The Importance of Feeling Heard

I learned something about myself last night. 

Standing on our upstairs porch, listening to my guy brainstorm about what he would do with $1 million, watching the stars twinkle in the sky. I learned that I still have a lot of growing to do. I felt attacked, pushed aside, and hurt as he talked about things that didn’t include me. Things I also thought would be fun to do. Of course, I had forgotten that the “I want to start a scholarship for writers” and “I want to travel to Barcelona, and Greece, and find out my African ancestry and go wherever that is” from my turn hadn’t included him.

Do I call myself a hypocrite? Do I mention double standards? Do I call it pure selfishness or self-centeredness? 

When I was a kid, my adoptive mom said I was selfish. It never made sense to me because I loved giving others presents, I loved helping people with their problems, and I loved taking care of people. There are many “I”s in that sentence. As a foster kid, I spent a hefty amount of my childhood feeling unheard, unwanted, and unloved. It tore me to pieces, made me feel empty and lonely. I see how those feelings translate into my adulthood. And I don’t like it. 

With all my healing and meditation and introspection, I can’t seem to shake the worst of my childhood ghosts. 

Ask anyone. I talk a lot. I talk over people. I interrupt and interject and sometimes I’m not listening to hear. I’m listening to say my piece. I know why. I know it’s because I felt like no one ever listened to me as a kid. My words were stunted and they felt empty. As an adult, I constantly fall to my default response – input my thoughts as quickly as possible, before everyone is no longer listening. 

The importance of feeling heard as a child translates to listening skills as an adult, I’m sure of it.

Honestly, I think I’ve been blind and it hurts my heart. I hurt my heart. I didn’t notice how bad it was until Covid 19 forced me to take online courses for the Fall 2020 semester. My internet wasn’t the strongest, and this meant I couldn’t speak up during class – or in break-out-groups. I was told to give my input in the chatbox. Participation points. However, this often meant that I was the only person typing in the box and I felt no one was reading it anyway. I felt useless, unproductive, and passed over. 

And oh lord, the anxiety. 

It forced me to think about my input. Is what I’m saying important? Do my thoughts benefit anyone or am I just speaking to feel included? There’s an intense desire to be accepted by others. Feeling heard plays into this because you want others to know who you are. Know you’re ‘down’. Despite knowing that those I strive to be accepted by might not be healthy for me. “Alone, Not Lonely” is the anthem for my particular kind of introversion. However, my periods of introspection never ask if I’m a delight to be around or if I’m the reason others might feel uncomfortable. 

I live by the philosophy that we are all the center of our OWN universe. 

And it’s true. But there doesn’t have to be two extremes: “self-care is selfish” or “I put everyone before myself”. There can be a commonplace and this is where I find myself, in practice. But I don’t appear this way. I’m not sure if others see the person who is thoughtful and kind. They only see what I show them. And I think it might be a perception of self-centeredness. But am I what I show others? Do I become the mask that I wear?

I’ve noticed my tendencies toward self-centeredness in some of my writing groups. 

After we met up, I would talk. And talk. And talk. And sometimes I would say, “wow. Can you please tell me to shut up when I talk too much?” I guess the good thing is that I meant the words genuinely. I’ve always said, “I want to be where I’m wanted”. But am I wanted nowhere because I’m a social pariah that pushes others away because I can’t stop talking about MYself or MY projects or MY issues? My adoptive mom always said I needed to get my nose out of books because I didn’t have any social skills. She said that isolation coupled with deep introversion would set me back.

And I fall back into this often.

I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I’d probably be a better person. I’d probably talk less about myself. Which – as you know, if you know me – means I’d be a quieter person. I want to be a better listener and a better friend. I want to truly hear what others are saying. People always feel comfortable enough to tell me their secrets, their problems, and I help them see things in a different light. So, I know that I have it in me. Those brief moments of lucidity when I can untangle my tongue and absorb the world around me.

I just have to try.

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