Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen7:30 AM
My friend dropped hints every now and then. Something stressful would come up—directing a Christmas play, maybe, or taking a PSAT test, perhaps—and even before the full impact of what was going wiped my grin off, she would worry: “Now don’t stress out, okay? You’ll do fine.”
Invariably I would. “Stress out” and “do fine” both.
But even that didn’t get my attention. Cheerily I went on stressing out and complaining over something, and another friend pointed out that “Bailey, you are a drama queen.” She’s one of those best friends who is permanently on the good list, and I adore her. If she says something in that big sister voice, I freeze and do a quick full scan.
That said, nobody is allowed to agree with me when I deprecate myself. Self-deprecation is and should always remain with “self” firmly attached in front. So I went wailing to another best friend: “She said I was drama queen!”
“Actually,” my tactful friend mused, “I agree with her.”
(Add the fact that my sister is always telling me that I’m a grump and we’ve got trouble.)
I cry when someone looks at me wrong. I freak out when my plans go haywire. I work myself into a state of frenzy or depression just for the misery of it. I can mope for a good hour or so if that’s what it takes to get attention. I am very select about what people can say about me and how they can say it—very important.
Confession: I am a drama queen. The diagnosis was short in coming but long in being taken seriously. For awhile I thought my drama queenness heart-wrenching—pity-inducing—the softness of a sweet soul cruelly entrusted with being responsible and mature. Not in so many words, of course. I would never, for instance, say that my drama was sin. A quirk of nature, yes. A unique variation of typical teenagery. An understandable woe.
Confession #1: Needy and Greedy
Drama queens thrive on attention for one reason: they are insecure. And so we keep hyberpole in our back pocket all the time. It’s essential. We are mistresses of manipulation, heartwrenchers, cry babies, hyper attention-grabbers, slaves to our tempestuous passions. It comes out in different ways—stealing attention by shock (a bald comment or uber hyper behavior), by pity (a big sigh when we’re slightly bored and in need of a hug) or by teasing (“You don't love me anymore!” [insert severely lowered lip]). Then there are the moody ones who mastered the Mope.©
Understandably, then, drama queens can be anywhere from the grouchy girl who sits and complains in a corner to the really giggly, hyper, fearless social butterfly who always holds the center of attention. The former thrives best when left drowning and alone in her own self-pity—she wants attention, certainly, but don’t expect any thanks by her. You’ll get an earful of her exaggerated woe and if you don’t put your arms around her and say, “Aw, I’m so sorry” about a hundred and one times, then you’ve failed as friend and must not love her.
In contrast, the latter needs—literally needs—active attention. She too isn’t very constant or trusting in your friendship unless you tell her every other breath. But she could not imagine sitting silent and alone. So she giggles and dominates the conversation and can be, to be fair, a very fun and imaginative person to hang out with. But her purposes are mostly self-serving and she has the unfortunate tendency to treat friends as conquests instead of humans in need of love and attention, also.
Most drama queens are a mixture of the two. I am no exception.
Case study: Two of my best friends are talking. And I am not in the conversation. I sit right next to them, don’t misunderstand, and they haven’t abandoned me. I simply am not the center of attention. They’re not even looking at me. Indeed, I’m not anything at this point except a student of the rug pattern. A wave of jealousy passes over me and along with it an ever-so-slight queasy feeling, and before I can chew my words, it flies out: “I feel sick.” My friends immediately turn to me, all attention, and I have the embarrassing predicament of trying to explain that I am quite fine, actually, without admitting that I had accidentally-on-purpose, kind of, not really lied.
And then there are all the times when I want to wrench a pitying look out of certain people, so I forget that I had a wonderful week and respond with a little sigh and a contrived list of woe hastily compiled over the weekend. I get so wrapped up in my emotions—good or bad—and they come out as self-centered tugs on people’s shirttails: “Love me. Want me. Adore me. Pretty please?”
Insecurity is to be pitied. Selfishness is not.
Confession #2: Miss Manipulation
It comes down to selfishness eventually. Drama queens, being so wrapped up in ourselves as we are, rarely stop to think that our personal insecurities demand certain actions from others. We have a slightly bad week and so we latch onto a sympathetic person and dump our problems onto their shoulders. Someone accidentally slights us—we delicately offer the cold shoulder or turn again to our manipulated sympathetic person. We experience emotions and expect people to tremble at them.
If we can’t keep our head above water, ain’t nobody coming out alive, either.
We ruin a caring friend’s week because we choose to mope and exaggerate our hurts and leave them hurting with us over nothing. And so a real problem they have goes unnoticed through our selfishness and their love. We ruin a friend’s day by launching into a diatribe on our sorrow instead of asking how their week went. And so good news that our friend was excited to share gets pushed aside to deal with another bout of self-made depression. We ruin friendships by expecting everyone to satisfy us, to calm our hearts, to smooth over our stress.
We’re immature with our own emotions and so give them to someone else—and dive into a Mood when they decide they don’t want to or can’t handle it. While flying to pieces is second nature to us, we would never dream that others can’t be perfect or “together” at all times.
We have a hodge podge of friendships for different moods that we grab off the shelf for quick and easy application. If they aren’t the perfect salve, we blame them instead of our own self-absorption. As long as we’re holding someone’s attention, we can ignore our blaring insecurity.
Confession #3: Perfection Perfected
Why insecure? I’ll tell you plain: drama queens are die-hard perfectionists. It’s a twisted version of survival of the fittest: only the perfect win out in the end. Ironically, our idea of getting the word out about our perfection is knocking holes in our temper. We constantly remind you of the fact that we too have our bad relationships, our stressful weeks, our sinful and miserable existence.
By their distress, drama queens seem so shocked at their imperfection. Nobody else doubts the fact.
We have short tolerance for our imperfections. Or anybody else’s, for that matter. When the slightest thing goes wrong, tears and frustration bang on the gate of our soul. And we have an uncanny knack of focusing on our failures. We seem obsessed with them. If we take an ACT test, we cannot get over the fact that we didn’t get a perfect score. And we won’t let anyone else get over that fact, either. Comforting a drama queen is like hugging a distressed wall. Less effective, though.
Letting something go is not an option. Every failure must be captured and analyzed. And there’s a zero tolerance policy for anything but perfection.
Confession #4: Not Good Enough
At the back of the drama queen’s palpitating heart is the fear that she is not good enough. She doesn’t believe she’s good enough so she seeks out constant attention to quiet her fear. She doesn’t believe she’s good enough so she trolls her friends for exuberant contradiction when she complains about how wretchedly awful she is.
She’s a walking carrier of lies.
Her relationship with others is very work-based; she doesn’t believe in unconditional love, for everything that comforts her is based on her own successes as an attention seeker. The social butterfly types can be fun to hang around, but as a true and everlasting friend she struggles. It isn’t that she doesn’t want to be a true friend—it’s that she’s so focused on the fact that she cannot be perfect. She becomes a flight risk to those who love her the most, as she constantly questions their devotion because she does not—or will not—understand what “unconditional” means.
Her relationship with God is rocky because it’s safer in the boat of sometimes-security than walking out on the water. She goes through peaks and lows spiritually, very, very needy and very, very afraid of letting God meet those needs. That of course would depress anyone, and so it depresses her and that depresses those who are caring for her which in turn depresses her and the vicious cycle goes on ad nauseam.
She can appear outwardly self-confident because she gathers her trophies close about her—compliments she’s earned (or even negative attention from someone she wanted to impress), successes she’s accomplished, profound things she has said, amazing things she’s done.
Or she can appear an inner slob, totally uncaring and unresponsive to people—especially the ones she loves best. She is waiting, in her tears, in her moodiness, in her silence, for someone to prove their love. To keep pursuing her. To show she’s worth it.
Confession #5: How Much Am I Worth?
In the end, the drama queen is a basketcase with a basic need: a confirmation of her worth. She can use tears or giggles to prove to herself that she is likable and can be loved and is worthy of friendship like everybody else. Thus, she can be anything from arrogant, whiny and hypersensitive to plain annoying.
She’ll do anything to believe that she is worthy.
Practicing drama queens are out of whack spiritually. Our pendulum swings because we have lost our center—Christ. We look to ourselves for confirmation and find condemnation—to ourselves for delight and find despair—to ourselves for perfection and find failure. When we look to Christ, we are centered—our pendulum stops swinging—and we have experienced a salvation, an unconditional and everlasting love that overwhelms us.
With that quieting our heart, we don’t need the attention we greedily grabbed for before.
In a Word—or Two
Despite my lengthy diatribe on the subject, I haven’t discovered the cure-all path to recovery. (And by the way, I am not liable for any attempted and failed tries at climbing out of drama. Every queen for herself. Send me your book if you figure out the road.) This I do know: the first step is to call sin sin where I formerly shrugged it off as a personality twitch.
I have amazing friends and family who have held me tight when I blubbered tears and excuses—who have listened to my long rambling stories of pain and suffering—who have looked past their own needs to look into my stormy eyes. But even without them, I have Christ—and He knows my weaknesses better than myself. Every queen needs a king, and if you are looking for stability, I recommend Him.