The unwanted spotlight

Image via Thinkstock
Image via Thinkstock

A look at being self-conscious

By Lauren Paulsen, Senior Columnist

Standing out. It’s something the majority of us do not want to do. It makes us feel uncomfortable and self-conscious. Whether we like it or not, humans like to belong. Individual expression is great when you can control what you want to stand out—not having a choice, now that’s another matter. I’ve always been different from my peers, but it hasn’t always been physically obvious. I have an “invisible illness.” I look normal and healthy at first glance, but that isn’t the case. As a child, this made it hard to keep friends. I was small and underweight, and couldn’t keep up with my classmates.

I was bullied.

But it wasn’t until grade six that it became really bad. That was the year that I had to begin toting around an N.G. Tube, a long, thin tube that goes down your nose and into your stomach. This is used for feeding on hypoallergenic formula that tastes too nasty to swallow. It was meant to help me gain some weight and nutrients because I couldn’t eat normally. Unfortunately, it was also this really obvious thing attached to my cheek. Young and old alike stared at me.

I was absolutely thrilled when I was told I no longer needed it. I wanted to look “normal” again. When I had to go back on the formula because my diet didn’t end up being sufficient enough, I refused the N.G. Tube and requested to have a surgical implant into my stomach—it would be invisible, and no one would know it was there unless I wanted them to. I did everything I could to hide the fact that I was different.

Of course, if you’ve read any of my other articles about my health, you’d know that didn’t really work out. Being chronically ill isn’t something you can hide, and I have begun to accept that people may see me differently, but those are the people that know me. I’m still very self-conscious when I have to do something that I fear will make people stare at me. For example, I mentioned in an article I wrote last week that I now have to wear a mask to keep myself from catching every virus out there. I’m still finding it hard to wear it when I’m out in public. I feel like everyone is staring at me, judging me. It doesn’t matter that I know that is not true. I can’t stop worrying about it, even though most people probably hardly give it a thought.

Standing out when you don’t want to? It sucks.

For anyone that has gone through, or is currently going through, something that makes them feel like I do when I’m wearing my mask, take a deep breath and pat yourself on the back. Even if you know you are being over-paranoid, it doesn’t change how you feel when you stand out unwillingly. Getting through this is a massive accomplishment and you need to realize that. You are stronger than you think.