own opinions, my overbearing personality, my intensity that pushes others away...I thought that was a me I had slowly let slip away, and I was happy to see it go.

I had a great conversation with my mom, too. :) She said lots of wonderful mommyish things. But the best thing was that she knows my heart and exactly where I was feeling diminished, and she spoke right to it. I'm so like her--we're passionate, intense, (slightly :)) dramatic people. She has come to find strength in these things...things that I hoped would fade from my personality as they made relationships more difficult throughout my life. Her validation and corroboration were spot on. I love moms.

And I love your awkward self. :)

justaweeblether said...

I teared up as I read this because I am stuggling with loneliness now. And it stinks that during such a challenging time in my life I don't have a friend nearby.

I have been reflecting on my social life/skills in college as opposed to now. I used to spot someone and think "I want to be their friend" and I would. I am not a person who desires a lot of friends. Just a couple of really close ones.

When we were in Scotland it seemed like it took ages to make friends and just as I was forming a couple of deeper relationships we had to leave.

We have been back in the area where we both grew up for over 2 years now and still have absolutely no friends. We became part of a promising small group, but were uprooted from that when we moved all the way on the other side of the next county over.

Before I didn't know how it felt to be disliked. Now I have problems with coworkers and I don't understand where it came from.

So, no words of affirmation here from me other than I know the struggle.