Blog, Mental Health

Limits: The invisible barrier and making sense

In a move that is nothing new for me, I’ve been thinking a lot recently. Quelle surprise, I know. But here’s the thing. We all know about imposter syndrome, I think – where we feel inadequately qualified for a role, telling ourselves we can’t do it, that others are way better for the job or position that we would ever be. But, I seem to have this – with myself. It seems there are some parts of me that are ‘off-limits’, somehow.

I thought I’d just try and get all my thoughts down here to try and make sense of it all. This means this blog post will probably be rather ‘jumbled’ and ‘train of thought’-like! So, apologies for that…!

Ok… so let me attempt to explain.

I was talking to a friend recently and just suddenly, in the middle of the conversation, a huge barrier just appeared in my mind. A massive nope, a big black text saying that’s it, I’m up to the limit here. I’m familiar with this feeling. I know I am very, very hard to get to know properly. I’m somewhat of a social chameleon, always measuring my words, seeming to change my viewpoints, becoming quieter or more outgoing, agreeing with things I’m not sure I actually agree with. Really thinking about it, it’s quite scary that really, I’m 100% me with probably about two or three people. But even this desire to be liked only seems to have so much steam. I have an invisible barrier – when I start getting to know people a little better, it’ll suddenly appear, and that’s it, I’m backing off. I don’t want to, I want to be friends, but still, I find myself drawing that line in the sand.

There’s that impression of me, with everything they’ve come to know, but nothing more. I shut down, not obviously, but it’s like I feel there’s nothing else I can give. Why? Is it self-preservation? Fear of dislike? Where does this even come from? I’m sure there’s a myriad of reasons – too many to begin to start to tackle here 😉

When I’m around a group of people, I’m an intense judge of how I fit in according to this random structure I have somehow constructed in my mind. They’re more outgoing than me? I move down a rung on this invisible ladder. They’re popular? Down I go. They’re quieter than me, but more self-assured? They’ve got a ‘posh job’ (or any job, at the moment)? They’re more conventionally attractive? They know a lot about something in particular? They’re already friends with the other people here? They have a cool hobby? Down, down, down. And with every step down, I feel more and more overwhelmed.

There’s two things going on here, I think. One – that I change my self to fit in, and two – that I’m incredibly overwhelmed around anyone I deem to be more successful than me. And actually, thinking about it – the people I really like, those I want to get to know more – yes, I look at them as more successful, too. But there’s something else about them, something approachable, something trustworthy….well, I just think I like them, basically. But then down comes the barrier! What a mess.

So basically – I change myself in a bid to be liked, but only in situations where I am measuring myself as equal to those around me. And when I make friends, those limits rise again, that part of me I keep to myself. Only with persistence does anyone seem to get past it, and they’re probably entirely unaware of any of this.

Reading this back, this sounds like I’ve got some sort of suspicious secret or something! That’s honestly not it at all! In fact, I’m probably the most mundane person. So where is all this coming from?

When I step back and look at it, it seems more simple. I try and fit in because I want to be liked. I hate conflict and try and avoid it at all costs. But being all these different people is exhausting – and really, when it comes to it – I actually don’t have any idea of who I am. I start hobbies and projects and give up. I have a very low opinion of myself. I just don’t know when all this started – I can remember hating social situations even when I was young – even being terrified to go into a shop. Which persists to this day! Sometimes, if it’s busy when I’m around public places, I just have to go home. It’s so strange – on one hand, I seem to be trying anything to fit it, and on the other, I am avoiding people like the plague. What’s going on?!

It seems that the answer is to begin to discover who I actually am, what I stand for. The problem is, I can think of a myriad of things, statements about myself that describe me, my personality, things I like, and so on. But I still feel kinda empty. Floating about, with endless time to myself, sounds like some sort of dream, idyllic lifestyle. But ‘floating’ is the kicker. Directionless, carried by stronger currents, not knowing where I really want to go.

I’m not unhappy, and I’m nowhere near as depressed as I was this time last year! I feel more of a sense of calm and peace approaching. I’m just impatient for some big revelation, a revelation that I’m sure won’t just appear over the horizon in a flash. So where do I go? I’m not too sure. For now, I think that being aware is the first step. And if you’ve any insight to nudge me toward the second step, it’d be very much appreciated!


2 thoughts on “Limits: The invisible barrier and making sense

  1. We’re very different in how we relate to people: I don’t know how to be anything but myself, which means that I don’t always fit in but it’s very easy to know the real me.

    However some of what you are going through really resonates with me. Coming out of a period of chronic fatigue you reach a time when you want more in your life, but are afraid of over committing and exhausting yourself. I had barriers to friendships going too far in case I didn’t have the energy to commit.

    When I was going through this I gradually started going to an informal book club in a chocolate shop, joined my local NWR, and joined a choir. All of these involved meeting new people, but there was no pressure to overcommit to anyone too early. I am now (2-3yrs later) starting to develop really good friendships with a few people from these groups.

    I’m not saying you need to do the same as me, but take one step at a time doing things that you enjoy with people that you like. Be gentle with yourself and try to be as kind to yourself as you would be to a friend going through a similar situation.

  2. You’re so adept at describing this sort of thing. Perhaps there was rebuttal or admonishment in some previous experience(s) of expressing aspects of yourself? The feelings may have lingered, even if the memory hasn’t. I believe we’re fluid in nature – relieve yourself of knowing all of yourself, all at once. It’s like trying to catch the wind.

    When the wall you sense goes up, acknowledge it in your mind then see yourself removing a few of the bricks. Repeating this each time may help you step in the direction you want to go, at a pace that feels safe to do so 🙂

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