Performance Anxiety in Real Life
SOMEWHERE ALONG THE LINE I think many of us buy into a lie that we only matter if . . . We only matter if we are strong or smart or attractive or whatever.
It makes me wonder if this isn’t the reason I’ve struggled with a kind of performance anxiety. I’m not talking about the kind of anxiety you get before you have to give a speech or something. I’m talking about the fact I’d rather be alone or with a close friend than have to make small talk at a party. It’s exhausting to me and I feel like I’m acting in a play about life every time I have to do it.
I can trace my need to perform and impress people back to some of my earliest memories. Dad left just as I was coming into my own, I suppose—and my mother, sister, and I were feeling abandoned and neglected. In a way, being the only male, I felt like I had to be a bit bigger and better of a person than I was. This was foolish, of course, but kids don’t process reality objectively.
So it was during this season I developed a strange desire to convince people I was intelligent. For whatever reason, it became important to prove to my mother and sister, not to mention friends of the family, that I was smart and could handle things.
The problem is, I wasn’t exceptionally smart. I hated school, had no interest in books, and never did my homework.
Much of the time I’ve spent trying to impress people has been a waste. The reality is people are impressed with all kinds of things: intelligence, power, money, charm, talent, and so on. But the ones we tend to stay in love with are, in the long run, the ones who do a decent job loving us back.