This is probably one of the harder things I've had to write. And not because it broke me down in tears or that it was controversial or anything like that.
And I think the reason why is that for some reason I don't want to be honest with how I feel when it comes to how I write this, because I guess, being honest requires being vulnerable.
And vulnerable doesn't always have to be because it reveals part of you that makes you seem weak. Being vulnerable often just means taking off the image we put on everyday when we walk out the door and instead showing yourself as you are.
Vulnerability in this sense means that all my feelings that might offend people or cause them to react negatively are laid bare. And these people I may offend aren't just 'people,' they are friends. People that I love.
See what started out as a blog post about how I learned to appreciate how brilliant other people are - and how we should respect and admire and love people even when they're better at things than we are - I realized became something different.
Really, this blog post was always about me even though I never wanted it to be. It came from the long standing and conflicting thoughts about others and how others perceive me.
And this is it: I want to be acknowledged when I'm good at things, when I'm the brightest star, the most talented, the most brilliant.
Because while I've never lacked for confidence myself, I'm very attuned and validated by what other people say about me. The truth is that I look for what people say about me to see if my confidence in myself is founded or not. I think for the most part that's a healthy part of self-awareness.
And I don't think that's abnormal or strange. I think more people should think like this. The lack of self-awareness out there is disturbing.
And indeed, I also think it's necessary to be loved and appreciated by your friends for what you do and are able to do and are. That's why I try to do that for people whenever I can because I know how much I desire that in my own life.
But I also realize that I don't really give the impression off that I need that. I come across as cool and collected, comfortable in my own skin. And it's true, I am. But the paradox is that I want to know that other people see that in me too, because like I said, I want to know that who I think I am is the same person that others think that I am. And when I don't see that, I feel unloved.
But I don't seem like someone who needs that, and therefore I don't get that from the people that I love most.
Doesn't that sound so hopelessly petty?
Then I think of arguments against this, against how I feel. I hypothesize often about the kind of angry accusatory questions I would get back from this:
- we tell you how good you are things all the time, this is ridiculous.
- we didn't think you needed to know that you're talented.
Most of the other questions I can imagine getting back from this are just variations of those two questions: we didn't think you needed to know, and we tell you all the time. And all come with the precursor that often lies in the sub-text in which people would ask these varying questions, which is: are you really complaining about not being told that you're great at things? How old are you? Grow up.
I think all of this is fair: I give of all impressions of someone who doesn't validation from anyone, and it's true, people tell me I'm handsome, or talented or whatever. They do. These questions are fair and I don't really have an answer. That's why I don't like to talk about it. But I couldn't write the blog post I wanted to write because of how I feel about this subject.
So this leads me to my quandary.
Why do I still feel invalidated by the people I love the most even when they seem to give me what I need? Why do these feelings persist when they're not supposed to be dependent on what other people think of me?
I think parts of it are definitely what people don't say, and instead in what they do.
For instance, I've often not trusted people, especially successful people, because these kinds of men and women are by nature competitive. Whether it's in sports, academics, or popularity or whatever, we all have our things that we hold on to as our own, and get antsy and sharp and cutthroat when people challenge that. And that only becomes more prevalent and insidious the older I get - because the more successful one is, the more you're afraid of someone being more successful than you. And as a guy who has generally been able to pick up most things easily, from sports to school to music to whatever, I realize that irks people. That probably annoys people, and I get that.
And that annoyance is something I can understand too. I also get annoyed when someone is doing something with greater ease than I do (like say, making a drink faster at Starbucks), because I always believe that I can always better and often, be the best. That's just something I believe about myself, and therefore, I'm annoyed when that self prophecy goes unfulfilled.
So I get it, but still, I've never had many friends that I feel like I could really trust. Because whether it's in the subtle things they say, or especially in what they do not say, I can see that they don't always want me to succeed, if it means that they don't too.
And that sucks, and that's definitely part of why I feel what I feel.
And that's more of a human problem than anything else. I definitely am a culprit of the same crime of not being as good of a friend as I could be because of that same kind of jealousy. We all don't like to feel second-class. But that doesn't mean that we should make other feel less accomplished just because we want to be or imagine ourselves to be as accomplished as they are.
But I think all of this comes to a greater issue: who we consider ourselves to be is based on the people around us, and the people around us will never be enough.
"THE ANSWER IS GOD."
This is the worst, cop-out Sunday school answer to everything. If used without critical thought, it's a blanket statement that prevents thought into what that actually means. It allows one to not worry about big issues because ultimately the answer is 'God.' That's the logic I've come by sometimes in the church, especially when I was young.
Perhaps the reason why I ran into that rhetoric when I was young was because I was young and people didn't think I could think through much else beyond just thinking God is always the solution.
That's why I've stayed away from that kind of idea that God is the answer to this issue in my life. Because I trusted my own logic on how to balance self-confidence with self-awareness, and counted on that to get me through life.
But that's foolish, and it's a lesson. God is always teaching, and even when I think I've learned something, or learned an aspect about something, he adds a nuance, or causes me revisit things in a way that I sometimes don't want to see, or more often, that I just would have never thought of.
I've always been confident in myself and my identity. That was never a part of my struggle in this life. I've known myself as talented, and as a child of God, and as someone who should be humbled because I'm able to do things that I'm able to do not simply for myself, but for the God who blessed me with ability.
But I guess what I never wanted to admit about myself was that I wanted other people to see that in me.
And even when I've gotten that validation, I've realized: it's never enough.
I never feel validated enough.
I never feel validated enough by my girlfriend, I never feel validated enough by my family, or by my friends. I never feel validated for what I do. Even though they love me, and indeed tell me and show me they do, it's never enough to satisfy me. And the closer they are to me, the more they seem to hurt and fail me.
And that's when God hit me, and he only really hit me with this as I wrote this today, on a Sunday afternoon after in Smile Tiger Coffee in Kitchener.
The truth that He's hit me with is that yes, it's good to have a healthy dose of self-awareness and in ensuring that what you think about yourself is parallel to how others perceive you. But, the problem with that is that you'll never feel like you're appreciated enough for what you do, for what you are, who who you are, for what you do when people see, and for what you do when people don't see. You feel guilty about feeling this way, feeling like you're being petty, like you're making things up. But the fact that it took me a week struggling to post this but still yearning to makes me think that these feelings have merit because there is a source to them that is real.
And so as I sit here struggling with this, I'm forced, no, compelled to look at God.
God knows me better than I know myself. And I believe me, I think I know myself quite well. God knows me better than my girlfriend knows me, and she probably thinks she knows me better than I think I know myself. The same could be said of my mother. God knows and appreciates me so much more than my friends ever could. And I have wonderful, loving friends, who I often distance myself from when I feel like they aren't appreciating me enough. And that's on me. It isn't their life's goal to make me feel important, and it never should be.
So how do I reconcile my deepest need for words about who I am from my friends with my prolonged issue that all I hear is never enough?
By looking for the words of my Lord.
And it sounds so trite, to say that the answers are in the Bible. But maybe "trite" is just my elitist, educated term for "simple and true."
God says that I am loved by him. That I am fearfully and wonderfully made. That I am redeemed in spite of my imperfections and that he knows knows me in my innermost being.
That's crazy. And it's too simple I think for my (maybe) overeducated mind to comprehend. Too simplistic, too easy.
But yet, so incredibly hard.
So maybe my problem with my own brilliance is that even in the face of what I know I need (words of affirmation from my friends, family, colleagues), even when when I get just that, it's never enough for me to feel satisfied.
And that's because I'm looking in the wrong place. God tells us in His word that he is the only one that satisfies. And for all my thinking that that is the easy answer, I've come to the realization that that is the only answer.
Because this world will always leave me dissatisfied with what it has to offer.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
- C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis is an intellectual, theologian and author I wish I could have met. He has influence in every kind of field that I want to be involved in. He also wrestled with his faith and his life and his intellect constantly, and that in turn gave birth to many of the greatest quotes than many millennial Christians hold onto with great fervour.
This is one that I feel like I must revisit. Because I think I've lost focus on what eternity is and gotten tunnel vision on this fleeting mortal life that I'm living.
And that I think is at the root of my problem.
So after all the struggling with the issues I've just outlined, I'm left with that rote answer.
I don't have an answer, or more critically a justification for this. And that's because I'm looking for answers amongst people and in places that will never satisfy. Because I was always made for something, someone, more.
In the end, the rote answer doesn't always mean it's wrong. And it also means that that answer often has a deeper meaning than what first meets the eye.