Biting the Hand That Feeds

This week’s navel-gazing manifesto. (tl:dr version: I am a weird, bitter person. Run while you can.) 

 Once I’ve reached the point that I admit I am feeling needy, I’m nearly unreachable. Any good thing said to me at that point is only being said because I whined.  It isn’t real. It’s false kindness offered out of courtesy, obligation, pity, annoyance, a desire to shut me up. 

Is that true? Rationally I can say no. Intuitively, I can’t feel otherwise. This is what early emotional damage does. The residual effect doesn’t wear off. It distorts praise the way a carnival mirror warps images.  It turns positives into negatives. It leaves only narrow channels of contact. 

No amount of positive thinking will eradicate those scars (which is one of many reasons I dislike those who insist happy thoughts cure all ills.) The Tower of Pisa will lean. The foundation is askew. IT can be shored up, it can still be beautiful. It will never be straight. 

 All I can do is work around the problem as best I can. I can accept praise, even if I cannot believe it. I will hug it and cherish it, and wish that someday it becomes real like the Velveteen Rabbit. I hoard it up against future need, hoping that maybe I’ll believe it next time. (Not so far, but there’s always tomorrow.) But remember what I said about narrow channels? Not all prise is created equal.

I don’t care to hear that I’m good at anything, including writing. Being good is meaningless to me. It’s praise based on the past. The past is over and done. It’s a compliment, I will say thank you, it’s a nice thing, but its purpose will roll off me like water off a duck’s back. It doesn’t penetrate. It can’t. There’s nowhere for it to go. 

 I rarely fret about “being good at something” anyway.  I am secure in state-of-being sense, in my general abilities. That much, I preserved. My fears will always be specific.  I worry about whether particular things I’ve done are bad or good. I worry about specifics with a deep anxiety involving tears or panic.

When specific fears are met with general encouragement, the reassurance has a paradoxical effect. Vague praise feeds doubt. Thumbs-up and warm fuzzies are proof that the problem is so bad no one dares address it directly. Or, tangentially, that it’s thought a lie, a false flag operation, a cry-wolf.  Positive hand-waving creates a vortex of deeper fears. 

Fear of this response is one reason I fight so hard to not admit I’m consumed by doubt at all, even when I’m being eaten alive by fear. (also known as “being awake” some days.) The cure can be worse than the original injury. I would rather suffer in silence than fight the force of the whirlwind.

The other reason I’m reluctant to speak is that resistance builds up to even the most sincere, specific praise.  That scar is tattooed with the words, “Yeah, yeah, you’ve said that before.” After a few repetitions,  opinions stop mattering.  It’s the inverse of a superpower.  The most interested, enthusiastic fan on the planet would be no match for my ability to think I’m being humored out of pity. I struggle against this, but again, when the foundation is cracked, things leak out. I would beg people to keep trying anyway, but…I can’t be cruel like that. I totally understand and sympathize when people give up on encouraging me. 

So, in conclusion, I am super-duper-overwhelmingly jealous of all the people whose friends offer words and specific encouragements without prompting. Yes, you, friends. All of you.  I love you all.  I am also sick and green and rotten with envy, and i don’t care who knows it. You all have lives, you all have much better things to do than talk to me about things that make me fret. I get that. I do. I don’t care. I want people to talk about me, all the time. 

People are reluctant to get involved with me when I’m needy. I bite the hands that feed. 

The hands that feed are holding inedible things or offering me flax seed when I need raw steak, but that isn’t what matters.  I’m peevish and ungrateful and selfish.

And I write about it because…well. Because I write about everything. 

12 thoughts on “Biting the Hand That Feeds

  1. Fiona Skye says:

    I feel the same way. I see all the comments and suggestions and praise on other writer's snippets and then look at mine, which might possibly have two or three likes and not a single comment. And I wonder WTF is wrong with my writing? Is it really that awful?

    The damage that parents can do–either knowingly or unknowingly–to their children is alarming.

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  2. K.M. Herkes says:

    True. W the damage is caused without malice, as mine was, it's more than forgivable — it's just life. “Teach Your Children” by Crosby Stills & Nash is one of my favorite songs for that reason. My parents did an amazing job raising three incredibly difficult children. We all survived to adulthood and never lacked for as much love as they had to give. There's nothing they could've done differently, being who they are, knowing what they knew at the time. Sometimes bad things just happen.

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  3. Leticia Toraci says:

    I think most writers go through insecurity and fear. Some admit it, most don't. It's easier to lie and show a victorious and confident am-a-expert and know-it-all smiling face at all times. And this happens everywhere all the time. So,don't worry, the so called winners also feel unsure sometimes.

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  4. Leticia Toraci says:

    It happens with me most of the time with parenting. People have advices all the time about how they do it better and how their children are better educated. I meet know-it-all people almost every days so with time I have grown a thicker skin and I have started to take their winning pose with a grain of salt.

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  5. K.M. Herkes says:

    So true. Everyone has their own brand of insecurity, and most don't show it. It's necessary for artists of all kinds to collect friends and colleagues to help lift spirits and give support. It's usually done as one-size-fits all, though, when it's really one size fits most. I suffer from an allergic reaction to standard Measures of Reassurance, so good people with good intentions are causing me harm by helping and then resenting my ingratitude. That's tremendously frustrating.

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  6. K.M. Herkes says:

    How frustrating! I see it every day at work. Family having bad day, lots of disapproval from bystanders, and I think, “You don't know their private troubles. ASK how to help/if you can help, or let it go.” Some people love to judge others, though. I rant a lot on here about the wrongness of assuming that there's one perfect solution to any problem.

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  7. Leticia Toraci says:

    With me, it's this way, they start talking with my two year old in indirect criticism like that “you should be walking with Mom already and not sitting in the baby carriage, you lazy little one!” I think like: “What the hell, did I ever asked your opinion on this? Do you know that I have to take my 2 year old, my four year old, bags, kid's stuff and groceries home all the way back? OMG really, just…. Shut up!” Meanwhile I have to make a nice face because I can't quarrel with that creature not to say something else… I mean… Sometimes you feel like punching people like that…

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  8. John Gardner says:

    i deleted my last comment because i was unsure if i was being frank or an asshole
    salient points
    my yet un launched blog is inspired by this one
    one of the sole reasons i have a actual name is because i wanted to be counted as one of your followers
    you ask good questions in your writing.
    thank you for extending your hand
    histoically kissing of the hand is about provindence
    you kiss the hand that gives

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  9. K.M. Herkes says:

    *SMOOCHIES*
    I never saw the original, I'm a bad, bad blogger, I don't compulsively check for comments the way I ought to. I'm sure it wouldn't have offended. Your comments always make my day and make me think, and those are precious gifts. I'm excited to hear that you're going to start sharing your incredibly amazing Thoughts On Things on your own blog sometime. I demand to be informed with it goes live so I can bestow comments on it like rose petals before a celebratory procession.

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