As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder traits, I have spent a lot of my life trying to guess what other people are thinking about me, figure out the perfect response to their imagined feelings, and often coming away feeling anxious and unwanted because of imagined slights that existed only in my twisted interpretation of things.
While this is particularly exacerbated by BPD, I hardly think that only the mentally ill jump to conclusions or find offense in places where none was meant. It’s easy to simply tell yourself that you won’t do this anymore, but that hardly solves the problem. After many years of trying desperately to find ways to solve this, I finally this week appear to have hit upon the solution: use your words.
I’m sure anyone who has had similar problems is about to smack me upside the head right now because THAT’S so easy, right?
When you’re worried about what someone thinks of you or you’re uncertain of how best to proceed in a situation, the scariest thing in the world is to be vulnerable, particularly if you care about the situation. It opens you up to rejection or hurt. If you think someone secretly hates you, asking them gives them the opportunity to confirm their undying hatred.
So yes it is terrifying to just straight out ask someone if they like you or if they want to hang out with you or if that thing you’re doing is bothering them or if they’re actually ignoring you on purpose. I have spent a great deal of this week wrapped up in anxiety about asking those sorts of questions, and even after I asked them I still felt residual “ahhh what if that was too forward?!” The secret to actually doing it is that it gets so much better after you do.
Ambiguity is really hard for human beings. We generally prefer to know, for sure, what’s going on. If we’re in any kind of healthy relationship with our emotions, even when we get bad news, as long as we know for sure we can usually feel bad for a bit and then let the feelings go. When we’re uncertain whether news is bad or good we can continue to feel bad about it indefinitely. The other good thing about actually knowing that something you’re doing isn’t what another person wants is that you can stop doing it, which will significantly lessen feelings of badness.
The other great thing about actually using your words is that more often than not, people’s reactions are way better than you think they will be. Very rarely does someone actually hate your guts or never want to speak to you again. And the feeling of relief you get when you use your words to express what you’re feeling and have someone else use their words back is AMAZING. Not only do you often get a positive response, but you also get the joy of actually knowing what’s going on in another human being’s head (which is pretty cool when you think about it).
The relief of not having to play out a million possible scenarios is pretty fantastic too. One of the biggest difficulties of having anxiety or something similar is how exhausting it is to worry and wonder about every little thing. While we can never get rid of that entirely, using your words goes a long way towards reducing that confusion and frustration for others and helps a great deal with reducing it for you. Even if someone does come out and tell you to leave them alone, at least your brain can shut up for a little bit about whether or not it’s a good idea to keep talking to them.
Captain Awkward has some great posts about using your words and ways to practice using your words, but consider me converted: it’s terrifying until you do it and then it feels FLIPPING AWESOME. So from one convert to the rest of you: if you have feels that you’re not telling me about, please…use your words.