Confessions of a Chronic Flaker

ConfessionsofaChronicFlaker

Sometimes we wonder what other people say about us when we’re not listening. Behind our backs, so to speak. We wonder what they think about us, when and if they do think about us at all, and who they share those thoughts with. I know this isn’t just me, because society is in many ways built on this kind of question, many of us performing the way we do (and make no mistake–we are all performing) based on who is looking. And sometimes, we can make good guesses about what other people say.

As an adult I’ve become known for my likelihood to flake out of an engagement, especially of the social sort. And it is as frustrating for me as it is for people that I cancel on. (I know this, because in some sort of oxymoronic turn of life, I am deeply annoyed by flaky people, so I know how you guys feel when I cancel.)

Though the actual circumstances may vary, what usually happens is, essentially, that I become so anxious about one or more elements of the pending even that I decide I just can’t face it. Maybe I don’t know the way, or I have to drive through a particularly confusing part of the city. (Driving is a huge anxiety trigger for me. I hate driving, especially in this city full of potholes, one-way streets, minimal parking lots, and no left turns.) Maybe I’m going to see a lot of new people, or I’m going to be in an unfamiliar place. Maybe I can’t find anything to wear that doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable or unattractive. Maybe the event will require me to talk a lot, or maybe it’s going to take a long time. Maybe I’m just out of energy. Sometimes it’s several of those things combined.

At some point, I start to feel like it’d just be better if I didn’t go. But then, I have to notify the person that I’m standing up that I won’t be there after all. This makes me even more anxious. I start wondering if they’ll be mad at me for inconveniencing them or if they’ll feel as though I don’t want to be around them. I wonder about plausible excuses for cancelling.

If it’s a bad day, then I decide to cancel plans. If it’s a really bad day, then I might send an e-mail or text cancellation instead of calling. If I do call, I hope that the person I’m calling is busy so that I can leave a message instead of talking to them. (Phones also activate my anxiety. I have significant hearing loss in one ear, and I tend to mumble a bit, so phones cause more confusion for me than straight-forward text.) The closer to event-time that this happens, the worse I feel about the cancellation.

And then, after I cancel, I feel sad and worried. Undependable. Flaky. Lazy. Isolated.

Meanwhile, it is entirely possible that the person I’ve cancelled on is thankful for some extra time on that Netflix binge or that they’re so busy with other things they haven’t had time or inclination to really notice my absence. In fact, this is probably quite often the case–because if it’s true that we wonder what others think of us, it’s also true that they don’t think of us as often as we suppose they might.

We occupy larger parts of our own imaginations than those of others. The shadow of our own failings, much like the light of our successes, falls heavier over our own selves than others.

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Comments

  1. says

    I cancel a lot for physical reasons. I know a lot of people have the kind of anxiety issues you describe here, and generally, when someone cancels, I cut them slack and don’t think much of it. I hope your friends and family would do the same for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      I think they do, usually, but I’ve also changed a few things about the way I approach things—one is that I’m no longer reluctant to mention my anxiety issues, whereas before there were a lot of people who didn’t really know that was an issue; and the other is that I’ve learned to just say no more often, which keeps me from feeling overwhelmed a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. says

    “it’s also true that they don’t think of us as often as we suppose they might.” Yup. Pretty much this.

    And hey, I have significant hearing loss in my right ear, which ear is it for you? I also tend to mumble too and can you believe I did phone customer service? That was brutal.

    And sending you some hugs. (((hugs)))

    Liked by 1 person

  3. says

    I think most people are more understanding than you’d think. At least I hope they are. I totally get social anxiety, especially around big groups of people. I used to flake out a lot because of not feeling comfortable in the clothes I was wearing or not being able to find something decent to wear. I’ve kind of overcome that by making sure my wardrobe is generally really comfortable. Luckily, loose fitting clothing is in, and for me will stay in, cause that’s what I feel comfortable wearing on most days.

    Sending you a virtual hug.

    My confession: I considered not going to London for the Bloggers Bash at the last minute cause I started freaking out in my head. Of course, I’d already had all the tickets and everything planned, so I didn’t let myself flake out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      I’ve started to be more open about my anxiety and to say no to things that I really don’t feel comfortable with far more often than I once did, and those things help a lot. It can still be a challenge, but I try to keep to commitments these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. says

    “Sometimes we wonder what other people say about us when we’re not listening. Behind our backs, so to speak. We wonder what they think about us, when and if they do think about us at all, and who they share those thoughts with.”

    This was my preoccupying thought for years. As a result, I turned into a total shut-in, so that there would be no reason anyone would — or even *could* — say anything about me, because they wouldn’t know I existed. (Ironically, it may have led to worse behind-the-back talk, because suddenly I was “that creepy lady next door who never leaves”.)

    I’m still trying to properly return to society…

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Being socially anxious is a big challenge…Especially if you’ve actually been hurt by people close to you at some point, and most of us have. I’m working on trusting the people close to me and not worrying about the others, but that takes a lot of time.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kathleen Howell says

    I can relate to this on so many levels! Haha.. I too, agree that most won’t think too much of it. Life gets extremely busy for everyone.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. says

    Perhaps taking time to think over whether the event you’re invited to is something you really want to go to – before you say you will go – would help ease all of this anxiety you’ve expressed.

    If someone invites you somewhere or to an event, there’s nothing wrong with saying “I’m not sure, let me get back to you tomorrow” and then spend some time to think about all of the possibilities that you worry about last minute and have to cancel.

    This way you can let the person know from the get-go that you’re not coming, and save yourself a lot of worry and stress ❤

    I used to cancel all of the time, for some of the same reasons as you've listed above – being scared to drive to the location, being scared of being in a group/crowd of people I didn't know, etc. Now If it's something of that sort, I just say I can't go.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      I have started to say no more often, and that’s helpful because I don’t feel overwhelmed. At the same time, I have to not say no too often, or I’ll end up a shut-in!

      Liked by 1 person

      • says

        This part is true, I’ve unfortunately learned that the hard way. I get my feelings hurt from time to time seeing friends out to dinner and I received no invite. Thing I suppose I assume they know and I shouldnt, is that I want to be invited to low key things like dinner, or a hangout at someone’s house. It’s the things like bars and clubs and such that I’ll say no to. Oh well, c’est la vie I suppose

        Liked by 1 person

        • says

          I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had that happen, but I imagine that it would sting quite a bit. But bars and clubs are definitely triggers for my anxiety, so I try and pace myself and only make plans to go to a bar or club if there’s an event happening that I’d like to go to. That’s easy enough since Sam knows lots of folks in the burlesque and performance scene here. I’d like to get to know some of those people better actually, but we live very different lives. They do make my Facebook newsfeed amazing though!

          Liked by 1 person

  7. says

    I still have panic attacks, albeit they are milder now, when it comes to driving somewhere I’ve never been before. Plus, parking anywhere in New Orleans is a huge anxiety trigger for me.

    At some point in my twenties, however, I tricked my mind into embracing the anxiety. Whenever I started to feel it bubbling up inside me and building into something that could potentially make me cancel/bail/flake, I told myself that it just meant that I was stepping outside of my comfort zone which meant I was growing my comfort zone to be even larger. Who doesn’t want to be comfortable in a larger sense?

    I’ve definitely bailed on my fair share of events, but it is hurtful to have it done to you. It does feel like that person thinks very little of you and your feelings and is only concerned with their own comfort levels. We all have to go to things we aren’t particularly eager to go to, that’s life. So I’ve strived to never let anyone feel that way because of my actions, if it can be helped. Like Awkward Babble says, if I don’t want to go, like really want to go or feel like I HAVE to go (such as family functions), then I just don’t agree to going in the first place. However, never agreeing to go to ANYTHING because you may flake out means you’ll never grow that comfort zone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      I still hate driving around here, but the GPS on my phone has helped me to feel more comfortable. If I don’t feel like I’m going to be lost, I don’t find driving quite as anxiety-ridden, but I still get nervous about other stuff—parking, for instance, as you mentioned.

      I started just saying no to things at some point, and then I let that mostly take-over. At this point, I’m working on finding a balance between always saying no versus always saying yes and then cancelling. It’s gotten easier now that the people I know don’t always want to go to a bar…I always feel compelled to drink too much at a bar, especially in a crowd. It’s not a good scene for me, though I can go into them more now that I’ve put some time between me and the binge drinking, but if we’re going to a bar I’d mostly like it to be for a show or something, not just to go. And not feeling so uncomfortable about driving (because of GPS and whatnot) helps too.

      Like

  8. says

    “We occupy larger parts of our own imaginations than those of others.” Amen to that! I was once told by a very wise person “Nobody ever does anything because of YOU.” People do things and feel things of their own accord, independent of us. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. says

    I can so relate to this post. It feels awful, but I’ve been sharing more articles about anxiety and depression lately with family and friends, hoping that they will understand I’m not so much a flake as I am someone who is struggling with her issues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • says

      Yeah, I get frustrated with the “well just do it anyway” mentality. No one would tell someone with cancer that they were shitty for cancelling if they didn’t feel well, and while my mental disorder may not *look* like a physical illness, I am still chronically ill.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. says

    People flaking out is a sore spot with me.
    And it’s an ongoing issue with my b/f’s family. Both his mother and sister are horrible for cancelling last minute!
    Some days I itch to bet him as to which one will cancel and what the excuse will be! I don’t but boy do I want to! Especially when it’s happened 3 times in a row!
    I try not to but there ARE some circumstances which demand it. The last time I can remember cancelling was when I was on my way out of country for my Mom’s funeral 8 years ago!
    That doesn’t mean there aren’t times I WANT to flake it but I hate disappointing people and it’s usually a social engagement where I volunteered to help in some capacity.
    Sorry, didn’t meant to rant but like I said, sore spot.

    Like

    • says

      it was a sore spot for me for a very long time, and then I got a busy life and an anxiety disorder, and I understood why sometimes people flake out a lot and how anxiety-inducing it can be even to call someone and cancel.

      Like

      • says

        I understand 🙂 but I would rather avoid the anxiety induced by even thinking about cancelling :), then again, each of us is different.
        If the thought of going causes more anxiety than thinking of cancelling I’ll cancel.

        Liked by 1 person

        • says

          Certainly. There’s also a big difference between normal anxiety and having an actual disorder that causes panic attacks. Normal anxiety is fine and can be dealt with, swallowed down in favor of attending whatever event. Panic attacks aren’t easy to stave off, and sometimes “I don’t have the mental energy” is a really legitimate reason not to do something.

          Like

          • says

            Gotcha. I’m not diagnosed or anything but I’ll do just about anything short of cutting off a limb to avoid those damn anxiety/panic attacks!
            Cowering on the step out front of the store because the store was too crowded, which meant I didn’t have easy access to an exit, is SO not my idea of a great Saturday afternoon.
            And concerts? Not gonna happen!

            Liked by 1 person

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