Why do you do what you do?
I don’t know how to answer the question myself.
Perhaps it is the shame that has inhabited my limbs for over a decade
A tight chested, sharp tasting, mind numbing shame that pushes me to
Meet deadlines, lock the door behind me, be the best friend, lover, girlfriend, daughter, niece, student, employee, stranger that I can possibly muster.
Listen when I need to talk. Sit down when I need to leave. Bite my lip when I need to cry. Work harder when I need to stop. Say yes when I need to say no.
Because… I should be:
Balancing my time between university, work, nurturing friendships, supporting my relationship, maintaining contact with my mother, exercising, taking time to be alone, pursuing my passions, mediating, eating healthy, journaling…
I should work as long and as hard as I can so that I get near perfect grades. I should show my professors that I am a good student, that I work hard and don’t procrastinate and care about their class. I should do more than expected, meet standards they have not set, prioritize deadlines over everything else.
If I’m not doing this, I am a bad person. I am letting down family members who are financially supporting me. I am not doing my best and therefore I am doing my worst. I am lazy. I am incompetent. I will leave bad impressions and never get a good job. I will be looked upon with disgust and talked about when I am not around. I will fail.
I should spend time with my boyfriend. If I am being a good girlfriend I should be happy with him 99 percent of the time. I should cook him delicious food, surprise him with things he enjoys, and give him plenty of space to spend time with his friends. I should understand that I am not always going to be the priority. I should make his day better after a bad shift. I should make him feel attractive, wanted, interesting, funny, talented, loved. I should spend money on him. I should respect his boundaries, wants and needs.
If I am not doing these things, I am a bad girlfriend. I am selfish. I am petty. I am resentful. I am needy. I am unattractive and uncomfortable to be around. I am bothersome. I want too much and give too little. I don’t understand how a relationship should work. I expect to much of him. I give to much and get too little. I set too high standards for him to meet. I want too much. I want too much. I want, too much.
I should make time to be present with friends. I should surprise them with gifts and texts and phone calls. I should do them favors and always be reliably there. I should answer texts quickly and put my own difficulties aside in order to better understand what they are going through. I should listen and not give too much advice. I should not judge. I should give as much time as I can and not talk about myself too much. I should not act strangely. I should not be self conscious.
If I do not do these things, I am a bad friend. I am selfish. I spend too much time taking care of my romantic relationship. I am unreliable and not worth spending time with. I talk too much about my own problems and don’t listen. I make someone I love feel as if they don’t matter. I don’t create enough time for platonic love in my life. I am letting people down. I am flakey and unkind.
I should call my mom more. I should thank her for all that she does, daily. I should update her on my life. I should as her how she is doing. I should know about her week, about her feelings, about her health. I should describe how I use the money she gives me. I should make her proud. I should work hard to make all of her hard work worth it. I should visit her more often. I should let her know she isn’t alone. I should always be there for her.
If I don’t do these things, I am a disappointment. I am ungrateful. I am unloveable. I am snotty and rude and spoiled. I do not work hard enough for all of the love that she gave me. I am failing her. I am hurting her. I am using her for her love and leaving her with nothing. I ask for too much and give little in return. I am disappointing her. I, am disappointing her.
I should take care of myself. I should eat healthy and exercise every day. I shouldn’t eat things that are bad for me. I should take more time for myself. I shouldn’t be dependent on other people, especially romantic partners. I should be able to meet my own needs. I should be able to be alone easily. I should love my body. I should mediate on my thoughts more. I should be in control of my emotions. I should know when to say no.
If I don’t do these things I am a burden on other people. I am unhealthy and causing harm to my future partner, my future self. I am shortening my life. I am lazy. I am lazy. I am lazy. I am lonely and scared and insecure. I am stupid. I am forgetful. I am uninteresting. I am a chaotic mess and am not worth spending time with. I am a buzzkill. I am awkward. I am fat. I am unattractive. I am out of control.
How do I want to do what I do?
Out of curiosity, love, kindness, want and need.
What must I do to get there?