Sometimes I like to use this page as cheap self-therapy. It’s no substitute for actual professional help, but if there’s some way I can more intimately grasp a concept by putting it out on a page, that works for me. So I think it’s time to unpack the issues that possibly contributed to yesterday’s anxiety attack. Yet again, I’m no professional, but hopefully I can try to understand why I react in certain ways. I don’t think this will magically fix anything, but maybe down the line when I find that professional help to sort through the validity of certain feelings, this could work as a shortcut.
Have I given myself enough of a disclaimer for having feelings yet? I sure hope so.
I have an inability to feel positive about myself as a sexual entity within a public space. I’m incapable of feeling attractive or worthy of sexual attention and I subconsciously mitigate any attempts to imply the alternative. TL;DR: I can take a compliment, I can’t accept one.
Let’s jump back a few years. To anyone who knows me from childhood/adolescence or has been reading for a while, it’s no secret that I was a fat kid. I can acknowledge this and accept that as much as moving away from this was important to me, I’ve taken leaps and bounds as the years have passed. I’m reasonably fit and I can accept that. What this meant to me was having my formative years spent in a constant state of comparison and disappointment in oneself. When you’re told that the ideal is to be fit, active and attractive, yet you don’t embody any of those things, it imprints in you the belief that there’s something wrong with you. When every role model you look up to is a muscled superhero making the world a better place for all, you feel a disconnect and isolation from those heroes. Body image issues are in no way restricted to female identifying persons, even from a young age. It often feels that, as a guy, you’re not allowed to think this way. That feeling vulnerable and fragile somehow invalidates your claim to manhood. Who could respect you as a strong male figure if you’re privy to feelings of weakness? If your self worth is tied to being accepted and liked (we’re all human here, right? Who doesn’t crave those things?), but you have a certain image of what it is that people respect and admire, you stop seeing yourself as a person deserving of those things.
Fast forward to adolescence, when this self-image meshes with confusing feelings of romantic desire. When you want to be respected, wanted and admired, but you don’t see those things within yourself. What do you think happens? Well in my case, I reasoned with myself. Leon I said, you’re a good guy, but you’re not attractive. Play to your strengths. No girl is ever going to want to be with you because your appearance excites her, if it ever happens it’ll be because you’re proven yourself to be a good person. You’re funny, you’re intelligent and you’re a decent person. Nobody will ever think about you in a sexual way. Make the most of what you have, focus on being the best person you can be. Maybe one day that’ll be enough.
We all know what’s really attractive, right? Confidence. Do you see anything above indicating a possession of self-confidence? I don’t think any women did. Consequently I didn’t see any women until I was 20. I lost weight, slowly and steadily. I never lost the self-perception as a fat person. As far as I can see from age 28, once a fat person, always a fat person. You may lose the literal weight, but not the weight of that baggage.
When I finally met someone and formed a relationship, the sex was awful. She wasn’t into it, I had no knowledge, but her lack of interest meant I had no confidence in myself. Things died in the bedroom at age 20. You shouldn’t be in a dead bedroom at age 20. Things ended. My next relationship was with a person I was very attracted to, inside and out. She seemed very satisfied, but I was constantly asking her close friends if she was faking, if she really felt the way that she seemed? No matter how many times they’d reassure me that she was very much into me, I couldn’t accept it. She liked me as a person, she wasn’t attracted to me. Why would she be? She just wanted me to feel good and confident in the relationship. She loved me, so she was pretending. Over time I got more comfortable in our time together. I never felt that she was attracted to me.
I’ve found a lot more interest from women since I arrived in Canada. Every time, no matter what they say, in my head it always translates to they’re just attracted to the accent. I can’t give myself even the small concession that I could be seen as attractive or a viable sexual candidate. “You’re super cute” they might say. “Thanks” I reply. In my head, all I hear is that’s nice, but they’re wrong. I know I try to be a good person. I know I contribute value to the lives of people around me. I cannot accept that any attraction is based on physical qualities. Despite any of my life successes, I’m just a scared little fat kid in the body of a fully grown male.
If I’m ever in a public situation in which it’s expected that I’ll express confidence in my appearance or right to be seen as attractive, this is what happens:
Of course they’re not actually attracted to you. They’re just saying that because they think you’re a nice person and don’t want to hurt your feelings. Where do you get off implying that you have appeal? Why would anyone ever think of you sexually? What right do you have to claim any worth as a sexual being? That’s ridiculous. If you do that, people will laugh at you. If they don’t do it to your face, they’ll be thinking it behind your back. No, it’s not fair for you to suggest that she should engage with you sexually. She’d much rather find someone better looking, more worthy of her affection and time. If she just happened to be interested and settled for me, that’s fine. That’s what I deserve. I don’t deserve to push myself on other people, burden other people with me. What right do I have to put this in front of people? Burden them with the pity they’ll feel for me when I try to say misguided nice things about myself? Oh, poor guy, he actually believes that? No. Why bother? Why put myself out there only to face inevitable crushing disappointment? These people deserve better than me. Why do you even try? Who are you trying to fool here? You’re just a child pretending to be an adult, so leave the adults to what they do. This space isn’t made for you. Go off and play on your own. You’re not wanted here.
There was a poem spoken last night and one sentence hit me pretty hard. Every time I thought of it later (at least 10-15 times), tears would roll down my cheeks.
“You should love your body the way your mother loved your little baby feet.”
In the moment of my birth, my mother only saw love. She saw a symbol of the time, patience and hard work that brought me into existence. She saw her love for my father, the children she already had. She wanted a life for me where I was safe to follow my bliss, to grow up and spread love. To find everything she had spent so long cultivating, everything that made her life and the time, patience and hard work worth it. She loved me unconditionally and only wanted everything for me that I ever desired. When I’m in that state, I don’t feel like I can give my mother all she ever wanted for me. Consequently I don’t feel worthy.
In that dark emotional state, I don’t feel worthy of my mother’s love.
And it all just keeps spiralling down from there. The thoughts increase and overlay, creating enough static that I can’t focus on anything else. I question my own value not only sexually, but as someone who other people are forced to interact with. I find it hard to move, I have to remind myself to breathe. I can’t handle seeing people happy, because I’m unable to connect with that as an emotion anyone can feel, when it’s so far out of my sight. At some point I just move out of my body and things fade away. I can’t cry in front of others, strangers. Who am I to burden them with that? They’ve had to put up with my absurd notions of self-worth, now they have to feign care and respect for someone as insignificant as me? I don’t deserve their company and I just need to be by myself until I can let these pent up emotions out.
Then I do, the catharsis sets in and slowly but surely the self doubts abate as I’m left emotionally raw and empty. Over time, logical thought comes back and I can tell myself that the thoughts I was feeling were an emotional response to a personal trigger. That I have shit tons of self-worth and I’m a great person who is respectful and considerate of others. That I have a huge capacity to make people happy and feel good about themselves. That I give love abundantly. That I actively enrich the lives of others. That I’m clever, intelligent and perceptive. That the imprint of my existence is positivity spread throughout the world, leaving it better than I found it. That my life is filled with people who love me for me and want to orbit the gravitational pull of my personality. I’m a good person and self-respect means that I can feel these things about myself without it being arrogance, without being a burden on others. Knowing that there is true strength in loving myself and knowing the effect I have on others, then using that self-love to enable others to find it within themselves. More than anything I just want everyone I love to be happy, I want everyone I love to just get along. I also understand that, like me, others also have difficulty seeing the qualities in them that shine bright and strong to everyone else. We’re all deserving of love and I just want everyone I love to find that love they deserve.
Notice how none of these things I love are about my physical appearance? It wasn’t lost on me either. I’m 28, I need to stop listening to my 14 year old self. That guy’s a well-meaning dipshit. Can anyone teach me how to actually believe emotionally what I know logically? That would be swell.