There are few topics I’ve covered that are more likely to incite discomfort in the reader than this one. In this culture we preach a constant gospel of self love. We learn that it’s almost an evil thing to hate yourself, to feel anger at yourself. It’s even infected our school systems!
But here’s a very hard truth: some of us can’t and don’t have high self esteem.
I certainly don’t. Quite the opposite, I have very low self esteem. Why wouldn’t I? I’m a childhood bullying victim with a cluster of mental conditions. I’m very hard to like! I’m constantly anxious. I obsess about stupid things. I’m brusque to the point of being rude. Looking at my life is to see how I’ve wronged people and erred.
The problem with all of what I’ve just said is I’m certain every one of you thought one of two things. Either “oh, you’re not that bad” or “you just want attention.” Neither is true. I’m not seeking sympathy. I don’t want attention either. I’ve found if I want attention, I’ll try to do something positive. After all I have low self esteem! I don’t want to call attention to the things I dislike.
No, here is what I want: I want to vent. We all have things we don’t like in the world. One of mine is myself. I want to talk so I can get these ugly feelings out of my soul. I want to be rid of these feelings the same way another person wants to get rid of their fury at their job.
Why do I feel this way? I laid out the causes above but the core of it lies in my childhood. I was surrounded by a society that made me feel like I wasn’t good enough because I was and am an outcast within it. No matter how old you get, how far you outgrow it, it leaves scars. No, I still don’t feel good enough. The fact that I’m error prone doesn’t help. I still feel intensely the humiliation every time I mess up. I am still trying to grover feelings that dogged me for half of my life.
And maybe that’s impacted me in other ways. I’ve never pursued my writing fully because I’m certain it’s terrible. I’m not good enough to be a professional. I don’t trust my own opinions at all. I think there is more I could do and be than I am now but I don’t think I deserve it.
Of course, many of you reading this will point out how good my life is. Of course it is. I love my wife. I enjoy my job. I’ve got so many stressors but ok. My life is good. It doesn’t matter though.
See, this feeds back into the obvious situation of mental illness. I am openly a depression sufferer and my low self esteem is inextricably linked to it. Of course I feel the worst about myself when I’m feeling awful about everything. Why wouldn’t I feel the worst about the thing I can’t escape?
I consider how I feel perfectly normal. Most of society doesn’t. In point of fact, right thinking society sees no trouble mocking the low self esteemed. I can’t even count how many jokes I’ve heard or parodies I’ve seen. All it does is reinforce the stigma that what I think is wrong. There winds up being a vicious cycle. I feel bad about feeling bad about myself.
As much as I feel defensive about this subject, the truth is I know it’s not healthy to feel the way that I can feel about myself. I can’t and shouldn’t live like that. It drains me. I don’t need to think I sweat gold but I need to feel better just for my own stability.
I have to focus on things that I am proud of. These include this very blog you’re reading. I have yet to read anything I’ve written here and cringe. I know I’m a damn good critic as well. I love my podcast I do. These are small things.
Like everything this will wax and wane. There will be periods I’m prouder of my life than not. Life is a spectrum. This I stress.