As often as not I am embarassed by my behavior. Really. When it comes to social situations, even if I have a good time, I find myself second guessing my "performance" as it were, at the end of the evening, or the next day. Especially when even the smallest amount of alchohol is involved.
Infact, I'd venture to say the rarity of my great evenings stems from the rarity of experiences in which I am confident I did not bore, annoy or offend anyone involved.
Understand, I am not exactly a drunken mess. I do not spout (I think) opinionated judgements against those I am recreating with at any regular intervals. I have a modicum of social grace, and (again, I think) remember my actions clearly enough to acknowledge that I am not someone who should be permanently convinced I was judged poorly.
Mildness of manor, aside, I still very rarely come out, internally, unscathed. I am still plagued by a certian nagging notion, more often than not, that I am a bit of a dissapointment. That I am invited out of association, rather than urge or desire, that I am not really all that loved.
I have been trying to pinpoint what the source of this suspicion is for a while now? Is it just straight overwhelming lack of confidence. Am I just way too overcritical. Should I be medicated?
Perhaps. But in the end I realized a very critical aspect to this feeling. And it has to do with safety. Not freedom from death in a ditch type safety. Not personal health and harm safety. But more...the safety felt in a certain reassurance of freedom from judgement.
Understand: I think a certain amount of critical judgement is essential and implicit in every day life and all critical actions. I would be the last to claim that I don't judge constantly and sometimes too harshly. But there is a rare and beautiful thing in a close friendship, in a family, in which you stop really judging what your friends say or do with a glaring light. In which soft focus chimes in and they can tell you strange things, say things that might be taken the wrong way, get too drunk, act too stupid, and you don't only forgive, you barely even notice.
Sometimes I wonder if this is a key part of the whole "only child syndrom". I remember, once discussing the difference with a friend with many siblings, none of who they really liked. And after a long discussion my friend did allow "well, it is nice to know there are 6 people I can fuck up around and they are still obligated to love me and aren't going anywhere".
Yes. It might be nice to know that.
Look, here is what I know. As we get older, and many of us travel and settle far far away from our homes, we find new ways to build family. New people to depend on and love, new social networks to thrive in. To feel safe in. And I often suspect the hardest part of this effort isn't finding people we can respect. There are tons of people out there who are perfectly decent and respectable citizens. Or people we have tons in common with. Hell, some of my favorite people don't like most of the books I like, or hate some of the movies I enjoy, or are possibly offended, deeply, by my sense of style, and nod politiely. I don't even know if it is a matter of finding people who amuse you, though this is definitelypart of the equation. The real trick, I think, is finding people you can feel safe being yourself around, and can trust to love you and appreciate you, even when you act like an ass. Finding poeple who are likely to give you some slack, presume a certain level of awesomeness even in your stupidest hour. Friends who will mostly not judge, or atleast judge with an eye to help, rather an eye to cull. Friends who can exercise the fine line between reasonable discernment and unnecessary conviction. Well, those are the friends who become family.
And while, for some of us, this may be hard to find, In the end it might be a key defining element between a life of loneliness and critical self judgement and a life of comfort, ease, and relative happiness. The difference between company that keeps you occupied, and cushion that allows self actualization.