Self-Erasure: Mental Health Awareness Month

Ho, boy.

I’ll be honest, when people complimented my autism post with things like “this must have been so difficult for you to write!”, I didn’t understand what they meant.

My autism diagnosis and online reading about it was a positive experience for me. I finally had words and a way to explain how I felt and how I saw the world. Writing about it made me feel empowered and understood – so writing a post about the good side of autism was not difficult for me.

It was the same with the anxiety one. It was relatively easy to write. I am an anxious critter – anxiety and autism usually go hand in hand, so that made sense, right? No reason to call off the sunshine picnic!

Then I started writing this post and…

I now understand why people find it difficult to write about their mental health.

This piece of crap had me in tatters. I had to look at parts of myself that I have taught myself to subconsciously and consciously avoid. It made me feel like a wounded animal, and like a wounded animal – I wanted to cover up the painful parts and hide them from the world.

So enjoy this messy trip down I-don’t-even-know-where as I angst out about an impending event. In many ways quite possibly the worst imaginable event in any person’s life if they struggle with self-erasure.

Down The Rabbit Hole

I wasn’t going to post any more mental health stuff this month. After all, I had already covered my autism and my anxiety, and Mr. E’s brain chemistry is not my story to tell. So I was done, right?

Except, in a moment of weakness, I posted a question, asking how you could work on being less self-conscious. The awesome Victoria from Debts To Riches had the time and patience to indulge me, and she provided kind, useful advice.

Her blog has some really kick-ass stories you should totally go check out – like this, this and this one.

But throughout the course of the exchange, I was reminded of something I have known for years, but never thought to write about: I have some serious issues with being in the main person at any event. These are not just pre-presentation jitters – these are violent aversions.

Different Spotlights

Now, at least in my mind, there are two kinds of “spotlight”. The first is scripted spotlight – you hold a speech, perform a musical piece, defend a thesis, make a presentation, etc. This kind of spotlight, although still somewhat nerve-wrecking, I don’t have as much issue with. There is a script to follow and I follow it, more or less.

It is the non-scripted spotlight that really makes me want to scream and run away. The “make a circle and sing the birthday song” kind of spotlight (I still refuse to tell people my birthday because of this primary school horror), the “social mingling” at parties and things like… weddings.

Things without recipes to follow – things with a thousand, thousand social norm ravines for me to fall into.

I have wanted to call off the engagement at least a hundred times already, and it is not because of the vows or any doubts regarding whether or not Mr. E. is the right man for me.

It’s that god-damn forsaken party we have to throw.


If it were up to me, we would head down to the town house, sign some papers, get some added legal benefits, go home, have some cake and call it a day.

But Mr. E. loves his family very much and could not imagine going through with such an event without gathering his loved ones.

I can respect his viewpoint.

I just really don’t want to be the main character, which societal norms tells us the lucky couple are. We have joked about Mr. E. donning peacock feathers or something totally out there just to pull most of the attention to himself – that madman wouldn’t mind.

Cinderella Syndrome?

I never wanted to be a princess growing up.

I dreamt about being a servant – or a slave. Preferably an oppressed one so that I could fight my way to freedom through my imaginary wit and cunning! At least that was how it went in my endless daydreams. Always starting from someplace horrible and then getting away, time and time again.

I have helped pull off 100+ people events either in the kitchen, as a waiter, or just general chaos control. I revel in being the shadow behind the curtain, the ghost who just makes everything flow smoothly. The person in the lab who knows all the instruments and can teach you how to use them.

I grew up wanting to be a ghost, or a shadow. I felt like one anyhow.

I suppose you could look into my childhood and find some reasons there, but honestly, I try not to poke around with psychology into my childhood. See wounded animal comment way up there. It happened, now I am here.

In an attempt to follow Bitches get Riches’ good example, I tried to do some research into self-erasure, so I could put in some useful links. I didn’t get further than this post before I felt sick and had to close the tabs.

Let Me Be A Shadow

If you enjoy parties and navigate social occasions with ease, you will probably not be able to imagine the sheer, distilled dread and horror I feel just at the thought of having to perform, without a script, in front of a crowd or in a party – especially more formal ones, as I’ve never really been to one.

I don’t know what to say, I don’t know how to smile or pose, I don’t know how to mingle fairly and shit – my brain is running off elsewhere.

I have helped feed over 200 viking reenactors at once. The worst part is not all the work, it is when people insist on pulling the kitchen staff in front of everybody and giving applause. It is the single worst part of any event.

So when I say I would much rather be in the kitchen at my wedding than being a clown in a fancy dress – it is because I mean it. Even if people don’t take me seriously.

Because it’s “your” day, right? You’re supposed to be ecstatic about it.

PS: I do realise that the wedding itself is not the actual problem here. It is just a manifestation of a deeper issue or some such phrasing.

How Does Self-Erasure Affect Personal Finances?

In my experience, it affects it negatively.

If you are prone to self-erasure, it can be difficult to stick your head out and see the value of your own work. This makes it easier for other people to take credit for your work, or for people to not actually see all the work you do – which can actually lead to negative feedback and performance reviews,, regardless of your workload. Here is an example from my own job:

Supervisor: “I hear you are running the instrument on your own by now – that’s great!”
Engineer: “Oh yes, she is completely independent by now.”
Me: “Oh, I wouldn’t say that, I still call for engineer whenever there is an error message.”

This constant professional downplay is something a lot of women struggle with, so we are not alone in that regard, but it does affect you negatively over time when you get passed over for that promotion or even that job, full stop, over someone with less mastery of skill, but more confidence in their perceived mastery.

Excessive Thanks

I am not used to other people doing things for me. So when they do (even if it is their job), I will shower them with thanks, perhaps a bit too profusely.

While it is not a bad thing to be grateful at work, it can be a problem if you do it too much. Much like apologising too much, which women are socialised to do, it tends to read as unprofessional or uncapable by male peers who are socialised very differently.

Other issues can be not taking advantage of your workplace perks or reimbursements, making you pay out of pocket for things you technically shouldn’t because it’s “not a big issue” or filing for the reimbursement feels like “too much hassle for too little”.

Minimising yourself might have been a useful and necessary survival skill growing up – but it is doing you no favours in the dog-eat-dog world of most workplaces.

Also, and this should probably go without saying, but you’re at risk for less-than-healthy relationships, which could have devastating effects for both yourself and your personal finances.

Positive Vibes?

How do you move on and move past a childhood that promoted self-erasure?

I don’t know. But I imagine moving away and finding a new, positive social circle has a lot to do with it. If you have any idea of other things that might help, please do let me and the readers know in the comment section.

All I can say is, if you have ever felt this way – I see you, and you are not alone.

Dealing with, and understanding self erasure #mentalhealth

10 Comments on “Self-Erasure: Mental Health Awareness Month

  1. Being a shadow in real life while being brave and victorious in daydreams is the best! I used to day dream a lot as a kid. And I wanted to be wall paper, unnoticed. So I get it.

    I sense you are looking for general conversation on self erasure, but is this also focused on wedding traditions right now? Wondering since general tips… are great and general but my thoughts may be a little different if it’s wedding.

    • I think any conversation on self-erasure is good. I used the wedding for many examples because I don’t like digging up old stuff.

      Honestly, I was surprised to see that there was not a lot of stuff about self-erasure online. There was the one post I linked to, and a handful of forum threads and some books you have to pay for. There is a lot more on non-heteronormative erasure – like bisexual erasure, asexual erasure and functionality erasure. But on this, there was almost nothing. Which is ironic in some ways, I suppose.

      • Agree any conversation is good. I was wondering if the wedding was the main thing where strategies were needed right now.

        To be honest, I haven’t come across the term self-erasure before. I think this has hidden between impostor syndrome and shyness. Maybe that’s why.

        I had the same issue with my wedding last fall. I had a niece that was in a princess phase and was adorable, so I just designed the whole thing that put her front and centre. Because we did want to gather family for a two grandparents in their 90’s.

        • That is probably a good reason. Imposter syndrome has really seen a rising awareness lately, which is great!

          Designing it around a younger family member sounds like a great idea! We don’t have anyone in that phase in either of our families at the moment, but I’m sure we could find some way to make that work!

  2. As someone who doesn’t enjoy many social settings too, and who has had awkward wedding experiences, I found my own wedding more comfortable than being an attendee at other weddings. For the ceremony itself, it was more on the person conducting the ceremony with just the I do, signing, and kiss required at the right parts from us. Then we got to go away for awhile for some pictures with immediate family and the wedding party. Pictures were by a friend and colleague, so less stressful than if the photographer was not someone we knew.
    We did a picture PowerPoint for the reception, but no formal speeches – just a quick thank you to everyone in the room for coming from the podium with mic, and also circled around the tables to thank people for coming – yikes – but not so bad because everyone knew who we were, so it wasn’t like some other wedding where other people at your table might not know who you are and it seems overwhelming to explain. The part about it being your day is true in the sense that you can do things as you want them done, but also overhyped in some ways. I felt like a well-dressed host of a big event, in a good sense. People at a point did their own thing and visited amongst themselves, ate, danced etc.
    I won’t lie, I’m glad to be done still, but I hope overall people felt included and had a good time. Best of luck.

    • Thank you for your insight, Karin. Perhaps seeing it as being a well-dressed host is not a bad way to think about it. We haven’t actually made any definite plans yet. It is on our list after the general chaos and mayhem of summer, but as much as possible, I hope to keep it as low-key and casual as possible.

  3. I wonder if doing the courthouse wedding, like you describe, and then later throwing a big party for family might make it a bit easier? Less of a “wedding” and more just a group event?

    I keep pushing off my anxiety post, but I think I need to write it. Thanks for the constant inspiration not to hold back about the hard stuff.

    • Yeah. It would be the courthouse first in any case, as neither of us are religious. We have looked at venues near our home town (old grandparents/great grandparents). There are not a whole lot of them, but there is one with this really dark wood, 18th century pub feel that looks really cosy/safe.

      Happy to be of inspiration. It’s amazing how many of us there are, once you look behind the mask. 🙂

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