What Happens When You're Afraid to Take Up Space?

This post is adapted from a filtered Facebook post I made a few days ago. So many people responded that they'd felt the exact same way at various points in their lives (or at this very moment!) that I realized it should probably go public on the blog. 

This article by Jess Zimmerman hit me right in the fucking feels. I have anxiety around having needs in a relationship (romantic or otherwise), because needs make me needy, and needy people don't stay in other people's lives for very long. If I want to talk to you and you're busy? I feel like I'm bothering you. If I want to hang out and you don't/can't? I'm being annoying. If I'm having big feelings (positive or negative)? I'm a burden.

CW in the article for heteronormativity, but this does track with experiences I've had in cis guy/girl pairings. I'd argue that it also applies to friendships/human relationships in general. 

"The attention whore is every low-maintenance woman’s dark mirror: the void of hunger we fear is hiding beneath our calculated restraint. It doesn’t take much to be considered an attention whore; any manifestation of that deeply natural need to be noticed and attended to is enough. You don’t have to be secretly needy to worry. You just have to be secretly human.

As a child, on an endless restrictive regimen that started when I was four, I was told “if you get used to eating less, you’ll stop being so hungry.” The secret to satiation, to satisfaction, was not to meet or even acknowledge your needs, but to curtail them. We learn the same lesson about our emotional hunger: Want less, and you will always have enough." - Jess Zimmerman

This anxiety has kept (and continues to keep) me from making asks in some of my relationships because I fear asking for something I'm not already sure will be a yes. This is problematic for several reasons, not least of which being that I need to allow my partners and friends to have authentic experiences of me and not try to manage their experiences by chameleon-ing myself into whatever I think they need me to be. I have gotten better at this, especially over the past year, but it's still very much a work in progress. Someone once said to me, "do you think asking is coercive?" The answer, like most things, is complicated and nuanced. I'm consent-focused. I love asking. I love having people tell me no, and I love when they ask me.

AND. When it comes to making asks around MY emotional needs (whether romantic or friend-related), that gets a lot more complicated for me. I've tried so hard for so long to make myself small, figuratively and literally, and to take up as little space in people's lives as possible, so that they don't tire of me. So I don't drain them. So I don't walk out of a room and have people roll their eyes as I'm leaving. My nightmare scenario? "Oh thank god she's gone. Being around her is so annoying. All she does is talk about herself." So I get uncomfortable talking about myself. If someone asks me about what's going on for me, I give the shortest possible answer, and often rush through it so they don't get bored listening to me. There's a lot going on in my life at any given time, but it feels like an imposition to have to relate all of that stuff to a person, even though they asked. I have like a 30-45 second stopwatch in my head from the moment someone asks how I'm doing or what I've been up to in which to give my answer. And even then I immediately follow it up with, "So all of that. But what's going on with you?" This also relates to me not being able to tell when people are flirting with me. I tend to assume they're just being nice, or I'm reading too much into it. 

Wanna know the best way to tell how close a relationship we have? If you've ever heard me talk for more than 2-3 minutes at a clip and I'm not teaching a class, we're probably very close friends and I trust you a lot. Cannabis helps, thankfully, but I still get self-conscious. 

Pro tip? Be explicit with me. Tell me you like hearing about my life. Tell me I don't always have to be low-maintenance. Tell me that I'm allowed to take my time and actually tell you a story. Give me permission to do that, because it decreases my anxiety in a major way.

So yeah, all of that. What's going on with you?

Just kidding. Thanks for witnessing.

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  • Kat
    commented 2016-11-16 16:51:31 -0800
    Yes. Daily life. Thank you for explaining the feels so well. Guess this is the blog I need to have my boyfriend read.

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