Eating Your Own Liver
‘Eating you own liver’ – It’s an old phrase that I haven’t seen in use for some time. For me it sums up some of those feelings generated by social anxiety.
I’ve never been the gregarious life and soul of the party and it’s no coincidence that for decades my Myers-Briggs profile was INTP. It has changed slightly in recent years with melody running the show, though the I(ntrovert) score is way too high to ever slide to E(xtrovert).
The anxiety has always depended upon what social setting I was being exposed to. I never had much of a problem in a professional environment. I travelled a lot, to visit customers, to attend conferences and industry gatherings. Even presenting at large gatherings was just nerves rather than anxiety. When necessary, for business / political reasons I could manage the social events attached to these things – ducking out when I had done my duty.
Almost any other social setting has always been accompanied with social anxiety. In professional settings the mainstay is confidence in certain technical abilities. In those other settings the confidence has to be in your own inner personal qualities. As a long time loner I can tell you that my confidence in those has generally been low and the resulting social anxiety quite high.
As far as that goes, I don’t think that I’m describing anything that’s not quite common. Beyond a reluctance to be exposed to an anxious environment it was possible to ‘perform’ when necessary.
The killer for anxiety in general and especially social anxiety has been the progress of melody, this hits a peak with regard to being in public. When the default presentation as a male was to prefer the shadow, to barely be noticed, anything that puts you in the spotlight is truly scary.
Thing is, the need to be who you are is something that you eventually can’t ignore. Changes have to happen and then you have to deal with the other side of the equation where you fear each change moves the spotlight onto you. Each change is a fresh compromise between the competing needs.
On a daily basis it is obviously work that produces the most general anxiety. It creates a conditioning process whereby I’ll introduce one element and hope I’m not going to be called out. Then, when I’ve got used to presenting that, there’s a voice inside that starts clamouring for the next change in daily presentation.
There’s a lot of change that’s been introduced this way. Take away the male trousers and shirt as standard office attire and there’s nothing male left, they’re a sleight of hand, a fig leaf. Things that sound inconsequential when written down have all been major terrors when first introduced. It sounds innocuous to talk about changing from basic stud earrings to feminine pearls and emeralds, or to 1″ hoops. Or to talk of dying my already below the shoulder hair. First with it’s natural black and eliminating the 40% grey, then gradually shifting the colour towards browns. All these and more feel like great changes, even imperative changes, in the seclusion of home. Stepping out of the house is fraught with anxiety.
And as for stepping out of the house in public melody mode where I have to meet people can have the social anxiety off the scale.
Female styles do give some room for manoeuvre. To be out and interacting in public doesn’t require a skirt or dress and stilettos. Swap the male trousers and shirt for female jeans or slacks and blouse and it’s like going out underneath that spotlight. Waiting for the soto voce “look at the state of that” to ratchet up the anxiety. Yet, there are moments that make it worth it. Last month, dressed in melody mode, I filled up at a service station on my way to a session. As I was walking out, the lady from behind the till called out “oh, I love those heels. Where did you get them ?”.
The first syllable of that shout from behind the counter had the anxiety ready to explode. Dealing with it calmly and being able to engage in the conversation is a relatively new thing and a sign of hope for the future.
There are so many things to eventually overcome. Yes, I have been out in dresses and pointy heels, but only in controlled environments. There’s no doubt that the nagging voice of melody will force the issue at some point and insist on less control over the environment. I just hope my guts and my head will cope with the anxiety and keep a lid on it.
March 16, 2020 @ 9:17 pm
I want to add my voice to this, thanking you for sharing this with us, and making us aware that the things we take for granted, might be so difficult for others.
March 17, 2020 @ 6:05 am
When I wrote this, I really gave no thought as to what others would read. It talks about innocuous and trivial things that are far from life and death issues, yet can be an acute source of anxiety for me personally.
I guess I expected people reading it to think on the trivial nature of my examples. I suppose that I really shouldn’t be surprised that you and other commenters picked up on a message that I didn’t intentionally write and that’s set me thinking all over again.
Thank you, Marie 🌹🌹
Denial - Week 62 - Sex Bloggers for Mental Health
March 16, 2020 @ 12:01 am
[…] Eating Your Own Liver – Insights and Rambling of Melody […]
March 15, 2020 @ 3:50 pm
March 15, 2020 @ 11:59 am
This is an amazing post Melody – You are an incredibly strong person – the things u have written about do not sound trivial to me at all – I can not begin to understand what it must feel like stepping out as Melody – and hooray for people like the woman in the garage.
March 15, 2020 @ 3:04 pm
Thanks, May. Yup, that woman in the garage was a very pleasant surprise. 🌹🌹
March 14, 2020 @ 2:33 pm
This is such an interesting post Melody and I am really glad that you were able to share it with us. I think it is so hard to appreciate that things which we take for granted and don’t even consider can actually be huge barriers for others. I can understand the conflict between being in the shadows as a male and then suddenly thrown into the spotlight when there is a change in presentation and so your post has been really helpful in making me think about that. Thank you for sharing 🙂
March 14, 2020 @ 2:45 pm
Awww, thank you, missy.
What’s normal for one person can be an insurmountable barrier for someone else. Those things I’ve written about seem so trivial and innocuous and yet they go right to the core of what it is that we present and the subsequent anxiety as we make changes to that core.