I don’t do a good job of keeping up with the blogs that I want to read. I’m more likely to forget about a beloved blog, randomly remember it, then binge-read (or binge-reread them) it over a period of a few days. Something reminded me that I hadn’t looked at The Polyamorous Misanthrope for…gosh, nearly a year. I was sad to see that there isn’t much misanthroping going on these days, but I did take the time to read back over a bunch of entries that I hadn’t previously read.
One little sliver of this entry inspired the title of this post. It was this:
As far as the intimidation thing? I can’t really answer logically about that one. It’s a button of mine. I tend to be called intimidating when what is really happening is that I am not being compliant to their expectations, and it annoys me deeply. Then again, I suppose if I’m not going to be compliant to expectations, I’m being a bit hypocritical to care about their feelings on the matter, isn’t it? *grin*
Ooooooh, man. Lora and Jessica both repeatedly cited that I was intimidating and how it made them nervous/scared to be around me. I was pretty flummoxed, because I think I’m generally an easy-going, generous, friendly person. Which got me thinking about the word intimidating and how I think that Lora and Jessica use it to mean something that isn’t what I would use the word to mean.
When I think of someone being intimidating, I think of someone who calls you out when your etiquette isn’t perfect or makes it very obvious that they are judging the entirety of your person based on the words coming out of your mouth in that moment. I think of someone who raises a lot of cool, mildly disdainful eyebrows in lieu of making a verbal response to something that you said. I think of someone who is frightfully competent in all walks of their life and uses non-verbal cues to indicate that if you’re not in their league, you’re not only not worth their time, you’re also not worth much at all.
My (hindsight) impression of how Lora and Jessica seemed to view intimidation (at least in regards to me) is more in line with TPM’s above quote. And I wonder if some (definitely not all!) people who comment on another person being intimidating are doing so as a means (even unconsciously) to gain control over that person.
In both cases for me, I became very concerned about my own behavior, and inwardly-focused on rooting out any “intimidating” behavior. I think I became too concerned with their comfort levels, at the expense of my own authenticity and ability to express my feelings freely. And there were times when I let things slide that I wasn’t entirely comfortable with, or unhappy about, for fear that calling them out would be intimidating.
I know that I place my morals and ethics front-and-center in regards to how I handle my relationships and live my life. I’m absolutely comfortable with the idea that not everybody shares my ethics. I’m also comfortable with the knowledge that people who have different morals and ethics than mine aren’t necessarily wrong or bad or unworthwhile people. But, I do have very strong feelings about my nearest and dearest sharing my ethics to a certain degree. Jessica and Lora both had morals and ethics that made it impossible for me to be comfortable being intimate with them. In both cases, I think part of why it took me a long time to see that was that I was spending a lot of time and psychic energy watching my own behavior for intimidation instead of communicating with them when their behavior was something that I wasn’t comfortable having in my life. I hope by realizing this now, I can help myself to not be sucked in by such commentary in the future.
That said, I don’t necessarily think that someone who said I was intimidating should immediately be suspect of having a manipulative agenda. But I will pay closer attention (and ask for clarification) about what they mean by intimidating. And instead of immediately jumping into a mindset of “I must be less intimidating”, I’ll take careful stock of what is being asked of me, and if I can do it and still comfortably be myself.
One last thing I wanted to make clear about these ruminations of mine: I hope it’s a noticeable theme in my writing that I talk about whether or not I want something in my life or as a part of my life. This isn’t narcissism on my part; it’s an attempt to point out that there are a lot of behaviors that I don’t like or agree with, but wouldn’t necessarily call wrong or bad. Just because I don’t want something in my life doesn’t mean I think it’s terrible; it just means that I don’t want it in my life. With Jessica and Lora both, I’ve gotten the impression that when they don’t want something in their life, they unilaterally mean that it is bad, wrong, unacceptable at all times. I have, with my own ears, listened to both of them repeatedly make the mental jump of “Someone just said that they don’t like X thing I did/said/want. Therefore, they don’t like me. Thus, they think that I am a terrible person who is unworthy of any love or acceptance. So fuck them and the way that they judge me/hate me/seek to deny me good things in life!”. I don’t make that jump, and I don’t mean for my dislike of something to mean anything more than exactly that: I have a dislike for something. If I feel like my dislike or disapproval of something means more than simply that one thing (and for both Jessica and Lora, I can say that the aggregate of things that I disagree with/dislike about them about has caused me to negatively judge them and not want them in my life), I will say that clearly.
But even if that’s the case, that doesn’t mean that I think people are worthless people, undeserving of happiness, or unilaterally horrible with no redeeming features. If people who are abusive and controlling had no redeeming features, then it’d be much easier to keep them out of our lives. Also, if they had no redeeming features, I imagine existence would be pretty miserable and grim for them.
In both Jessica and Lora’s case, I’m sure that they do have redeeming features. I know they both have aspects of their personality that has inspired deep love in others. I do honestly wish both of them to find happiness, safety and comfort. I also believe that both of them won’t find those things until they take good, hard looks inside themselves, admit that the aspects of their behavior that are controlling and abusive damage themselves as well as those they love, and work on correcting them. But that belief is one that I’m willing to take sole responsibility for as my own belief. If they don’t believe as I do, there’s nothing I can do (or want to do) about that, so long as they’re not directly hurting me or someone I love. In either case, having a different view than mine about what they may need to find happiness, love and security doesn’t cause me to withhold a sincere hope that they find those things.
Because in the end, we’re all flawed in some way(s) and we all hunger for love. If love didn’t come to us until we were perfect, then we’d never be able to build loving lives. I’d rather hope that we can all generate more love in this world and use it to find the most compassionate and healthy ways to use it to generate positive change than forever be waiting for the day when we’re perfect enough to be worthy of it.