I take pleasure in being uningratiating and defiant. At times I even enjoy being disliked or misunderstood. It allows me to feel as though I’m giving less of myself away which, in turn, leaves me with more to give to patients and loved ones.
I wish to be clear that when I say “uningratiating” I do not mean that I’m rude but rather that I won’t go out of my way to pretend to like someone. Nor will I pretend to be someone I’m not in order to gain someone’s favor. If I am suspicious of someone I hang back, observe and lean into a discretion that borders on withholding.
There was a employee at a supermarket with whom I would stop and chat for a bit. I soon realized that he did not pick up on social cues regarding the length of conversations. It also became clear that he was more interested in having a captive audience than in actual connection. I responded by ceasing the chats. I nodded, said hello and continued my shopping. Soon after he began to ignore my greetings and then to ignore my existence (when he notices me his eyes grow cold and he turns away). Initially I gave this a tiny bit of my emotional energy. That is to say, I was annoyed by what I perceived as pettiness. But within weeks (and up until now) I began to relish that this person had given me a role in their life drama but that I didn’t have to be a part of the play.
I recently took a phone call from an acquaintance toward whom I feel a lot of ambivalence. When it became clear that she was not really interested in me and that she was more interested in gleaning information about a mutual friend, I began to speak in generalities and to ignore her entirely when she pulled for something. Though I did not enjoy this experience I came out of it unscathed by refusing to be likable and ingratiating. Indeed, it was not the first time that I had held myself back from giving something away to them.
I like having edges. Pretend is something I would rather save for playfulness and humor and creativity (as when I play the trickster in my aphorisms or do a fun role play with a friend). It is very important to be kind, but I put less value into being nice. I learned at a young age that it can be enjoyable to let others know that they might cut themselves if they press too hard against me. Though initially this may have been an unconscious strategy I believe I have, for the most part, integrated this in a mostly health way. There is perhaps a small amount of immaturity to feeling delight in the idea of being spoken ill of, but rather delight than sleepless nights!
As someone who is often lonely, needy and afraid of abandonment it is especially important to me to have these edges because it is a way of holding on to my dignity. It is a way of asserting (to myself more than to anyone else) that just because I’m needy doesn’t mean I’ll settle. Indeed, I would rather be alone than be accepted or loved in my false self. And I realize that this is the crux of it: it is so deeply dissatisfying and nauseating to me to feel a false love. It is far more painful than the loneliest of lonely times.