Show off

‘So do you know how to make web pages?’ my friend asked oh so innocently. Do I know how? I went into painful detail about what I know about web pages, what to do, where to go, how much to pay, how to code, what editor to use, etc etc…

While I was talking, I vaguely noticed that I was becoming more and more anxious. My throat became tighter, my breathing faster, and I felt I was in some kind of danger. This was in one part of my mind. In the other part, I was happily showing off.

After I had caught my breath, I quickly changed the subject. Nice as it was to be ‘the one with the knowledge’, it wasn’t worth the anxiety that went with my explications.

In my family, it was vital to have a lot of knowledge. My college professor dad and my bookworm mother together drummed into us children that the way to be in the world was to know a lot. Dinner would frequently be interrupted by the instruction to look something up in the encyclopaedia or the dictionary. Spouting facts, authorities and long-dead authors was the way to get attention.

As my social anxiety developed more and more, it seemed to me that in order to talk to people, I had to have a great store of knowledge and information about whatever was under discussion. My job would then be to spout some information and be valued for that.

I no longer believe that I must be in the know. At least, most of me believes that. In a conversation, once someone knows it all and tells it all, it stops being a conversation and becomes a lecture.

Every once in a while, I once again fall into this trap. Sure, if someone wants some information I have, I can share a bit. But usually the question is more social than anything, not a request for enlightenment. Or the person asking the question wants to know one particular thing about the subject, not all there is to know about it.

Spouting off information does start to make me anxious. In this case, I think that’s a good thing. It’s my better self trying to reign in the show off and say whoa, wait a minute. What’s really going on here? What does this person really want to know about this? Why not ask him?

If I start to feel anxious in a conversation, I want to stop sooner. I can just breathe for a moment. Catch my breath and myself. And respond appropriately, as one person in a dialogue, not a know-it-all who has to show off.

Pic: Toronto park in October

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7 comments
  1. Nechtan said:

    Hi Ellen,I've had this happen a couple of times. I hate conversation when I am anxious yet sometimes I find myself talking too much and too quickly not taking a breath. On one occassion my mouth got so dry that I could no longer speak- probably the only thing to shut me up. Its a kind of nervous energy with me.Nothing wrong with having a good knowledge and people do find it helpful, even interesting on occassions. But I can see how having that woven into your childhood can present a problem now. Maybe its good that you notice it yourself and can start to control it more if it is causing anxiety.All the bestNechtan

  2. Ellen said:

    Hi Nechtan,Well, I think the first step is noticing the problem and trying to address it. Usually I would just ignore my anxiety but then feel bad after. I guess it's the energy behind the information giving that I'm concerned about. With me, it can be a kind of anxious bad energy.Thanks for the comment!

  3. gniz said:

    This seems a degree of awareness that most people never possess because they dont really need to. In other words, your anxiety and the work you are doing to overcome it has created an attention to detail that most people never get.My meditation teacher was one of the few people i've ever heard discuss this phenomenon. That people would be so focused on making their point in a discussion that they literally forget to take a breath. You see it a lot in arguments (the red face, skyrocketing bloodpressure). You have stumbled across something really important that affects everyone, to differing degrees.

  4. diver said:

    Hmpf, being 'in the know' and recriminating about it, I too have had major issues with such things in the past. In my case it proved ever-difficult to practice as a professional psych counsellor while my own social anxiety was right out of control … just so hard to bill folks when the consultation was arguably a case of the blind leading the blind.Like you, I'm largely over it (i.e spouting information) now. I decided at some point that I simply made for a better mental patient than counsellor; nowadays I like to stick with 'what I'm good at' (ha ha). But sure, every now and then I too fall into the trap of intellectually lording it over others. Like you say, it's an 'approval' thing with roots in childhood.Great post Ellen, thanks for sharing those secrets. In the end your reflections got me thinking about a favourite Carl Jung quote I have tacked to my monitor frame …'Sometimes, indeed, there is such a discrepancy between the genius and his human qualities that one has to ask oneself whether a little less talent might not have been better.'

  5. Ellen said:

    Hi gniz,Welcome to my blog, nice to meet you. Well, I've never had a personal meditation teacher, so that's good to know. I've actually given up somewhat on meditation lately, as it just wasn't helping, but I'll get back to it. Awareness of breath in general has really helped me, especially in noticing my anxieties earlier. So I guess meditation was helping me, just didn't feel too good while I was trying to do it. Thanks for the comment.

  6. Ellen said:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Ellen said:

    Thanks for the quote Diver.I actually think that the blind have a better idea of what the other blind people are going through than the sighted. So I bet it's a loss to therapy that you no longer practice. But maybe your own issues were affecting your practice, so then it was best to quit.But it is best in general to avoid avoidance i have found. The avoidance of society caused my problems, not the anxiety by itself.And diver, of course you are talented – you create such beautiful jewelery. Perhaps your real path in life is as an artist and not working with people. Only you can know. Thanks for commenting. I hope I have not been a busy body. 🙂

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