I do not like to be vulnerable.
I don’t like being in situations where I open myself up to criticism and hurt. I like to control outcomes as much as I can; this desire for control probably explains why I’m an overthinker.
As a mashup producer, I set myself up for scrutiny every time I submit my work to Mashstix and upload it to other websites. I do this despite knowing that I cannot satisfy the wide-ranging music tastes of the global population. The feedback is usually positive, but on the rare occasions when it isn’t, the resulting effects feel like a hard punch to my gut.
Despite my ease with being creatively vulnerable, it does not extend to other areas of my life. From a young age, I’ve had a fear of rejection which has held me back from living what I believe to be a full life. I thought it would be a good idea to build walls to protect myself from it. I kept people at arm’s length. I didn’t let anyone get close enough to hurt me. Instead of leaning on others, I learned to rely on myself and enjoy my own company. While this strategy kept some bad things out, it also kept me from experiencing things like romance and close friendship.
A perfect example of this phenomenon happened a few years ago, when I developed a profound crush on a woman who attended my church. We met shortly after she joined the music ministry, of which I was also a member. (For the record, I still serve in that ministry.) I was smitten from the first look, but being the rejection-fearing man that I was, I couldn’t bring myself to say “Hello.” Fortunately, she broke the ice for me.
We developed a friendship which became very special to me. Gosh, she was special to me because, among other reasons, she actually cared about me and not just the person she saw every week on the church stage. Naturally, my thoughts turned toward asking her out. Unfortunately, I passed up every opportunity to do this when it should have been done. I didn’t think that I could financially support a relationship. I listened to other people’s advice when I should have trusted my intuition. Most of all, I was scared of the changes which would result from her becoming my girlfriend. As a result, instead of being direct, I dropped hints and hoped she’d clue in.
Meanwhile, I told many people about my feelings for her…except for her.
I finally asked her out about 1.5 years after we met, but by then, I already missed my window of opportunity. I don’t know if that was the catalyst for us drifting apart, but at this point, I can’t even say that we are friends anymore.
In avoiding the pain of rejection, I unwittingly chose to live with another kind of pain: that which comes with regret and wondering what could have been. The fact that I still think about it many years later is a testament to the depth of my feelings and the stupidity of letting fear dictate my choices.