Friday, April 27, 2012

Perception is NOT reality.....

"People say I'm the life of the party
'Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue

So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, its easy to trace
The tracks of my tears..."

When you grow up with an abusive parent there are lessons you learn pretty fast...

  • Displaying weakness or vulnerability puts you at risk...
  • Hide imperfections or struggles to understand something and then go figure it out...
  • When someone is busy, stressed, or grumpy make yourself as invisible as you can...
  • Be ready to figure it out on your own, because most requests for assistance will go unanswer...
  • At the end of the day you are on your own and need to be able to survive that way...
As a child trying to stay safe in an unsafe environment these lessons serve you well, they keep the abuse to a minimum, but as you grow up and venture out into the world, they can often become a handicap. Because for most of us who grew up this way, we never stop seeing the world as unsafe and even when it is we automatically revert to putting on the charades we learned as survival tools.

This past week has been a great lesson for me in how this plays out for me in my life, particularly the first one. Because what trying to hide weakness or vulnerability leads to is wearing a mask for the world, a smile or a swagger that people often take as confidence or cockiness that in reality is nothing more than a shell to keep safe that inside you are scared to death.

This past week I lost two (horse) people from my life, that I actually considered friends, because they thought that what they perceived about me was reality. And while many of my friends have told me to move on, it is there loss and they werent really friends if they feel the way they do, it bothers me. Not even so much because they are gone from my life (in the end that may be better for me and them) but because they are gone because they judged me on what they thought I was and not who I am. And as I thought about it I realized this has always been the thing that bothered me about people in my life (especially those that get frustrated with me and walk away), that most people think I am someone I am completely not.

This all stemmed from the horse show this past weekend, but it started before then. Last Friday night in my group lesson one of these friends made a comment about me being so bent on winning. And at the time I responded but realize now nothing I would have said would have mattered, it is what she saw that she believed. I am guessing if you had asked most people how I felt going into the weekend they would have told you I was confident, thought I could win or cared about winning. The reality was so far from that. I have said it many times but I realize now that few have taken it to heart. I went into this with one goal, don't make a fool of myself and that was honest and sincere. I had NO expectations of winning anything. I saw myself failing in every class. It is part of why my reactions to winning were so big (something again mistaken as self absorption). I was SHOCKED at my placements, I still am. Quite frankly I consider them a fluke and go into the next show with even lower expectations of myself. I have written off my results as being "it was just the fun show".

I went into Sunday terrified, without any self confidence and expecting to be laughed at by those watching. I go into most things that way, expecting people are looking at me like the emperor with his new clothes. Yet that abused child in me knows better than to show that, so I go in like the victor, like I am so confident, but it is merely to protect myself. And it does that, but it also has down sides, one is how people see me, and the second is that I end up often going it alone, because people figure I have it all together and dont need help or support. I was really shocked this weekend that only one person (thanks Theo it meant a lot) took the time to ask how I was feeling, if I was ready, how I was doing and was there with a pep talk when I told him I was honestly scared out of my mind. I am venturing no one else even considered that, and that isnt an attack on anyone, I get it, I prevent that crossing people's minds when I play my role.

The second person this week that I lost was also lost because people dont see me, but this one is probably even more my fault. I was told this week that I have had it easy in how fast I have learned this horse stuff, that I made it to the top this fast because my instructor likes me. I think the perception people have gained, again because i hide my struggles, is that this has been an easy learning process for me or is now. I dont think anyone, including my riding coach, has a clue how hard this is for me. How much practice time I put in, with and without my horse. That my lack of depth perception makes learning patterns harder than I ever let on, so I take horsemanship patterns and run through them in my living room trying to figure out how to space things, let alone the hours and horse I have spent on Joker trying to learn to ride an even-ish circle. That the fact I made it through my cones in my trail pattern Sunday only happened because he and I have spent countless hours using a bunch of trees (where no one could see us) working on the timing of trotting cones and making corners on cones).  And do I want credit for all that, no, it was time I chose to invest and I am glad I did. But at the same time it does bother me that people cant see how hard I have worked for this. This hasnt been a given, no one gave me a free ride. From the first day I got on Snapper I have worked my ass off to do this. I have overcome major fears with trotting, I am still trying to overcome issues with loping (look at my videos my hand is still on that horn).

Beyond the two friends that walked, I know there were others who don't get me and took it the wrong way. I really went out of my way this weekend to deal with how I dressed, to worry about the details of how Joker looked. I went far beyond what the show required, most people wore jeans, sweatshirts and rode their horses as is. I dressed up, I had jewelry on, Joker was bathed, vacuumed, braided and beaded. I was asked more than once why I did so much and was even accused of showing off. People truly didnt get it, that this was all a way to cover the fact that I was completely freaked out inside about being seen by people and feeling so fat and ugly. I needed to do anything I could to make myself feel better about how I looked so that I could reach a confidence level high enough to let me ride into that arena. People who thought I was showing off had no idea I spent 12 plus hours and went to over a dozen stores just looking for a shirt that I would allow myself to be seen in. That for me how I looked and the fear of people seeing me and thinking I was "too fat to be riding" was nearly paralyzing. They had no clue when they were putting me down for over doing it that that was the armour I needed to even participate.

I cant end this post without thanking my best friend Kaye, she is the one person who DID get it this weekend. And I truly have no clue how I am going to do the rest of my shows without her here. What most people saw, and probably thought, was Kaye did SO much this weekend, she was my groom, my horse braider and cleaner, she put up with my attitude, she helped me buy clothes and do that marathon shopping to find one shirt, she kept me fed, she kept shoving water in me, she was to an outsider (and maybe even felt it at times) pretty much my show slave. But as with everything else there was so much more going on. Kaye gets me....Kaye knows when I stress i dont eat, Kaye knows I freak about how I look, Kaye knows that my body makes some things really hard (like getting down on the ground to scrub a horses hooves), Kaye gets that when I am stressed I get bitchy, impatient and short. But Kaye also knows my heart, that these things aren't me, that I am the most insecure, scared person in the world. That the outcome of this weekend was a total shock to me. And Kaye I hope you know for seeing me for who I am and standing by me anyway I love you more than words can express. I truly believe you are the one person on the planet who really KNOWS me! What am I going to do without you for the rest of my shows?????????????

1 comment:

  1. Pam I love ya girl, and if I could be there I would in a hot minute doing it all over again. I am so proud and happy for you! (especially your brave "get your ass down" moment). You didn't back out, you did it! and your work paid more personal ways than public. You are a true friend.
    Love ya,