“Say what you wanna say, any time of day,
but don’t justify my truths and I,
It’s time for me to change, time for hope
to bleed, time for love to sacrifice“
– Stabilo, Beautiful Madness
A big part of anxiety – a big part of my anxiety, at least – is distrusting other people. I have trouble believing people’s motivations and intentions are good and true, I have trouble taking the things they say at face value. When people are nice to me I assume it’s either because they pity me or because they want something. Probably not the best mentality to have in life, but there you go.
I’m sure part of this inherent distrust for others is a result of the fact that I have trouble trusting even myself: once I realised what I was capable of, it was only a matter of time before I came to the conclusion that everyone else was also capable of such thoughts, acts, feelings. I know all the dark little motivations people have because I have them myself. There’s also the matter of my low self-esteem to consider. When you don’t even like yourself it’s hard to imagine anyone else liking you. Compliments, companionship, acts of kindness are all met with bitter suspicion – not only do they fall on deaf ears, but they leave me wondering if it isn’t all some malicious joke.
The worst part of all this isn’t even my uncanny ability to rationalise these things – it’s the fact that half the time I don’t even have to try. Admittedly that’s sort of the point of rationalising: when you’re really good at it you hardly know you’re doing it at all. But I’d be naive to suggest that that’s all it ever is: my mind, grasping for straws and looking for shadows where they don’t exist. As much as I’m loathe to admit it, as terrifying as it is to fathom, sometimes the paranoia is nothing more than perception.
No one is perfect. Most of us try to at least achieve some semblance of goodwill, but at our core we are chaotic beings, prone to contradictions and faults. Most of us have a decent enough grasp on our actions, but few can claim dominion over our thoughts, over the whispers and the intentions behind our deeds. What’s worse is it’s rarely even that simple: sometimes we do what we think is right, even if we don’t feel like doing it. We want to befriend the loner, not because we actually want to be his friend, but because it’s “the right thing to do”. Our intentions are good, even if they’re not true.
Trying to puzzle out everyone’s intentions will drive you mad. It’s an exercise in futility because no matter what you’ll never actually know if you’re right or not. You could go on guessing and calculating till the end of your days, but sooner or later you’re going to have to accept that you’ll never know. Even confronting them on the issue is ineffective, because unless they openly confess to having ulterior motives (which, let’s be honest, would probably never happen) no amount of reassurances on their part will quell your paranoia.
You can’t go through life living like that, always second-guessing other people’s words and actions. In the end all you can do is focus on yourself. Unless given an express reason not to, you need to learn to trust people. You need to learn to judge them on their actions, and not on any imagined intentions. It can be hard, exposing yourself to the possibility of betrayal and pain, breaking down your walls and showing them your vulnerability. But the only thing worse than being betrayed by a handful of people is living under the assumption that you’re being betrayed by all.
As the old saying goes: “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice and you’ve shattered what little faith in humanity I had left, leaving me to roam the Earth in a permanent state of paranoia, incapable of ever trusting another human being again.”