While researching BPD, trying to understand the cognitive aspect of this illness a little better, I came across an article with a check list of the thought process that the minds of many borderlines go through (BPD Central). As I read through that article, I quickly found it to be relatable because I identified with eight out of the eleven thought processes that were listed. Therefore, I decided to create a blog series for each one so that I could focus on the ones that I identified with and elaborate on them. Although they’re all listed in numerical order on the website, I decided to skip around for each one that I’m writing about since it really depends on my mood when I write.
I want to use this first blog post of this series to write about two of the abnormal thought processes that were mentioned in the article. I have to remind whoever is reading this, that these thoughts are distorted and often deluded, therefore they shouldn’t be seen as an accurate reflection of what’s happening in actual reality, but instead what is seen through the eyes of a borderline’s reality.
The first one I want to write about is this one:
“If people love me, there must be something wrong with them.”
Those words literally jumped off my computer screen at me when I first read them. I suffer from this line of thinking a lot. I’ll explain. As a borderline, I have a very fragile sense of self-worth along with a shaky amount of low self-esteem. These two mental attributes aren’t necessarily the best combination. It’s one of the reasons why I never really trust that people actual like, care about, or love me. I’ll give you an example.
A few months ago, I was at work, and one of my customers started flirting with me. He seemed genuinely interested in me and, in the most subtle way possible, he even asked me out on a date. Naturally reserved and not ready for dating yet, I was internally panicking and freaking out, trying to think of the best way to evade him. Thankfully, one of my co-workers quickly brushed him aside, preventing me from having to decline his offer.
Shortly after that encounter, I began to think along these lines. “That guy…he was so beautiful. But why would he be interested in me? I can’t believe someone like him would love someone like me. It’s not possible…Of course it’s not possible, I’m so ugly. It was probably a joke. His friends probably dared him to ask me out on a date, or maybe he even made a bet with them. Now they’re probably laughing their heads off at me. He probably just wanted to use me anyways. No one could ever be interested in me. I don’t know why I even thought for a second that someone could ever want to date me.”
He returned a few days later asking about me to one of my co-workers, but I was so scared that I hid in the employee break room until he left.
I had convinced myself that the only reason that he could possibly be interested in me was because he had bad intentions. I didn’t even talk to him or get to know him, but my thoughts had so passionately convinced me that he was a player in the form of prince charming, that I didn’t give myself a chance to get to know him.
An individual with a healthy sense of self-worth and a stable cognitive process, most likely would have been flattered by the intention, accepted the offer, and if they contained any suspicions at all, may have still accepted, but been slightly vigilant and on guard, until they got to know the person a little better. However, in my case, I immediately came to the conclusion that there was something wrong with that person and I didn’t even give them a chance.
When I read, “If people love me, there must be something wrong with them.”, that experience was the first thing that came to mind.
Moving on, the second distorted thought process from that website that I wanted to write about was this:
“If anyone really knew me, they would hate me.”
This can actually fall under so many different umbrellas and fit into a various amount of different categories, however I’m going to write about the one that exclusively relates to me.
I have an extremely hard time being myself. Depending on the environment I’m in, I often look at those around me for the correct social cues on how to conduct myself and then once I observe what’s accepted by the majority, I quickly conformed myself to what’s popular. I think the best way to describe it is that I’m very chameleon like, and often change who I am depending on who I’m with.
Borderlines have a very unstable self-image. The average person has core beliefs that they stick to and abide by, regardless of other’s thoughts and opinions, therefore they can relatively maintain the same core values and beliefs without having them hindered by outside forces. For example, if someone’s core belief is “stealing is bad” then one day they meet someone who makes fun of them for believing that, then they’re most likely to ignore that person and stick to their original belief. On the other hand, if this would have happened to a borderline, they’d be undergoing a full identity crisis, thinking, “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe stealing isn’t so bad. There must be something wrong with me. He’s probably right.” Then they’d easily have their opinion swayed, as a desperate attempt to fit in a please the person they’re talking to.
Borderlines fear any type of rejection, therefore they often change everything about themselves depending on their environment. For example, if they’re in a class full of students who enjoy studying, they quickly pick up on this and exhibit similar qualities of these students making it appear as though they enjoy studying too, even if in reality they have no interest in it. Another example would be, if they make a new friend who has a deep interest in punk rock music, they’ll pretend that they like punk rock music as well, even if they secretly hate or have never even listened to it. This is one of the reasons why calling a borderline a chameleon is almost the perfect metaphor.
Getting back on track now, as I stated earlier, “If anyone really knew me, they would hate me.”
This is something I struggle with a lot. I am indeed a chameleon and often change who I am depending who I’m around or where I’m at. I have so many examples from my life that can explain this, but I’ll pick just a few to demonstrate this point.
Awhile ago, at school, I joined an extra curriculum club and one of the members of the club caught my attention. They were extremely jovial, funny, sincere, helpful, and definitely someone you’d want to spend a lot of time with. In my eyes, they were the perfect person (I didn’t know it then, but I was idolizing this person which is another BPD symptom, but I have to write about that in another post hopefully some other day). I desperately wanted to be their friend. I wanted to know everything about them.
After managing to have a few conversations with them, I learned a few things about them, such as the music and movies that they were interested in, and I also learned about a few of their hobbies. As soon as I gathered this information, the construction of my new self began. I binged watched all of the movies that they liked, I listened to every song by the groups that they loved, and I even started beginner lessons for their hobbies (They were interested in football and basketball, but I didn’t know a thing about sports, so I spent all day on the internet reading about the rules to those sports and familiarizing myself with the most popular teams). I have to admit that everything they were interested in was of no interest to me. I hated all the movies they liked, their style of music wasn’t my preferred genre, and I also wasn’t too particularly interested in their hobbies. However, none of that matter, because I wanted them to like me so badly that I was literally changing myself for them.
In the core of my heart, I didn’t care about those things, but I made sure that externally I appeared extremely passionate about those things. I would do anything in order to have their friendship.
Somehow it worked, they seemed convinced that we shared the same interests. I was so happy because the only thing I wanted with them was a friendship and I didn’t care if I obtained that friendship through deception. However, whenever they would probe me for more information about myself, I would craftily evade their questions. I couldn’t tell them about me…. If they knew the real me, then they would hate me. What if I said, “I like sci-fi movies”, and they said. “Oh, I hate sci-fi. It’s too cheesy”? Then our friendship would be ruined. They would see that one difference and then our friendship couldn’t possibly be sustained (I know, this sounds really naïve and extremely ridiculous, and even writing this out, I can see the major flaw in my line of thinking back then, but this is actually what I believed at the time). In order to avoid that from happening, I could only like what they liked and I had to hate everything they hated.
This is how most of my relationships with people were like, especially if I really liked that person. I would never freely express myself because I always feared rejection, so I’d mirror everything that they were interested in, in order to please them. I basically didn’t have a personality, that is until I found someone who could help shape my personality. It’s safe to say that once I lost contact with that person, I lost interest in everything that I had invested my attention in while I had been pursing a relationship with them (If I had really been interested in those things then it wouldn’t have matter if they had been in my life. I still would have continued with them).
Another example I wanted to use is from a bit more recent experience. One of cousins recently introduced me to her neighbor who, upon meeting, I immediately took an interest in. I desperately wanted to become his friend. However, since my cousin already knew him almost a year longer than me, they were more familiar with one another, and much more closer than I could be with him, especially after just meeting him. My cousin and her neighbor already knew a lot about each other and shared similar interests. Though, I also really wanted to have a close connection with her neighbor.
I asked my cousin what steps I could take to become good friends with him, since I don’t have any social skills. She said. “Just be yourself and tell him a little about you.”
Her advice seemed simple, but for me it was truly terrifying. I thought, “Be myself? He’ll hate me if I be myself. I can’t tell him about me because there’s nothing to tell. I don’t really…like anything.”
I quickly became aware of the problem, but I didn’t mention any of these things to my cousin. Instead, I recalled how her and her neighbor had very similar interests, so I thought that if I imitated everything she was doing, then I could possible garner the same attention and affection from her neighbor as her.
Later I asked her. “Hey, can you tell some movies I can watch that your neighbor might like, so I can talk about them with him. Oh and also, what kind of clothes should I wear too. It can be anything, just as long as it’s something you might wear.” (I’m not even joking…I literally asked her this…)
I was basically trying to copy my cousin in order to win her neighbor’s approval.
My cousins laughed when I said this to her, probably mistaking it as a joke, but I was actually very serious. She laughed and said. “Don’t copy me. Just be yourself.”
“If anyone really knew me, they would hate me.”
Therefore, I don’t feel comfortable showing people, especially those who I really, really care about and want their approval, to know who I truly am. Instead, I change myself to what they like so that they accept me and I avoid rejection.
This is just one part of this blog series that I wanted to post. I can actually relate to a many more from the article, but I’ll have to post them another time hopefully.
“BPD Central.” BPD Central. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Mar. 2017.