“Ian, I think you see yourself as your own enemy without realizing it.”
My guidance counsellor tells me after I dish out an hour’s worth of stories regarding my current life and problems.
“You are a self-defeatist and you should do something about that.”
In that moment, I wanted to disagree with her. I do believe in myself. I think I do.
“Yet, even if you are one, you seem like someone who is confident about your capabilities. Superficially, that is. Maybe there is a discrepancy that you have to address.”
She made sense. I held back my retort and examined myself with more scrutiny.
“You are so harsh on yourself but you hide it through your jokes, your sarcasm. I think you realized that even before I had told you, right?”
I did. I knew because that was precisely the reason why I am sarcastic. To hide my doubts about myself.
She’s getting into my head and it freaks me out.
She asks me for a possible reason why I could have turned out like this.
And I said I don’t know.
But I do.
My father has the tendency to over think. He analyzes everything over and over again. Over and over again. Over and over again. He thinks of all the things that could possibly go wrong alongside the one, single, perfect way where everything goes right. His hair grows white because of it.
Sometimes, he loses himself in all the doubt and worry he generates. He has to make sure that nothing is wrong. If he has the chance to check on anything, he will. He has to be adamant that the cars are safe, the doors are locked, and that there is absolutely no way for a thief to enter our house, steal our things, and murder our family. And this is all understandable things that a normal father does. But, if you knew my dad, you’d see what I mean.
He gathers all the horrible News that may or may not be applicable to me. He tells me all about it and determines how he should prohibit me from doing things based on those news reports. When a car accident happens in the news, I am banned from driving for a good two weeks. If one person was mugged in a shady neighborhood, I can’t leave my dorm past 9pm. In all his worrying, he seems to forget that I’m already 21 years old.
My mother has to be right all the time. Even if all the evidence contradict her argument, she wins. She has this metaphorical wild card in her hard that let’s her succeed over any and all arguments placed against her. And when she does realize that she has, perhaps, made a mistake, she does not acknowledge it. She treats it as if it was already resolved ages ago and everyone should just forget about it.
She is also the sociable one. The extrovert. She knows how to gain the attention of everyone and keep it. She can be the life of the party if she wanted to. She can let go of all her apprehensions and have fun. But her personality is overpowering. Sometimes, it comes to a point that she becomes standoff-ish. She has an air around her that overwhelms most people. It is the bane of the introverts.
Then there’s me. A mix of both my parents’ physical and mental characteristics.
Jet black hair from both of them, a well-defined supraorbital ridge from my father, a defined nose from my mother, and hazel brown eyes that are shaped just like hers. All jammed together to form my face. But looking beyond that is a small kid unable to cope with the pressures of moving on and growing up.
I can make people laugh with my self-deprecating humor. I highlight everything that is wrong with me through jokes because it made me feel safe. No one can make fun of me if I beat them to it. No one can hurt me if I’m already used to it. Because of that, I gained a confidence thick enough to act as a facade. It was a layer that I can hide behind from.
I can gain the attention of everyone, make them laugh, make them listen to me. I craved to be noticed. And it is pathetic. And if the attention of others is wrenched away from me, I feel threatened.
I believe that I know what is right from wrong and defend my ideas to the teeth. In the heat of the moment, I won’t back down because I know that I am right about it. I will crush their arguments with mine and make them acknowledge their defeat. They will know my fierceness through my words. Yet, I don’t want to lose anyone’s approval over an argument. It’s a paradox.
In all of this, there is always this doubt whether or not I did anything right. And that doubt leads to the fear. I fear that no one would approve of whatever I am doing. I think of the worst possible scenario and psyche myself out even before trying. I have no faith in who I am precisely because there is a discrepancy. I can show up as a man with no shame. I am not afraid of making a fool out of myself. I can talk in front of crowds, hold a good conversation with anyone, and act comfortable enough to show that I am not awkward. But underneath that layer is me, cowering with all the self-doubt. The kid in me is conscious of what other people think of me. I want them to approve of what I do and love me for it. But I never believe that what I do will be enough.
See. Self-Defeatist right there.
“So, what are you going to do about it?”
The counsellor asked after a brief period of silence.
“I don’t know. Maybe I can be the profound self-defeatist? You know, I’ll make you feel better about yourself by making you feel bad about me. I can make a fortune out of it! I can see it now, Ian Oblepias, Professional Self-Defeatist.”
“Sarcasm again. Just as long as you’re comfortable with that, then you can do whatever you want.”
Man. I have to get rid of hating on myself. If ever I have children, I wish that they get my sarcastic humor without the self-doubt. I want them to be truly confident with who they are. I don’t want them to rely on a facade of confidence founded on self-deprecating humor. I want them to know that they can do whatever they want. All they need is faith.
I should start following my own advice.
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This week’s Writing Challenge: DNA Analysis