It's really weird looking back and filtering everything through this new lens I've got titled "hey dummy, you have anxiety." I thought that everyone thought the way I did, so it blows my mind to look back and gradually realize how much the anxiety shaped even the most basic parts of my life.
One of the things I've never been able to wrap my head around is anything that damages intangible qualities, like integrity or trust. When I was in junior high school I did something to lose my parents' trust. I don't remember what it was, but I clearly remember how it felt to hear my dad tell me that I'd damaged their trust in me: it felt like a cannonball. At the time I thought that my extreme reaction was due to my "good girl" character, but looking back I see how much anxiety exacerbated my reaction. My anxiety disorder was telling me that there was no way I could ever earn back my parents' trust. I had damaged it irreparably, and anything I did to prove myself as trustworthy wouldn't be enough. Anything I did would be seen as insincere pandering, but more importantly whatever I had done to damage their trust could never be erased or forgotten. I felt like I was stuck in the trash compactor from Star Wars with both walls inexorably closing in, slowly but surely.
This attitude towards trust and integrity led to my being unable, on some fundamental level, to understand why people lie. My brain has always told me two things; if you lie you will always get caught, and once you're caught you will never be able to fix the damage done. Since my brain was giving these two things such insane weight I couldn't fathom why people would lie since they would inevitably get caught and reap the consequences. What could people possibly gain? I thought that everyone suffered the same psychological pain that I did when facing being caught in a lie. My brain was a very black and white place where if I made even one mistake my value as a friend, daughter, coworker, and human being went down to zero. This is what my brain was like:
I'm using the past tense because I'm moving beyond that now. I still don't really understand why people lie, but it's becoming a little clearer to me now that my brain isn't quite so crazy. I no longer live in a stress-filled mindscape where I have to quadruple-check all information and plan for every possible contingency and exception before asking a simple question. I still have trouble with it, but it's manageable now. I'm able to sort out what parts of my attitude towards truth is related to my brain chemistry and what part is related to my character.
Telling the truth is still very important to me. I can't handle friendships with people who lie constantly because even if the lies are harmless the act of lying sends messages. For me, telling the truth is respectful. It tells me that you respect me and whatever relationship we have, whether professional or personal. My supervisor always tells me the truth. One week she forgot to schedule the taxis that take my fellow ALT and me to school. She owned up to it and apologized. Contrast this with some taxi companies who have lied (and gotten caught) about her not having sent them the schedule. My supervisor respects me enough to own up to her mistakes; the taxi company doesn't care about my supervisor, the BOE, or me. If someone lies to me it sends a message that the person thinks one of three things about me: I'm too stupid to figure out I've been lied to, I'm too weak to challenge them on it even if I do figure it out, or I'm so unimportant to them that even if I do figure it out and challenge them it doesn't matter.
A speaker came to my University once and talked about how stupid it is to preach tolerance since tolerance at best is still barely civil. "Hello, I tolerate your existence" isn't a very warm sentiment; it's barely above ice! This speaker instead talked about respect. It may be clichéd, but it really resonated with me. I do my best to respect others and surround myself with people who respect me. That's me talking, not my anxiety, and I really enjoy being able to tell the difference.