Be curious, not judgmental.Walt Whitman
Well, I’ve had a few days to myself in complete solitude. Aside from the company of my two lovable pets, of course. This has given me some time to consider my relationship with socialization in general, and some of the unconscious fears or desires I may have tied up in that. I’ll be honest, I am struggling more than usual with this journal entry. I am stressing about the promise I made to post them to my blog unfiltered. What is the root of this stress? Perhaps social anxiety over how I may be judged.
For awhile I’ve been pretty back and forth on whether I’m struggling with a lack of personal autonomy or a fear of connection. It’s a dilemma, and there may be a bit of both in there. But fundamentally, I think we all have preferred survival styles or strategies for invisible trauma. Increasingly, I think mine is rooted in autonomy and subsequently affects my ability to connect. I strongly desire and attempt to reach people on a deeper level. The proverbial doors to my soul are wide open you could say, or at least willing to be open if I perceive a likewise open reception.
But that leads to another struggle. The lack of willingness from other people to connect on that same deep level. Both the hesitation to reveal themselves and, more importantly, the reluctance to fully receive another person’s being or soul with open-mindedness. Most people enter into social engagements with a sophisticated set of preconceived opinions or “lenses” obscuring their raw perception. This leads to the tendency to judge books by their cover, or people by the out-of-context details of the first impression they give.
These micro-judgements are ultimately inaccurate and limiting to the experience of who a person truly is at heart. And since these predetermined impressions are two-way, most conversations take the form of an ego dance, where both participants play the little roles they feel are expected of them. This back and forth of inauthenticity perpetuates itself. Human nature is simultaneously amusing and frustrating, is it not? The superficiality of most interactions is the ultimate inhibitor to the connection I desire.
Even as I know I fall into this pattern in my own way, I am quite sensitive to the ego dynamics of people. It is a very back-of-the-head, subconscious sort of thing. But it leaves me in anticipation of the judgment and subtle narrow-mindedness I am likely to notice. And it truly is subtle, and mostly innocent as well. Something so commonplace as to be unnoticeable to most people. But I guess my awareness or sensitivity creates the anticipation that causes my social anxiety. When you can practically see the shifting thought-patterns just by looking into a person’s eyes, it will give you anxiety too.
But here are some questions: Is the anticipation of judgement a self-fulfilling prophecy? Does it compel me to join in on the ego dance by overcompensating for the aspect of my persona or “experience” that I feel is about to be misinterpreted? Does that tendency result in inauthenticity? Does autonomy require staying true to yourself despite the risk of being misunderstood? Can you be fake by trying too hard to stay true? These are difficult questions. Welcome to the mind of a chronic self-inquirer.