Hurt by laughter

I don’t remember many things from when I was little but one of them sticks out: one evening, I must’ve been around 11-12, I decided to write a letter to the guy I had a crush on. I’m not sure why but either mum or her boyfriend at the time realised it wasn’t my usual quietness they were used to. So they asked me to show them what I was doing. I remember feeling pretty satisfied with how the letter turned out so I didn’t object. I gave it to them and waited for praise. You’re probably guessing right, I never received it. They laughed instead. 

“You can’t be serious” Joe said. 

“I am” I said. I was shocked at the reaction and I was stubborn. 

“You can’t give it to him” mom added. 

“Why not?” 

“It’s ridiculous. You’re a girl. You can’t write to a boy like this.” 

They were both in agreement. One thing led to another and mom tore the letter up. 

“Forget it!” she said. “Just talk to him!” 

“A letter…” they would say laughing even some time after that. 

I think the memory stuck because it showed how much she didn’t get me – talking to anyone outside of my close circle was always out of the question. 

And why?  

Because they could (would) laugh at me. 

It’s a horrible fear of mine. Not being taken seriously, being found ridiculous is even lower on the scale than walking through fire. (Theoretically of course. I’ve never walked through fire.) 

Many years later when I was working as a serious management consultant at the young age of 25 or so, I needed to make a good impression at a first meeting with a unit head of a bank. I was nicely dressed, high heels, suit, seriousness and professionalism, prepared with the questions etc. so it went well. At the end of the meeting he walked me to one of his teams who was on another floor. It was but the last step of stairs that did me in: I fell on the ground without any trace of womanly grace, literally flat on my stomach. It was like time slowed down and my thoughts were super-quick but I couldn’t move my body enough to even lessen the impact. To the guy’s credit he was more worried than laughing but our mutual respect had a serious fallback (pun intended). Since then I always hold on the rail by the stairs as if my life depended on it. Only because I don’t want to feel ridiculous. 

It’s the same in many other areas and I believe I could probably lead all my problems back to this one simple fear: not wanting to be laughed at. 

So guess what? This week I’m going to do all kinds of uncomfortable things that I’m not good at or sure about – I’ll even try to make you laugh just so that I can experience that the world  (even only just my world) won’t end after a little laughter at my cost. 

I’m super-super anxious of course but as they say “no pain, no gain” and I’m also kinda excited to try new things. We’ll see how it’ll go! 😉 

Do you have any bad experience about being laughed at? 

My forte and foible

“I told you they’d look!”

“Let them!”

“But… they will… SEE!” it whispers. 

“See what?”

“See us!” it starts to sound like Gollum in Lord of the Rings.

“And?”

“And then they’ll be cruel and think we’re ridiculous and they’ll hurt us!”

(Yes, definitely Gollum. Where did this come from?) 

“They can’t hurt us, Gollum.” (Let’s call a spade a spade.)

“Buuuhhhuuut they did!” 

He is crying now. I hug his ugly, bony shoulder.

“No dear, it wasn’t them. It was us. We hurt us. We wanted their approval instead of approving us ourselves. We wanted their love instead of loving us ourselves. We gave them the power, the weapon to hurt us, do you see?”

Fear looks at me with teary eyes. 

“It brings out the blue in your eyes,” it says before it disappears. 

“Thank you” I whisper and walk among the crowd of the afternoon rush hour head held high, heart feeling warm. 

A to Z-ers, thank you for waiting out the extra day for the F post. My muse needed this extra day 🙂 

Dare to be gentle

Last night I didn’t know what to tell you in this post. I didn’t do any of the major things I had planned against the fear of “Being Seen”. Then I was chatting to a friend about how she struggles with wanting to be perfect and I told her how she should lovingly embrace that she isn’t capable of doing everything and how I believe in gentleness on our road of improvement.

It took me a while to make that connection to my own situation. It’s true, I had different expectations when I started the week. I wanted to be able to show you that I am courageous enough to do the challenges. I wanted to prove it to myself as well, of course, but the point of sharing this journey is the external validation. (I wish it wasn’t but that’s what it is.)

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So breathing gently into my day, I celebrate all the little steps I was able to achieve:

  • Wearing a big earring with a feather – it’s not everyone’s cup of tea and it practically invites attention (for an earring of course 🙂 )
  • Joining a conversation I was not specifically invited to at work. And you know what? It led to discovering that my boss and I both were in the same student organisation, AIESEC, some of you might know it. Not in the same university of course but it still connected us on a different level.
  • I also have this overall (dare I say it?) confidence at work now. I started this job in August, totally new area but I have been doing really well. And somehow I got to the point where I believe it now. I can even accept when I make mistakes, which happened yesterday. That’s huge for a perfectionist, not stressing about the little things too much.
  • At home I told my little brother I will dye my hair. I knew he would laugh, he wouldn’t understand but instead of feeling criticised by it, I felt the undercurrent of love and acceptance that connects us through our differences. I also told him why – we didn’t have a long, deep conversation about it but I told him how it’s a challenge for me to overcome my fear. (Then we quickly switched talking about football. One does not want to overwhelm their little brother 🙂 )

I am proud of making those little steps yesterday. People always say that every step counts but it’s hard to celebrate the smaller things. We get on board when our friend gets married but don’t think much when they tell us about a lovely afternoon they spent at home doing puzzles with their hubby. We say life is made up of moments but do little to acknowledge the same. Even now, I keep justifying to you (and to myself) why I feel entitled to consider these little steps achievements.

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I’m looking at yesterday with new eyes now – last night I thought I failed. Today I recognise all the things I have done just one small step outside of my comfort zone. I’m at it, baby!

What was your baby-win yesterday? A small moment of celebration or happiness? Let’s honour them by sharing them with each other.

PS: Thank you for your kind reception of my video yesterday. I was super-anxious about it and you made me feel welcome. You rock and I’m very grateful!

To my clique

With today’s challenge I’m fulfilling the Being Seen objective not in one but two different ways at the same time (talk about over-achieving). I’m not only sharing my deepest thoughts but am also doing so in a (gasp!) video. 

I’ve been dreading photos for a very long time and videos force me to face not just how I look but also how I speak – none of which are my favourite traits. I do like this particular piece I wrote a while ago though so I hope the content will make up for the rest 😉

So without further ado: 

Achievements and aspirations 

Since I started to focus on overcoming my sometimes crippling fears around the middle of February, I have been able to celebrate some wins. Step by step, week by week I am facing something I shied away from before. Gently, lovingly, sometimes shakily but I show up. Here’s what’s happened:

At first sight they look easy and indeed, anyone can do them. What makes (made) them so terrifying to me is simple: unreasonable Fear. 

But what is fear really? 

At first sight Fear is not just a bitch but an attention-seeking one at that. It’s egotistic, consuming and burns up everything. It confines and ties me down, using the one thing I love the most about me: my imagination.

What am I actually afraid of?

  • I’m afraid of being laughed at. I don’t want people to look at me and find it ridiculous.
  • Being judged. I also don’t want to be seen and judged. “Look at that fatso.”
  • Disliked. I’m afraid if I open up, people won’t like who I am.
  • Rejected. I’m terrified of showing vulnerability, some need and getting a no in return. 

Fear warns me of the pain these situations would cause. It wants to protect me but in return it throttles me. I’m like a caged bird (no, really) and by locking me up, fear deprives me of the sunshine that would keep me alive.

Fear is protection 

I don’t doubt that fear’s got good intentions. We fear the fire because it can kill us. We fear heights because if we fall, again, it can kill us.

But then my fear tends to get overzealous. Would being laughed at kill me? Sure, it would hurt, it would be uncomfortable but I would survive. Isn’t it natural that some people will dislike me? Don’t people always make judgements at each other, fat or not?

I love fear for loving me so much that it wants to protect me from all kinds of pain. I want to use this mutual love between fear and me to give space to each other. As they say, if you really love someone, let them go. I need air, freedom to soar and not be tied into a cell, no matter how safe it is.

Fear isn’t a bitch after all: it’s an overprotective lover who wants only good for me. I just need to prove it that I can take a little pain in order to grow.

Thanks to the A to Z challenge I now have an excuse to turn my Courage Journey up a notch. During the next four weeks I will take daily challenges in real life to expand my comfort zone working with a specific type of fear every week. Hope you’ll come along, too!