Why does using my words terrify me so much?
Let’s start out with a confession: Twitter terrifies me.
I got my handle a few years ago. The day my friend Melissa explained to me how she manages her twitter account, makes lists, what she posts, and what a hashtag is, my heart thudded in my chest, dully as I listened.
It’ll get easier, I kept telling myself.
Sometimes, this is true. It’s like cold swimming pools: steel yourself to dive in and start moving, and voila, you forget your shivers.
So I set goals: post this often, on these topics. Make sure to prioritize promoting others’ work, which makes me feel like less of a douchebag. Be funny! Be sincere! Ask questions! Say something!
But Twitter still frightened me much so that I had a nightmare about it.
The day after the dream, I wrote this down in my journal: Why does Twitter terrify me so much?
And there are a lot of reasons. Introversion, not liking to speak off the cuff, and feeling overwhelmed scrolling through others’ feeds.
But the main reason is this:
I assume no one is interested in my words.
No, actually, I don’t just assume. I am positive no one is interested in my words. Why the hell would they listen to me?
I grew up hiding. The day my parents took my brother to the children’s home where he lived for three years, I hid behind a rocking chair. I don’t even remember the day my sister left. In elementary school, when I started trying to write a required journal entry every day, I choked because I worried my true feelings might come through my words.
I practiced the over-and-over art of keeping quiet, of burying my true self under layers of goodness, performance, and smiles.
I have to remind myself to tell my husband about my interior life. Unless he asks, I find it hard to convince myself he’s interested.
I have to force myself to ask friends for help. Unless they offer, I assume I’m imposing.
I practically bit my tongue clean off in childhood. It is hard to start using it now. The irony of me writing for a living does not escape me.
My silence is not just about protecting my heart.
It’s about shutting other people out.
I want to learn to trust people to care about me. To honor my words. To be curious about what I have to say. To show love in their attention to my inner life.
The other day, I opened my computer and set a petite goal for myself. Five tweets.
I decided to pretend I was writing the tweets to my friend Shoshana. She was my roommate after college for a few years.
I wanted to be her friend because the first day I met her in our post-college Bible study, she said, quite unapologetically, that she missed having sex. I was a very nervous virgin, but I liked her chutzpah.
She helped me believe that Jesus loved people who were bracingly honest and riotously funny. She helped me believe I could be both.
Navigating to Twitter, I imagined penning Shoshana a very short note.
I imagined her forgiving my navel-gazing, considering my questions, clicking on my links. I imagined her needing encouragement. I imagined her instead of a black hole.
The truth is, the more I connect to people online, the more I see I’m not alone in my aches, my anxieties, or my desperation to speak up.
I use my voice not just to work through my own issues. I use my voice because I want to affirm—to everyone who hides—that it’s okay to let our desperation show.