I just wanted to be cool.
Now that I am approaching 58, perhaps as a result of my many years of psychotherapy or perhaps by grace of my living with someone who tells me every day he loves me very much, I feel about as cool as I need to be. Which is to say that I no longer really feel I need to be cool. And, I don’t think cool is the essence of what I was longing for – for decades. No. What I needed all along those decades of desperation (and depression), and what I indeed feel now, at long last, is a sense of connection. Today, above all, I feel a deepening and widening sense of connection with myself – or more accurately, with the parts of myself that I tried to bury or hide from for so long, because THEY were not cool. Rage, sadness, loneliness and shame.
Cool is in the eyes of the beholder – admirers, those who are envious. I was one of those who was envious. I wanted to be like one of the cool people, one of the A-list, one of the admired. And so I would imitate, or more like it, I would try to imitate – naturally without believing in myself in the process. What I believed instead was that I was a wanna-be, a fraud. While I really wanted to be a part of the crowd, in reality, I felt apart from the crowd, even if I was in their midst, and surrounded by them, and doing stuff with them, and dating them, and even sleeping with them. I felt apart. And in essence, I was apart, but not from them. I was apart from myself. I harbored a deep-seated feeling that I was not worthy, that I was not really particularly likeable, much less loveable.
At base, I did not love myself. I did not treat myself with dignity and respect. I thought of myself with contempt for not being everything I thought I needed to be in order to merit my own esteem. I was ashamed of myself for not being perfect – or rather, for being imperfect in too many ways.
The cool people weren’t perfect. But I discounted their flaws as inconsequential. They were still cool. I believed my flaws were too many, too overwhelming – and as a result, I didn’t feel at ease in their presence. I always felt out-of-place – pretending as if I were, when inside I was telling myself I wasn’t. Trying too hard to fit in while feeling inside that I just didn’t belong. And not being able to figure out why, but instead feeling badly about myself for feeling badly about myself. Ugh, it was quicksand.
The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown