One of the characteristics of the Avoidant is a pervasive feeling of invisibility. This is related to low self-esteem and feelings of insignificance.
One of my coping mechanisms has been my ability to express myself through writing. Prior to the advent of social media, writing was generally a non-confrontational communication method. Writers are separated from their readers, and emotional responses to written texts are muted by time and distance. For that matter, I can get angry at texts written by writers who are no longer alive to respond.
Even these days, where social media interactions can lead to instant or near-instant responses from readers, there’s still the safety of distance, as well as the ability to at least pretend to take some time to consider responses. Online conversations still lack the immediacy and commitment of face-to-face conversations or (my least favorite) telephone conversations.
One of the downsides of the written mode, though, is that readers can choose to respond or not. When speaking to someone face-to-face, a lack of response is still a response. We have a sense of who heard us speak, even if nothing is said back to us. In writing, we have little way of knowing who has read our words beyond those who explicitly say something.
And, as readers, we’re not widely accustomed to saying something when we agree. Our responses are usually most verbose when we have a point of disagreement or when we have something to add.
So for the Avoidant particularly, excelling in writing can be a useful coping mechanism from the standpoint that conflicts are far easier to manage, but because criticisms are far more likely to be communicated than agreements and because far more people might read a text than will register having doing so, written communication can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and invisibility.
What to do?
Nearly everyone who has commented has told me I’m an excellent writer. I can communicate things in text that I do not have the comfort communicating in person.
It is, again, a primary coping mechanism for me. But it means that I must take care to remind myself, perhaps multiple times a day, that a lack of response to something I’ve written doesn’t mean that nobody’s read it, or that people read it and found it lacking. Indeed, historically, I’ve found that the pieces I’ve written that get the most response are the ones where I’ve had lapses of quality or quantity (or where I specifically ask a question).
If I write something that gets no response beyond some “likes”, that could mean nobody read it, that I’m wasting my time, that I’m irrelevant… or it could mean several people read it but had nothing substantive to adjust, and didn’t feel the need to praise it.
Speaking of which….
My pathology is excellent at creating no-win situations. When I receive no praise for something I’ve written, my pathology tells me that nobody read it because I’m worthless. When I receive praise for something I’ve written, my pathology tells me that people are cynically trying to butter me up, or that they’re pitying me because they know how fragile I am.
It is time for my pathology to spend some time in the box it created for me.