Day 4: How the servant model and fear did a number on my understanding of community #31daysofTRUTH

After yesterday’s fantastic truth, what should I talk about next??

For a while I was spending A LOT of my energy focused on community – how to create space for people to connect, how to shape a group environment so that it’s welcoming and inclusive. This was really valuable and I learned so much about empathy and connection.

And also, I consistently set myself up to be a support person for others without asking, expecting, or even accepting much support back. I made myself available to people, to process feelings, to talk through experiences, to vent to, to cry with, to untangle difficult questions with, to explore and doubt and be curious.

There’s a part of this that I think was healthy and good. And then there’s the part where I hosted other people so much that I forgot to host myself. Or let others host me. I consistently set myself up for non-reciprocal relationships, and then gave, listened, hosted, and held space until I was empty and lonely.

In trying to untangle my feelings of WHY IN THE WORLD DID I DO THIS FOR SO LONG…here are some things that have come to the surface for me:

1) Servant Teaching

I grew up with the christian teaching that to be a good person is to be a servant. And the implications of this are that you, as the good person, would always be the one giving, serving, loving, and “turning the other cheek”. I think somewhere along the line, I internalized that being good meant holding space for other people, and by the opposite of that, if I needed people to hold space for me, I was weak/wrong/bad. I felt shame for having needs and wants. And it felt a lot better to be there for other people and try to deal with my shit on my own.

Turns out, this is a bad life plan. It doesn’t work. Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for holding space for others and caring for people.

What doesn’t work is the imbalance. For one, it sets me up in this weird martyr savior servant complex that makes me “better” than everyone else for not having needs. Or really, for denying and then ignoring my own needs and desires to the potential (and inevitable) detriment of my health, wholeness, and wellbeing.

2) Fear

I’ve spent a lot of my life being afraid. Only in the last few months have I been diagnosed with anxiety (which has been an unnamed presence since I can remember), but so much of my growing up is clouded with panic, guilt, and fear.

I’m afraid of what others will think. I’m afraid to need people. I’m afraid to be hurt. I’m afraid to be disappointed. I’m afraid to actually want anything.

I’m afraid that friendships and relationships and community won’t ever live up to the ideals in my head. I’m afraid that it will be way messier than I can imagine.

And I’m afraid to be vulnerable. To share my weirdness and silliness. To let people see when I’m afraid and shaking and panicking. To hear me be not optimistic for once. To hear my hopelessness. To know the ache in my chest that feels so lonely no one could possibly see it all and still love me. 

I’m sure there are a lot of other factors that I will be deconstructing for years to come. But starting with the two that I can sort of wrap my mind around, here’s what I’m thinking now:

1) Messy  

I’m not better than anyone else because I sometimes know how to not explode my words all over everyone. Denying my needs and wants has gotten me two things: chronic pain and loneliness. And it fucking sucks.

To not throw the baby out with the bathwater, so to speak, there are some great concepts in the servant model – hospitality and community are VITALLY important to me. What’s off is the balance of it all. With the set up of being-a-servant-makes-you-better-than-others,  I started seeing everyone as needing my help (while I, oh great super human in denial, needed nothing).

I’m messy. I’m a mixed bag of friend, partner, family member, co-worker, acquaintance. I have weird things about me that I love, and weird things about me that I’d like to be less weird. And I DO NOT HAVE THIS SHIT FIGURED OUT.

Nope. Not even close. I want to bring myself, needs, wants, and messiness to my relationships with people now. Even though it’s scary.

2) Seeing Truth

A lot of my fear revolves around a particular thought pattern: What if ______ happened, and people thought ______ (horrible terrible thing) about me? Or if people only knew _____ about me, than they wouldn’t like me anymore or they might think less/differently of me.

I think what I’ve been missing while getting stuck in that what-if cycle, is that I’m not acknowledging and accepting my own truth. Sometimes these fears are justified. I’ve been picked on, bullied, pressured, and judged for a whole number of things.

I want to be a part of creating and shaping our world to be a place where that doesn’t happen to others. For me, that starts with being honest with myself about who I am and what I want and need.

Thus continues the life-long journey of accepting myself as I am, as I’m becoming.

1 Comment

  1. Yes, yes, yes to all of this! The servant/leader thing really fucked me up too. Turns out it has a name – caretaking. No idea that this can actually be the other side of the coin that is narcissism. I am really enjoying your truth. Thank you so much for speaking it.

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