This is an excerpt from my upcoming book Dear Charlotte, which tells the winding story of the triumph and folly of forever trying to better yourself. This letter is from the chapter on "Dealing with Others".
Well, this has become my life. I'll come home from school, thinking the day went fine, but then events from the day will replay over and over in my mind. I'll recall some awkward social encounter, and then I can't get it out of my head for hours. It's like a never-ending echo, and it drives me insane. Yesterday, for example, I walked up to a girl before English class, and did an impression of Mr. Pyle that I thought was hilarious, but she turned away with no response. She just looked aside and had what I call a "hyphen-lip" facial expression, one devoid of any reaction. So much negativity and disappointment was laced in that non-expression. When I got home, the exchange replayed in my head over and over again. After twenty minutes of this, I became really irritated. But the echo continued on for another twenty minutes until I became angry at myself for being irritated for so long. And then that lasted for another twenty minutes, totaling to an hour of the same scene on loop.
My state of mind at the time reminded me of something we learned recently in English class, about Freud, and his theory of repression. When we try to repress undesirable thoughts from our mind, those thoughts darken, transform, and manifest in other ways. They may have a subconscious effect, coloring your mood and bringing you down, or they may cause you to lash out at others. In some cases, like with victims of sexual abuse, the repression leads to mental illness.
Then it hit me that I was probably repressing an awareness of my social flaws. I had been making too many faux pas, and I didn't want to accept that. By pretending that I had social grace and cool, I was creating a conflict in my mind, which led to evenings of social echo.
When I had this realization, I felt immediately at ease. Even just the suggestion that I was repressing was enough to stop the echo. I then got out of my room and had my dinner, which my mom had left, covered with Saran Wrap, in the microwave.
While I was watching my food heat up, I forced myself to recall instances when I might've said the wrong thing, or when I might've garnered an awkward laugh from my classmates. I was trying to undo the repression by going in the opposite direction, bravely embracing my flaws. By the time my food was ready, I felt stronger and more clear-headed.1
But I feel like this is only half the battle. Now that I'm so intimately aware of my shortcomings, I need to figure out how to stop making faux pas.
1 Looking back now, I realize I was actually re-enforcing overly self-conscious tendencies, and that my newfound confidence was just a placebo effect.