We all have hang-ups. Even me, though after canvassing my kids, friends, family, co-workers, and acquaintances through the years you would probably have to write me off as a complete waste of space because each of them would tell you a different story as to Why and What they believe my biggest hang-ups are.
Let’s define a hang-up first, shall we? You know what they are—those little annoying things that we’re told to push past, work through, get over, and Deal With if we are expected to be contributing members to society for the greater good of the human race. (By all means, STOP here if you have a different definition because I doubt you’ll be pleased with the rest of this piece going forward, but Thank You for staying with me at least this far!)
My biggest hang-up, going back to toddlerhood, would have to be pretending I don’t know as much as I do. Why on Earth would someone do that? See? I knew you’d ask that! From what I’ve gathered, through trial and error mind you, is simply Fear.
Fear that if I show what I know then no one will help me when I need it most, as in when I’m vulnerable and unable to help myself.
Preposterous, right?!? No. Only true, sadly. Even my ability to lie is not on a “normal” scale…so, yes, keeping the magic of Santa, Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy required some soft shoed storytelling on my part. Thankfully their father is great at picking up cues and we never had those awkward patches to dance around (Mr. Elf on the shelf was a whole new level on the deck of the USS Childhood Fantastic Voyage we found ourselves marooned on for a solid 7 years!!!)
Now back to Fear. As a child in daycares since birth and public school in the 80’s, followed by small town junior high and high school in the 90’s, I can assure you that cute and smart is good until about 8 years old, in my case at least. Once the brain starts being viewed as “brainiac” well, sir, let’s just say no one likes to be “shown up”—not the other kids, and most assuredly not any adults.
Oddly enough, I wasn’t raised as a rude person. We were encouraged to be happy, think constantly, and most importantly be conscientious about everything. You can imagine my surprise at finding that phrases such as: “Do it yourself, if you’re so smart,” “Think you can do any better?,” and my personal favorite “Figure it out on your own” are actually thrown at people in an insulting manner!
Where, and more importantly, how I was raised led me to believe these were Challenges that I was supposed to rise up to, not put downs where other people were expecting (and hoping?) to see another human being fail.
Back to Fear. Fear of failure, you ask? No. Fear of the unknown? Not quite. Let’s try fear of being at the end of your tethered roped, reaching out for a hand to hold and finding, well, nothing. Just grasping at air—not even a straw, plastic or otherwise.
This is what my life has shown me, time and time again. And yet, you ask, how are you still You? Not bitter? Not upset? Nothing? No, I reply and yes, you are correct, in a sense. I am now “nothing” on the subject of my hang-ups, perceived or otherwise, by me or anyone else.
But if I had to answer a form stating: What are your hang-ups? I would reply: 1) being too kind to everyone in the room 2) expecting nothing from anyone in the room 3) knowing I’ll need to be perceived as whatever the self-proclaimed “smartest” person in the room needs me to be so I can stay in the room.
Perhaps that’s a good thing? Maybe I don’t need to be in those rooms after all. And maybe having all those who know me thinking I have different hang-ups is also a good thing—maybe it means they all just cancel each other out.