Eric Fromm said the driving force behind all human action is the desire to not be “apart” from, not to feel separateness. We all want to feel we belong. Unfortunately, I grew up not feeling “apart” of, I never felt that genuine feeling of belonging.
I grew up in an Orthodox Jewish home with many wonderful values. There was a strong emphasis on helping others; being an all around giving person; and being devoted to my family. Although I was raised with very strong morals, there were many demands placed on image and fitting into the community standards. This was difficult for me because I did not fit society’s standards. Many others have also faced this problem because they, like me, had separate ideas about how we wanted to lead our lives. We, as individuals, we have different needs and could not possibly be expected fit into the same mold we were taught to strive for. Trying to fit a square into a triangle is just frustrating and disappointing. This is how I felt throughout my life.
The question I’ve been asking myself for years is why? Why wasn’t I able to be myself; or better yet accept myself? Why was the thought of being different so threatening and terrifying? Does the choice to disagree or see things differently mean you’re wrong? Fear! I hate being afraid, and growing up, fear seemed to be behind everyone’s inability to really be honest, to really change. I had to break free from this prison of guilt and frustration. Simply put,” I felt shitty about myself.” I therefore chose to find ways to feel better or to numb my consciousness.
Starting from a very young age I found myself looking for ways to fit in, or if that didn’t work I looked for ways of escaping and ways to make myself feel better. When it came to fitting in, I would go out of my way to get people to like me, hoping I would fit in and therefore feel better about myself. For example, I would share more than I should, buy things for my friends, and act overly nice to others who didn’t treat me the same. Looking back, I realize that these actions did not help my self esteem but instead, made things worse because it was not done for the right reasons. When it comes to escaping reality, I would seek different forms of instant gratification. I would over eat to comfort myself; sleep to avoid anything that was going on; buy things with the hope that I might feel better having acquired something else; go down to the bar in my house and get drunk as a child; and use different types of drugs to escape my pains. I would also act out in sexual ways by going to strip clubs, massage parlors, and prostitution. These acts catered to the side of me that required attention by a member of the opposite sex. I found myself wanting to kill myself. As a result of this, I was slowly destroying my body, mind and soul. At this point I was totally dependent on these actions and they ran my life. I was sucked in it and it consumed me. This was all in an attempt to make me feel better and to fit in.
As time went on I began to understand what some of the reasons for these behaviors were. I suffered from different psychological issues such as depression, anxiety, and Bi Polar disorder. Without the knowledge of these issues growing up and the time passed going untreated, it was difficult to find a stable point in my life. To this day I struggle with how I feel about myself and the world around me.
At different points in my life I found myself resenting the community I lived in, the education or lack there of I received, and, unfortunately, my parents as well. I always wondered what could have made things better. I realize that nothing could have made problems of mine to just go away, but what could have assisted me along the way so that things would not have gotten so out of control?
It is my belief that we need to educate ourselves and, most importantly, our children that it is O.K. if something is wrong, and we must deal with it instead of trying to sweep it under the rug. Giving special attention to those that struggle is essential. By learning the signs and symptoms, issues can be addressed before it gets out of hand. It is also vital that people are given the opportunity to use there potential to the fullest even if it doesn’t go with the flow. By being more tolerant of those who don’t fit the mold we can remain close instead of being as distant as possible. We are all individuals and have various needs and as a community we need to allow people to be themselves even if they are different, even if it doesn’t sound or look good. By accepting each other for who they are, we can be a closer and more productive community and therefore we will be preparing ourselves for the future.