I was at my ten-year high school reunion the first time I heard it: “We were intimidated by you. We thought you were conceited. You seemed to have everything together.” I must have looked at him like he had three heads. I know I asked, incredulously, “Are you kidding me????!!!” Seriously, I could not believe it. I had firmly believed everyone knew how shy, terrified, awkward, and completely NOT together I was. I worked hard to present a perfect picture hoping someone, anyone, would look long enough to see beyond the painful shyness. I sometimes wonder how many opportunities were missed because of their perception and my reality. Not that you could pay me enough money to go back and do high school over again.
When I went away to college, where no one knew me, I made a concerted effort to be more outgoing, less afraid, more social, more accessible. I’d like to think I achieved that goal. I was blessed to have a great group of friends those first couple of years. But when I transferred to a school closer to home, I retreated backwards. Years afterwards, I heard the same comments…how I had seemed to have it so together, and that I was intimidating.
I am still that same shy, insecure girl who works very hard to control what I can, to be perfect, to appear to have it all together. If my home is nice, if my kids are cute and know how to behave (and are dressed properly), if I stay in shape, if I read the right books, drink the right wine, go to the right restaurants, maybe someone will look past the front to what is inside, and will actually like me, the real me. That person, the real me, is terrified the people around me know what a disaster I am inside. The real me does not have it all together – not even close. The real me is often scatter-brained, socially anxious, clumsy, not as wordly-aware as I wish, not a culinary artist..I yell (sometimes) at my kids…I struggle mightily to maintain my weight and have a horrible body-image….I am often insecure in the fact that I stay home with my school-aged children rather than work outside the home, and I’m afraid I don’t have any translatable skills so I continue to stay home because it’s easier than being rejected in a job search….
While I wish people’s perception was closer to my reality, I guess I am afraid of letting my friends and acquaintances see the real me. It is easier to let them see the image of the woman who “has it all together.” I would really like to have it all together. But the simple fact is, I don’t. I am still that painfully shy, insecure, unsure girl. And apparently, I am still intimidating.