Going too far… not going far enough

I have just a minute before getting ready for work, but I’ve been grappling with some clashes between old and new realities, usually when my time would best be spent sleeping.

As I’ve taken some risks — here on the blog, that looks like posting a full-body picture of myself, including my head, making me identifiable, and talking about political stuff (not partisan politics, but political ideas) — I start to get very anxious. I’ve been taking risks in other ways, primarily by emailing friends and family members about political stuff, too.

I don’t want to sound whiny when I talk about it (there’s some fear right there) — knowing that so many people take so much greater risks with their lives every day for what they believe in — but I do notice the impact of being in my own tiny way brave and outside of my comfort zone.

I think I am afraid of “going too far” — and also “not going far enough.”

All through elementary school, I was teased/tormented/ostracized (what now would be called bullied) by my peers, not about weight per se, but in a way that left me feeling timid and afraid to express myself. Which really, really was crappy for an extroverted, born entertainer like myself. I started to experiment with letting myself “be who I was” in Junior High, when I was in a school that was a far more child-oriented, progressive setting. And inevitably, I experienced “going too far” — and getting shut down. Stuff that would have happened in a very common way when I was younger, but it was delayed, and I was delayed from processing it until I was older than many kids are, so I took it really hard and walked away with a big worry about “being myself.” I got to experiment with being more authentic when I got to college, and it went quite well once I was at UC Santa Cruz, a progressive, student-oriented place at the time (the late 1980s).

As far as the “not far enough” goes — I think I don’t have a sense of how high to adjust the volume. Both at home and at school as a kid, I had to have my own volume turned “way down” — again, especially for a kid with a need to express myself in a way that was appreciated by others, in other words, I am and was a total ham. If I did take a risk at school, I would have been ridiculed even more, ostracized even more, risk the few friends who would spend time with me outside of school but didn’t even want to walk to school with me for fear of being targeted themselves. At home, with the craziness in my family at the time, I needed to make myself and my needs as small as I possibly could and avoid anything that looked like competition with my dad for my mom’s attention. Yeah, a particularly bad combination of factors for a kid like me. And, I’m grateful I had enough people who did give me the attention and focus I craved so I could live through that very tough time to see many more vistas open up later.

This plays into the “not going far enough” fear: If I want to do something bold — like take time off of work to attend a protest or make an appointment with one of my legislators — I can’t tell if it’s too meek or too bold. When I encouraged my friends and people here to send letters to their legislators about reinstating the taxes on candy, gum and soda, maybe that wasn’t the right thing. Too bold? Too pushy? Not the right thing?

I am not asking for reassurance from those of you kind enough to have read this far. More, I would love to know how you manage that worry about “going too far… or not going far enough.” Do tell.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Going too far… not going far enough

  1. Caprice

    Your post resonated with me because I’ve been where you are. I’ve learned that you can’t please everyone so you might as well please yourself. There will always be someone who thinks you didn’t go far enough and someone who thinks you went too far on everything you do. However both of these will be on the far ends of a bell curve. There will also be some who agree with you. The one thing you can count on is that most people won’t even notice what you do or say or even if they do notice they won’t care.

    • Thanks for reminding me about the bell curve.
      I was at a presentation yesterday when the “Diffusion of Innovation” was referenced, and the extreme “laggard” end of the curve was talked about. The presenter said she learned to stop wasting time arguing with “laggards” because they lead sad and miserable lives, and she has no desire to be like them. Ah. Yes.

  2. Ultimately, you’re the only one who can truly decide whether you’re going too far, not far enough, or juuuuust right (AKA the Goldilocks Dilemma). Unfortunately, the only way to really get a good gauge of what works for you is to try and get it wrong a few times. Eventually you’ll find the comfort/discomfort zone that works to make you feel like you’re doing enough to be useful and still keep your relationships.

    And, of course, you’ll find along the way that there are people who are no longer comfortable with you. That means that somewhere along the line you’ll have to decide whether those particular relationships or your activism means more to you. Sometimes they will, sometimes they won’t.

    You’re the only one who can find that balance and make that decision. It’s scary, but it’s empowering. And you know what? You’re going to do just fine.

  3. Oh no! I got dibs on Twistie’s delicious brain, well, after herself and possibly her hubby! Ha!
    Love this post. It says so much about the world we live in, the fat-o-sphere and so much more. I feel like it describes the FA journey itself. You just don’t know until you’re there and even then, are you there? Are you done? Never!
    It’s growth at it’s finest, I think. We can’t grow without learning and maybe even over thinking things (I’m guilty of this).
    The people who will never get what HAES/FA/etc is all about are the same people who will hold onto a bunch of other lies we’ve all been programmed to buy into. Sadly, it will be your choice to keep them in your life or not. I have been there, it’s never easy, but for me it was necessary.

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