In order to move forward in a better direction, I feel it is important to delve back into the past to unshackle ourselves from our own conditioning. I still notice at times that vestigial mental wirings from my past still influence my outlook, my expectations, how I feel about myself, and how I react emotionally to certain situations. There is still a world of trauma I have swept under the rug in an attempt to move forward but the hard truth is, forward progress cannot be made when there are still conditionings clearly present from the past. It’s a hard, long look in the mirror but one that is freeing and cleansing if we can see it through and face our demons.
So, let’s tackle a demon today. Sometimes during my job or just in my day to day life and interactions with others, I still get this feeling in the pit of my stomach. It’s a feeling like I’m some awkward, socially inept outcast. This feeling comes on suddenly based on certain triggers and lingers in the forefront of my mind until I eventually have to say STOP and attempt to move on. It’s so odd considering that there’s not really any external evidence that I am being awkward or shy or can’t function socially. I usually love talking to people and getting to know them but there’s sporadically a lingering feeling of inadequacy that I still face.
I thought about why I have these feelings and it helped to take a journey into the past, where I first learned to socialize and the first conditionings in my brain were starting to form. I was attention deficit as a child and quite hyperactive at times throughout my elementary school years. Those years are a blur to me but I do remember not being able to sit still and I had a hard time focusing on what the teachers were saying. I wasn’t necessarily socially awkward or anything at the time nor did I have an idea of what that even was, but there came a very distinct period when I could recall a change. This period was the transition between schools.
The transition from elementary school to middle school was a hard transition for me. My best friend from elementary school was at a different school now, I was a little fish at the bottom of the totem pole in a new school, and my parents had started me on Adderall. Adderall altered my mood quite heavily. I remember first taking it around the time I started sixth grade. I was no longer hyperactive, but shut off, reserved, almost zombified from the medication. I noticed a complete shift in my energy, mood, and personality. It was awkward. I felt like I didn’t have much to say or talk about and because of this, I struggled making friends.
I remember one time in sixth grade, in a computer class, a girl from my elementary school came up to me and asked me why I wasn’t funny or exciting anymore. I just shrugged my shoulders, indifferent to giving her an answer, but deep inside that hurt. It was like a part of myself had been lost or subdued and I wasn’t likeable anymore. It didn’t help when I heard a girl from school call me a nerd behind my back during this same period. (It’s funny, now I consider nerd a complement, but back then, with trying to fit in, it hurt my feelings.)
Quite often my peers, teachers, and people from church would all make comments about how quiet I was. In my mind, this always hurt my feelings because when they called me quiet, I interpreted that as meaning I was boring, that I wasn’t funny anymore, and that I didn’t have anything interesting to say. I felt like a loser. I felt disjointed. I felt like an outcast. These experiences and subsequent beliefs that formed became a foundation for how I thought about myself in relation to others.
High school only exacerbated these feelings. The cliques were ever more prominent and I found what superficial friendships I could muster to be fickle and unfulfilling. I felt alone. I was still quiet, I didn’t have many friends, and I didn’t go out that much on the weekends. It made me feel ashamed when I was home on a Friday or Saturday night and my parents would ask why I wasn’t doing anything. I wasn’t getting practice socializing because I was riddled with fears and insecurities and that was only further entrenching me in this perceived role as some outsider.
It didn’t help that my dad, my uncle, and many of the male role models in my family had been popular and active in sports growing up. My dad played football and dated cheerleaders and I wondered why I wasn’t like that. I always felt like I was letting my dad down by not being more active and athletic. One day during my high school days, my dad and I had an argument and I remember him raising his voice and shouting “You don’t play any sports! You’re not in any school programs! You don’t do NOTHING!” before storming out of the house. That stuck with me for a long time. I remember crying in my room after that just feeling like a failure in every conceivable way.
This was my foundation growing up. These are the experiences that formed the wiring in my brain that I still draw from every now and then. This is what I mean about digging up the past. In order for me to overcome my feelings of awkwardness or inadequacy, I need to look straight back into that time and face the origins of these beliefs. It isn’t comfortable. It’s like reopening old scabs and letting it bleed again. The memories and feelings bite at me upon recollection. It was a painful time. It was a lonely time. I was fortunate to have loving and supporting parents for the most part and I grew up in a stable, middle class home, but my school and social experiences were hell and my mind was my own worst enemy.
Now I understand that when I get certain feelings of inadequacy nowadays, I can trace them back in time and understand the context of their origin and growth. It helps to put our inner demons in context. I know now that I am a completely different person, I have had plenty of social practice and experience since then, and it isn’t all that hard to make friends and talk to people. These old beliefs are no longer viable or even slightly realistic. I am no longer solidified in playing a role as the “quiet” kid or that loser or that awkward guy that nobody likes. I have no reason to feel isolated now and when I do feel that way, it’s only remnants of the past that I am still working through and working to overcome.
Happiness and self-satisfaction are an on-going battle, and this is just one of the many demons and traumas I have left to uncover, but bringing my insecurities to light helps give a framework for understanding how I feel. It is a choice now that I have a different life and am a different person to either continue to hang onto these beliefs or recognize that these beliefs are lies, rooted in a past life, and no longer serve me going forward. It isn’t easy to face down your core issues, it will be uncomfortable, it will be painful, but it is a necessary step in the process of self-growth. It is essential to know ourselves in order to learn and grow and part of that knowledge is digging up our own histories and cutting out the relics that no longer serve us.
We all have demons. Nobody had a perfect upbringing and it is those upbringings that provide the mental and emotional framework that we can easily and haphazardly carry with us through the rest of our lives if we are not careful. I am realizing that I have a mountain of beliefs that no longer serve me. I am not some cut off, awkward kid anymore who has nothing interesting to say. I am kind, intelligent, compassionate, and motivated. I am a new person but with old programming. It’s time to clean house. I know each and every one of us can do this. Let’s set up a new set of rules and beliefs for our lives going forward. I want to believe each of us can overcome our past and evolve into something truly special and unique. These scars are what made us, they are what make us unique. I would not be me without them and you would not be you. Let’s choose to be better, let’s choose to have a better life, because we deserve it.
Anyways, I am sure I will make this an ongoing series, for I have a lot of specific demons to bring to light. Thank you so much for reading this and I hope each of you will work with me in digging up the past to create a better future. Much love ❤