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The other morning I made a revealing discovery about myself: I have toxic qualities. I think a lot of us do, maybe all of us, but when you realize the qualities or traits that you may have, it's very eye-opening, and in fact, a very shitty feeling. Let’s look at what I’m talking about.
Scrolling through social media I came across a post that read, “Name a toxic trait that YOU have.” In the past, I may have looked at this and just moved on past it because, well, “I’m not toxic, I’m awesome!” However, through this past year of self-discovery, without hesitation I answered:
“I don’t feel like I belong anywhere, and I cling to those things that make me feel like I do.”
I hit post. It went up. I looked at it. I paused. I said, “fuck.” And that moment I got to thinking.
What the hell is happening? Why did I just have this thought? I did this without hesitation. I just blurted it out. It was as if my inner volcano finally erupted. It happened so organically that it must be true, right? Nah, it can’t be. That’s not me. Then I started to think about it even more.
My thoughts raced. It was like one of those “life flashing before your eyes moments” except that I wasn’t about to die. It was all these scenarios where I realized that exactly what I wrote was showing me the truth. “Shit,” I said to myself. I couldn’t get past the thought: “Why am I feeling this way about myself? Why now? Where is this coming from?”
I think that there is some part of human nature where we never want to accept that we have bad qualities. We all try to be good people. Good friends, husbands, wives, daughters, sons, brothers, etc. We are brought up to believe that we are. We are told we are good at things, we are told we are good people, but sometimes that just allows us a scapegoat to realize that some of the problems that we have we create ourselves.
I can’t speak for anyone other than myself, so I won’t. I can only use my examples as to how I have realized that, in my life, I have shown these toxic traits. The truth of the matter is that, even to this day, I truly don’t feel comfortable in most situations that I'm in. I can put on a brave face and get through the situation that I'm in, but the comfort is never there. Now, that I have recognized the problem, I need to figure out where it comes from. From there, maybe I will be able to start to feel more and more motivated and comfortable in everyday situations.
If you’ve read some of what I’ve written, you know that my relationship with my father was not the best. You understand that the home I grew up in wasn’t The Brady Bunch. I have put a lot on me today on the me of the past, as well as the people who I was brought into the world with. My first realization: It’s not on them, or him in my case. It’s on me. What am I talking about? Buckle up, because here we go...
Going back as far as being a young kid, my comfort level was nil. I can think back and remember playing at friends houses and never feeling like I fit in. I was part of a group of five boys that were always together. I was the only one without a brother. So it was me, and two sets of brothers. I always felt like I didn’t belong with them because I was different; I didn’t have a brother. I also felt uncomfortable because of how they looked compared to how I looked. I was also uncomfortable because when I had to go home to I never wanted to go home. What I believed to be true was that those boys didn’t look at Vinny, they looked at the kid whose dad yelled a lot, whose dad got into a fight with another father on his soccer field, the dad who flew off the handle. I never thought they looked at me for me, and what I didn’t realize was that my thoughts were also reflective of me. I didn’t know that me being uncomfortable with myself could make these boys not be comfortable with me. So, when the friendships grew apart—which I must add, all these years later are still intact—I put the blame on them. I didn’t accept that they were evolving. And I was stuck in what felt good from years ago. If only I had known then what I know now.
As I reflect upon this realization, I’ve seen a pattern. I find that when something comes into my life—or a person, or people—that for some reason gives me a sense of comfort. I cling to them like I’m trying to not fall off a cliff. No matter who or what it is that gives me comfort, I squeeze onto it so tight that, eventually, it slips from my grip or disintegrates in my hand.
When that happens I would find a way to place the blame. It’s not on me, it’s them. I would never realize that it would be my unjustified level of discomfort, or my clinging to what was comfortable, that would cause that change. Realizing this was a bitter pill to swallow, but one that I needed to, and it came at the perfect time.
At the time when I made that post online, I was going through a familiar situation. I was staring a choice in the face. A choice that I didn’t want to make. A choice that would be based on my level of comfort. I needed this realization. I needed to realize what I used to do. I needed to make a change. I have. I didn’t squeeze so tightly. I actually let go. I understood that “being uncomfortable” was an excuse that I came up with in my head. I chose to not allow the excuse dictate my life anymore.
We look at ourselves in the mirror everyday, multiple times a day, and the reflection that we see doesn’t ever tell the whole story. Sometimes the mirror we need to look into is deeper than the reflection. It’s like what Shrek said to donkey:
“An ogre is like an onion, you have to peel back the layers.”
Sometimes the deeper layers are the ones that are the ugliest, but those are the ones that we need to get to, to motivate us so we can move forward into the beauty of life that awaits us.