On my blog entry entitled Awakening to My Anxiety Issues, a reader posted the following comment:
I have at times had people tell me I come off as anxious or intense. It really pisses me off when someone tells me that because I am not aware of feeling anxious at the time, and although I know what intensity looks like when I see it in others, I do not feel like I am coming off as intense when people say this to me. It is like I am trying to figure out how not to appear anxious or intense, even if I am on the inside. ~ Elaine
Elaine’s entire comment really resonated with me, but I want to focus specifically on this part of the comment for this blog entry. As I read her comment, I just nodded my head in agreement because I feel like that a lot of the time.
At my core, I am an intense person (as you probably picked up on based on the content of this blog!). I can joke around and have fun at times, but that is not my baseline. I am an intense person because I have endured intense things, and healing from those intense traumas is equally intense.
Like Elaine, I have found myself in uncomfortable situations when I “freaked out” other people by my intensity, and I was completely unaware of being intense in the moment. One example was with a couple of close friends. We were talking about our parenting when our children were babies. I thought I was just sharing how much more uptight I used to be about making sure my child got enough vegetable, etc., versus now. Apparently my sharing was far too intense for either of them. One friend got up and said she needed a few minutes to breathe. I looked at the other, truly puzzled. She said that I got way too intense there. The message I take away from these incidents is that it is not okay for me to be myself.
Like Elaine, I can recognize intensity in others but not in myself. When I see someone who is more intense than I am, I think to myself, “You really need to breathe, dear.” Quite frankly, most people are more laid back than I am, so whenever I view someone else as intense, I know that they are really tightly wound.
I don’t like having to pretend that I am not who I am. I am an intense person. I try to match my behavior to the situation, but I always want to be me. For example, out of respect for the members of my Sunday School class, I will refrain from using foul language. I am still myself: I am just being respectful of who I am with. However, when it comes to friendships, I need my friends to be able to accept “me,” and who I am is intense at times. In fairness, both of the friends in my example have been there for me through intense stuff. I apparently just caught them off guard in this situation.
Photo credit: Hekatekris