I'm going to vent a little bit of my crazy here. And not just because I need to write to process the crazy, but also because it seems like when I vent my crazy, others come up alongside me in that crazy, and I think knowing we're not alone in our crazy makes all of us feel better.
See, I'm a praise junkie. I pretty much live for a compliment, bask in the glory of attention, and float on air when someone leaves me a sweet comment here on the blog. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that I'm addicted to being liked, both in the actual sense of the word and as meted out in social media clicks. By addicted, I mean that I've gotten a little praise here and there and liked it so much that now, if I'm not mainlining a steady stream of love and admiration from the people around me or on the blog or Facebook, I quickly spiral down into a deep emotional chasm of "I'm useless and no one likes me and woe is, woe is, woe is me" from which only an even bigger new hit of adoration can lift me. (I hate how this addiction makes me a slave to my social and on-line life, when I'd really rather have those parts of my life serve me.)
They say words of affirmation are some people's love language? For me, words of affirmation are the oxygen in my blood.
Worse yet? To me, silence indicates disapproval. No compliments on my outfit? I'm a fashion flop. No comments on the blog? My writing is useless drivel. No cheering over dinner? I need cooking lessons. No Likes on my status update on Facebook? It's not that people are busy or distracted or focused on their own lives, it's that everybody hates me. And oh, heavens. When I watch others (even people I myself love and admire very much) revel in a (usually deserving) shower of praise or kudos, even though I don't desire to take their spotlight away, I hate how the glow on them makes me feel as if I've slipped into the shadows. (I hate how this addiction sets me into completely unwanted competition with people I'd so much rather just like and respect and enjoy.)
I've been this way all of my life; it's a chicken/egg quandary for me. Did I feel like my older sister was my parents' favorite daughter because I already had this breed of crazy in me, or did the craziness result from never feeling like I could measure up to her amazingness in Mom and Dad's eyes? (Dad, Mom, I'm not pointing fingers, just wondering aloud.) It's hard to know for certain which came first, but I do know it's so ingrained that I go totally overboard always trying give both of my children perfectly equal amounts of my love, attention and praise. I even notice occasionally that my own insecurities and need for approval and acceptance lead me to make questionable parenting decisions in order for them to never feel the sting of being left out or second best to anyone. (I hate how this addiction takes my eyes off the real, individual needs and hearts of my children as I am stuck looking at and translating their lives through the lens of my own brokenness.)
Do I know intellectually that my deep craving for human affirmation isn't healthy and stems from age-old insecurities I should shore up immediately? Oh, sure. I'm in touch with how learning to derive value from within myself and from God would transform me into a much happier, more productive Mom, wife, friend, daughter, sister, you-name-it. It's almost ridiculous the amount of time I've spent reading and studying and praying for God to fix this part of me, and yet as deeply I know it in my head, the understanding of my own intrinsic value never seems to make it down my brainstem into my heart. I will preach to you all day long how vital you are, how special and amazing God made you, and then I will turn aside to myself and just as vehemently spit the venom of ineptitude and worthlessness into my own face. And if the world agrees in complicit silence (which it will), my own venom echoes and echoes on and on, into that quiet void. (I hate how this addiction silences the lips of my Creator, while inclining my head to His enemy, all the better to hear his lies.)
And so I am always looking for a way to drum up some attention, to garner praise, to make myself matter, to be the favorite and in that way to drown out the voices in my own head who want me give up on myself with louder external voices who say I'm worthwhile. But it's tiring, this always striving, always performing, always seeking, always hanging tightly on other people's opinions of me, and it indicates a faithlessness that compounds my despair with guilt and disappointment. Compound crazy. Crazy to the second power. That's where I am right now.
And for once I'm not going to wrap a post up with the pretty bow of resolution. God knows I'd prefer to, and just think, I'd get more praise and glory if I could. But I truly don't have an answer to this life-long riddle. I will tell you this, though. In times past when I've come face to face with this truth about myself, I've just stepped up and tried harder to make other people give me what I think I need. This time, I know for sure that's not ever going to the answer. I see so many people who are absolutely showered with praise and glory and attention from all sides, year after year, and inside they feel just as small and insignificant as I do.
I have to find a way to understand and own my value from the inside out, not the other way around. Full-stop. Because this busy, also-crazy world isn't interested in devoting itself to making me feel good about myself. I have to do that.
And I want you to know that if you're a praise-junkie too, waiting for affirmation and spitting venom at yourself in the silence, you are not alone (so completely not alone), you are NOT all those terrible things you believe about yourself in the quiet void, and you ARE worthy of learning to love and value who you are, no matter what the world says or doesn't say.