This one is by far, far, FAR the worst thing you can say to me. I am very self-conscious about my age. I look younger and am notoriously mistaken for a teenager, and in a way I’m okay with that, because people then expect me to act like a teenager and not like a grown-up and let me get away with certain oddities. But even by those standards I often don’t make it. I am clingy towards my mom, can be obnoxious about receiving her attention, especially when she is busy with other things, and I don’t do well with putting my needs or feelings on hold even when I know it’s socially inappropriate. If you shame me by implying I am immature, what is an uncomfortable situation to begin with only gets worse. I’m not willfully immature. I’m in pain inside and if I could help it, believe me, I would!
Yes, I do want attention. A lot of it. But not because I am a selfish, spoiled person who thinks she is the center of the universe, but because I feel so insignificant and terrible with and about myself that I need someone to take notice of me and of how I am feeling, to give me a sense of self and to help me feel safe. Imagine you just woke up from a nightmare and when you walked into the bathroom you suddenly didn’t see yourself in the mirror anymore. Wouldn’t you want the people who are important to you to take notice and assure you that you are still there and that the world is not going to end?!
Picture yourself standing in the middle of a rapid stream, with the raging currents threatening to tear what little footing you have away. Imagine you’re screaming for help because you feel that if nobody comes to your rescue you are going to get carried away and drown. And now imagine I stand on the shore, demanding you calm down, getting angry that you’re making such a scene, because to me the raging stream looks like nothing but a puddle. Not very helpful, is it?
I lie. Often. And most of the time I lie out of fear, or because I’m angry at you, but that one often also goes back to fear. “Lola, did you take one of the bills of the shopping money I put on the counter?” – “Uh… NO! Really!” Even when I did. And yes, I am aware that I am lying. I’m aware that you are aware, too. But demanding I stop lying and admit I did it is going to make the situation worse. I had a reason for taking the money, even if it was a weird or unjustified reason. But I’m mortally scared of you not understanding, of you judging me, being disappointed in me, punishing me or seeing what a failure I am and leaving me, so I can’t just admit it, because I know what I did was wrong. Pushing me into admitting that I lied about something is going to make it worse. I might, however, admit that I did it and even give the money back or offer amends, if I feel like our relationship is still safe and you still love me even after I instinctively lied to you. (And yes, you may discuss lying with me at a later point, as long as I don’t feel threatened.)
Sounds illogical, but I don’t do praise very well. For one thing because I have a hard time believing it, especially if it comes from someone who means something to me. For another thing, because I am very afraid that if you think I’m doing good and getting better, you will also think that I don’t need you anymore. I’m afraid you might think I should be getting by all by myself if I’m doing so well! Which then causes me to go and spoil it all, even if I try not to. So while I like it when people are aware of me doing something right, if it threatens my feeling that the relationship is going to last and stay close and supportive, I’m losing it, like to make sure that everyone realizes that I still need them around.