Geeks Vs Loneliness: defending your superpower

A few words about trying to fit in, learning to like yourself, and living in the present rather than the past...

Welcome to Geeks Vs Loneliness, our spot on the site where we try and talk about things that may be affecting you and the people around you. Hopefully, across the articles we’ve done, there’s something here to help you, or people you know. No miracle cures, just a few thoughts.

This week, we’re handing over to the awesome Charlotte Harrison. And she wants to talk about superpowers…

Whenever I’ve been posed the question ‘If you could choose to have any superpower, what would you pick?’ I’d pick invisibility every time. It’s a superpower which may appear self-indulgent or self-pitying (hopefully you don’t think this after reading!). It tends to be associated with slightly emo tendencies – as portrayed by Violet in The Incredibles. But let me plead my case –

I wasn’t exactly made to blend in. Let me paint a mental image for you of my appearance. The first thing you may clock is the red hair. I share my hair colour with 2% of the world. It acts like the beacon of a lighthouse – a bonus when trying to find me in a crowd, not so much between the ages of 11-16 attending a British comprehensive. For some reason there’s something about red hair that will envoke a whole range of responses, leaving you open as subject of discussion or a target for insult, to an extent unlike any other hair colour.

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Then there’s the height. I’m 5ft 11 and 3/4in (I just missed 6ft so feel it’s my penance to be so precise!). The current average height for a woman in the UK is 5ft 3 in. I literally tower above that. Our society seems to expect tall women to instantly embrace their height, whilst also ensuring they don’t wear heels to make them too tall and they don’t make too much of a show about their height when it comes to dating the opposite sex. I wish it was that easy. More often than not I feel too big, not enough to fill the above average canvas I’ve been given. On those days I just want to fold in on myself as I’m taking away too much space and too much air. I finally started wearing heels a few years ago, occassionally this still feels like a warped act of defiance.

And you don’t want to get me started on my feelings about my build or my facial features. Maybe I’ve made myself sound cartoonish, caricature-like, but maybe that’s just a reflection of my current state of self-image. The physical features I’ve detailed may be reviled by some but more often than not they feel more curse than blessing – let’s just say I’m a pro at avoiding mirrors or photos of myself and am able to provide an award-worthy performance at pretending I’m okay.

More often than not, anytime I’ve made even an utterance of disdain about any of the above I’ve been told to embrace them. Shut down before I can finish my sentence. Demanded to be thankful for what I’ve been given. It’s the same reason I’ve struggled with the great RuPaul’s sentiment ‘If you can’t love yourself, how is anyone else going to love you.’ Telling me, imploring me in some cases, to love these parts doesn’t make it easier. If anything it increases the level of self-doubt – something which I seem to have an inexhaustible supply of.

I’ve written about my anxiety before and I actively try to talk about it, start conversations about the impact of it. My anxiety is omnipresent but has different volumes. Embrassment is the biggest trigger and it effortlessly turns the voice of anxiety up to 11. If I ever feel like I’ve done something ‘wrong’ – no matter how small or insignificant the act – the voice of anxiety becomes nigh on inescapable, the self loathing all-consuming.

As is the desperate desire to be invisible.

A typical day in the life of Charlotte may start with a bubble of confidence, walking along to my favourite song feeling reasonably good about myself/life One simple thing – tripping on pavement, just missing the tube, accidentally knocking into someone – pops the confidence bubble instantly. Any positive thoughts become replaced with that want to disappear and be invisble. Mortification sets my body aflame which, courtesy of being a redhead, makes this blush of embarrassment metaphorical as well as literal. My body may carry on walking and talking but my brain has checked out, overwhelmed with dealing with the invasion of anxiety which is currently wreaking havoc.

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So you’re probably thinking, and to quote The Small Faces, ‘Whatcha gonna do about it?’

For me the mantra I’m trying to work towards is the idea that no-one cares nearly as much as I think they do. That’s not a sentiment of self pity, nor a cry for help. It’s me trying to let myself relax and not self-flagellate with false ideals of perfectionism. Yes I may have tripped over or done something which I’ve categorised as embarrassing but it’s nowhere as significant for the people who watched it as it is to me for having gone through it. Why must I devote my time and energy missing out on the present as I’m all too consumed by what happened in the past?

My extreme levels of self-consiousness impact on every aspect of my life, negative thoughts and anxiety will lurk on the fringes waiting to taint any happy moments. That’s how life has felt up until now, as if it’s made up of only brief occasional moments when my brain is in sync with my body and I feel present in the moment. Addressing this monster, pulling it from out behind the curtain and confronting it, is the only way I can defeat it.

And I’m fiercely determined not to live a life made of brief and all-too-fleeting moments. That’s going to be my superpower.

Thank you, as always, for reading.