This is going to sound crazy, but if there are two things in this world I’m great at, they’re giving disclaimers and saying shitty things about myself.
See? I just did both. Right there. That’s how good I am.
In all seriousness though, I always knew I did those things, but I never understood the scope or gravity of it until this weekend. The great thing about Catalyst folk isn’t their willingness to call you out (although that helps), it’s the way they do it.
I was meeting one of the people I had the pleasure to share my room with for the first time Friday afternoon, when I was supposed to let him in and give him a key. I rolled in around 1, but he wasn’t supposed to get there until 5. Knowing I had some time to kill, I hopped on the metro with a few other friends and went for a walk to soak in some of the touristy stuff and fresh air.
At 4:45, I’m on my way back, feeling good about how responsible and on time I am. My phone rings. It’s him. He’s in the lobby. Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. I explain what’s going on, and that I’ll be there as soon as I can. He tells me not to worry about it, and sounds sincere, but I know better. Secretly, he’s angry. Secretly, he’s judging and resenting me. Secretly, I know all of the innermost emotions of this person I’ve never been in the same room with.
I find him in the lobby (less than ten minutes later), and I say the first words I will ever say to this man’s face:
“Oh my god, I’m so sorry, I’m such a douchebag.”
He looks confused, and tells me he hadn’t been thinking that at all, but largely lets it go. It isn’t until I call myself a ‘creeper’ later on for looking over his shoulder as something we were googling on his phone that he lets me have it.
“You know, you keep using these negative words to describe yourself, and you’re making it seem as though I’m the one thinking them, but I’m not.”
I am blown to bits. My friends have nudged me about this before, but never as directly. Usually it came in the form of them telling me that I was wrong, or to shut the fuck up (lovingly). You’re not an asshole, you’re not crazy, you aren’t the worst person in the world. And it never sunk in. Not once. Because what we had, I resolved, was a difference in opinion, and those are perfectly fine. Of course you don’t think those bad things about me, you love me! Or at the very least, you love me enough to pretend not to. Because that’s love, AMIRIGHT? Ugh. Whatever.
But by challenging not the fact itself, but the reasoning and motivations behind it, I couldn’t hide behind just thinking they were wrong (They, plural, on purpose. I made getting called out look gooooood this weekend.). Nothing that was said to me was inaccurate. I had just said something majorly disparaging about myself. So, why?
For the same reason I use disclaimers. Because I’m scared. All the time, guys. More than I’m scared of them being true, I’m scared that those things will be thought of me. I’m terrified of being that oblivious jerk-off that people talk about. You know which one. The one that leaves, and people are relieved. The one people say, “Do you think they know?” about. I’m scared of being secretly hated and having absolutely no idea.
I use disclaimers whenever I’m about to say something that makes me even remotely nervous. It’s a major tell of mine. Whether it’s embarrassing, emotionally vulnerable, or just a little bit out there, I use a disclaimer just in case. Because if you think I sound crazy, or I’m an asshole, but I said it first, then you can’t hurt me. It’s that simple. It’s the self-equivalent of breaking up with someone because you think you’re about to get dumped on your ass.
This is proving to be one of the hardest things to fight off, but it’s the first one I’m tackling. Every time I insult myself, I’m teaching the people around me that it’s ok to insult me. I’m putting ideas in their heads about who I might really be. But even worse, I’m reinforcing the negative perceptions of myself that I’ve been walking around with for 25 years (minus however many it took for me to walk and talk). I’ve never had a positive image of myself, but I’m never going to if I keep engaging in practices that prevent me from growing and developing. It’s going to take some doing, and it’s going to take some help. But the time passes anyway, you might as well do something with it.
Nobody puts Katie in a corner. Not even Katie.