I've been trying to figure out the root of my insecurities. Easy task. Ought to just take an hour or two, right? Yes. Right.
The first thing I did was think about the moments when I felt least secure and most scared. The second moment that came to my brain was the day I was leaning against the brick wall of the old school near my 6th-grade building. It was recess, and I was watching the class nerd being teased by her classmates. They were pretending to be her friend, and she was taking the bait. Really, really taking the bait. She thought they were her buddies, though it was obvious to the rest of us that it was all a bust.
I was feeling bad for this girl for not getting the fact that she was the butt of the joke. Then I got one of those sucker-punch feelings. A series of memories from my previous elementary school in a different town rushed through my brain. I remembered the time Brenda pretended to be my friend for several days, then one day suddenly laughed at me for thinking we could play together at recess...laughed at me along with the "popular" girls who had not been her friends the day before. I thought of the very very cold morning during safety patrol when no one would relieve me so I could go in to warm up--they relieved the other person out there with me several times, but not me. When I went inside at the end of patrol, they all laughed at me. I remembered the time when I gave a small report in front of the class and they laughed at me for reasons I could not figure out.
As I watched my 6th-grade classmate being mocked without realizing it, I figured it all out. That girl was me. I had been that girl at my old elementary school--the butt of the joke. Not once, but repeatedly. And like the 6th-grade girl, I had not known. I had not suspected my role was the class dork to be laughed at. It made me sick to my stomach when I realized it. What a dupe I had been.
I was now a new girl in a new school, trying to find my place in a new place, all while adolescence loomed. And all I could ever think about was, "Am I going to be that girl again? How can I prevent myself from being that girl again?" My primary strategy became to doubt everyone. Every kind gesture was suspect. Every attempt to be friendly was seen as a ruse to mock me when I wasn't looking. I was friends with my (still very good) friends for about four years before I started to let myself believe that they might actually like me. That they weren't my friends out of pity or (worse) because they needed someone to laugh at and make fun of.
I grew out of adolescence, and some of that paranoia, too. But it lingers. Since that 6th-grade memory came to me earlier this week, I have been listening carefully to myself as I interact with people. And, boy does it linger. I doubt without even fully realizing it. I question every motive, and I doubt every act of kindness, every compliment, every laugh. Even among people I know care about me--my family. I wonder whether they think I'm a loser, too. That's probably not okay, huh?