There is nothing that I hate more than being an inconvenience to other people. I fear that people will be annoyed by me or not like me and it’s been that way for as long as I can remember. I can’t be in your face, I can’t be loud, I can’t be the squeaky wheel. When I’m at a restaurant and they get my order wrong I live with it because the thought of making someone feel bad about messing up their job makes me feel bad.
A few months ago I was at McDonald’s and I got a coffee for myself and a large soft drink for my friend. The guy behind the counter gave me the medium cup for the soft drink and I had this moment of panic. Do I disappoint my friend with the medium cup or do I make this guy’s life absolutely miserable by telling him that he gave me the wrong size? (I’m pretty dramatic in my head sometimes)
I realized how much I hate being an inconvenience.
Okay, I already knew that but I’ve gotten pretty good at tip-toeing through life and sometimes I forget. Such a teeny thing made me realize that I haven’t really confronted those feelings so much as done my best to avoid them. That’s work I need to do. I need to get comfortable with taking up space and time and energy. Maybe it’s working in retail that has made me so self-conscious of things like that. You have customers yelling at you over things that you have no control over and it makes you really conscious of actively not being that person.
I pride myself on being nice and agreeable but I am also worthy.
I am worthy of getting what I pay for and being comfortable and having a good experience. It’s totally okay to feel like I deserve that. I can be worthy and not wear an entitled attitude that makes other people feel bad. Also, I do not need to squeeze myself into a tiny, insignificant ball to make the world a better place. I repeat – making myself small and quiet does not make the world a better place.
To finish the story I politely told the guy that I had ordered a large drink and he gave me the right cup with a smile on his face. No lives were ruined that day.
Thankfully I possess the “mom-friend override”, which means if it’s for someone else I can say something!
While I was ruminating on this I’ve-Got-To-Work-On-My Voice thing, my a/c went out. Here in Oklahoma, it gets pretty hot in the summertime, air conditioners are essential for survival. I called a company, they said they might be able to send someone out that day. I stayed up as long as I could waiting and then I fell asleep. (For those that don’t know, I work overnights.) Sadly, I missed their call so no one showed up. The next morning, I called and left a message on their machine saying that I was sorry I had missed them and that I still needed a handy-dandy a/c fixer.
Hours ticked by and no one called me back and no one showed up. It was past noon and started debating whether or not to call them and make sure that they got my message. I didn’t want them to think I was annoying. I didn’t want to be a bother but I also really didn’t want to spend another day in a 90-degree house. So, I called and they were incredibly nice and told me that they had got my message and were just about to send someone. Again, no lives were ruined.
Why am I so afraid of taking up space?
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and I’ve just begun to do the work. I know it’s anxiety but I want to understand it. When you understand the whys you begin to understand how your brain works in certain situations. That information allows you to modify your thinking and your behavior which helps you deal.
Where does this feeling of smallness come from?
Growing up I had a single mom who worked two jobs. As a child, I learned that you didn’t always get the time you wanted or the things that you wanted when you wanted them. That asking for things comes at a price of loss of sleep or longer hours. I didn’t want to make things harder.
My first relationship was a trainwreck full of emotional abuse on both sides. I was very needy and my needs were never met. I was made to feel guilty for wanting and it made me feel small. You know that feeling of wanting to curl up into a ball and disappear? That was a daily thing. It was ingrained in my psyche that asking is selfish and doesn’t make you a good person and that you won’t ever get what you want and it will hurt. If you don’t ask you don’t get hurt.
If you don’t ask you will not be reminded that you are not worth it.
Mix it all together and you get someone who’s afraid to ask for a bigger cup.
I know that’s not the case now. I know I am worthy and deserving and all that stuff but that doesn’t make habits magically go away. I have to un-learn all of those behaviors that make me small, that don’t rock the boat ever.
There are times when I feel really brave. When I can easily ask for what I need and then there are the times that are hard. When those feelings creep up and I have to remind myself that it is okay to take up time and space and attention. I take deep breaths and I silence that voice in my head. I rationalize that most of the time when I speak up or ask for something no one thinks it’s a big deal. No one gives it a second thought. I carry a piece of citrine in my pocket for a bit of extra confidence. It makes me feel better to hold something warm and smooth in my hand.
It’s hard work, getting through these things that hold us back from being our brightest self.
Sometimes those feelings and habits and behaviors never go away completely. That’s okay as long as you realize that you don’t have to let them control you.