Honest. Genuine. Happy. Extroverted.
How about Jealous?
I live my life with deeply buried feelings of insecurity burned inside me through years of bullying, and to have to mask that emotional scarring every day until I forget it’s there makes me feel disconnected from the persona I put on. Because I often feel that my social life is dissociated from my emotional being, my life actually feels ingenuine. I joke about not having friends growing up, being the least popular cousin in my family, and losing the few friends I did have, but sometimes I just want to break down and cry. And in those private moments of intense emotional agony, I cry out in my head, “Why doesn’t anyone love me?” I would physically collapse inward as if I’m a hollow Chinadoll whose bodily pieces were falling into the crevices of my being. The screaming gets so loud in my head, and my mouth would be forced open by the weight of those silent screams. But to anyone else in the house, the night is perfectly still. So these feelings of anger, frustration, and despair eat away at me on the inside without so much as an imperfection on the surface. On rare occasions, I feel this way when I see another person who is happily surrounded by friends and family (again, it rarely happens because I would also like to think I’m not constantly self-centered). When my emotions do flare up, it’s because I hear the voice in the back of my head asking me if I am as happy as the person I am comparing myself to.
And I don’t know if I can answer that question.
I have hated myself for as long as I can remember going to family parties as a young child. Time and time again these painful memories of feeling unwanted by my peers and family members who have ostracized me for one reason or another resurface. Easter egg hunts. Birthday parties. Tennis sleepovers. I was excluded from all of them. I cried when I read my sister’s school project in which she completely renounced me as her sister (I was eight). And I cried the summer after my freshman year of college because I realized that when I returned home, I had no one around me except the family members who aren’t really interested in seeing me again anyway (I was nineteen). The time between these two salient moments in my life is punctuated by many others just like them.
And I did everything I could to boost my self-esteem. I joined the tennis team and speech team in high school. I worked hard to get accepted into an elite private university. I have made many friends. I ran a half marathon. But even now, nothing can expunge this feeling of emptiness—this feeling that I am never enough, not for myself, but for the people who I care about. As I am trying to make sense of and differentiate between the insecurity of being enough for myself and being enough for someone else, I drive myself crazy. People have always told me that I only have myself to impress. That no one else’s opinion of me matters.
But to what extent can I truly accept that advice in the circumstance that I am happy with who I am but not happy with whom I’m around. The solution seems to be as simple as changing my social environment, but how can I truly forget those who share my blood? Forget that expectation of kinship and love? Forget the friendship that ended because of a misunderstanding that I desperately tried, but failed, to fix. Forget the desire to find closure from the relationships I leave behind? Forget my family when I see others with theirs? When family is the only thing I have—yet sometimes it still feels like I have nothing.
When some of the most important relationships I have had impart feelings of empty-handedness, some pathetic part of me tells me that I don’t, in fact, have any proof of my worth. That need for belonging continues to go unfulfilled, and I have dug myself into a ditch of self-consciousness that reminds me every day of my greatest fear of being unworthy of love. How far can someone go in life without feeling the love of others? Love for oneself simply cannot be enough, otherwise I would be a narcissist. But am I not a narcissist by longing for more attention from others? In which case, I feel wrongfully entitled by wishing for that unconditional love which seems to surround everyone else. To me, it comes to you the way a present arrives on Christmas, right? If you get it, you deserve it, if not then you don’t. It’s an insidious way to perceive how my world functions, I know, but it’s become so involuntary for my thoughts to stray to this because I have become chained to the affect of my past.
So when I analyze myself, I hold up a mental self-portrait. Sometimes I see what others see, but how much of it is really me? Is the reality of my outward self less material with the existence of my juxtaposing inward self? I guess I won’t know until I expose everything.
After writing this, I realize now how these reflections as a second-generation Asian American may resonate with others who feel generational/cultural gaps within their families. I certainly attribute the thoughts of self-loathing I express in this piece to that identity, but I also realize now that condition I have lies on the extreme end of social disconnect. I feel comforted knowing that in spite the severity of my self-inflicted criticisms, people can relate to feeling conflicted around the issue of belonging. I would not have been able to understand myself better had I not written about this, and the feedback I have gotten from others has been an added benefit. Thank you.