I was in the shower.
For 30+ years I had been struggling with feeling like a loser. I have come to realize that many of us struggle with self-esteem issues, but as I reflect, it seems apparent now that I had a very jaded view of myself and was prone to believe I was an outsider in society. As a hyperactive child I was constantly being belittled by adults. In high school I did not develop physically like other teenage boys. Skinny, I still had fat deposits instead of pectorals. As an adult I chose to enter a career designed and maintained by pseudo-introverts, politically correct personality types. Believing I could never fit in, that my temperament was somehow ‘flawed’ it became easy to act like a rebel, an outsider. I took pride in the fact that I was different, controversial, an opinionated and unbending ass at times.
So I was in the shower…
Every now and then there is a moment of clarity not induced by Percocets or Cheetos – an epiphany that stays with a person. Some people have them in church, others at a retreat, or in nature, or at a moving play – I had my life changing event while soaping areas you don’t want to know about. While there is a certain romance in believing that I suddenly realized something, that I had an epiphany, the facts would determine otherwise. The moments of reflection in those wet moments were born out of a lifetime of insecurity and reflection.
It is easy to believe that events are born in a vacuum, that they just “happen”. Malcolm Gladwell, in his book “Outliers”, argues that vacuums rarely happen. Bill Gates didn’t just come up with the Microsoft phenomenon by himself, overnight. He was the product of a myriad of circumstances that converged to produce a great idea. In his words, “Superstar lawyers and math whizzes and software entrepreneurs appear at first blush to lie outside ordinary experience. But they don’t. They are products of history and community, of opportunity and legacy. Their success is not exceptional or mysterious. It is grounded in a web of advantages and inheritances, some deserved, some not, some earned, some just plain lucky – but all critical to making them who they are. The outlier, in the end, is not an outlier at all.” (Gladwell, 2008)
That day in the shower I realized that I had spent my whole life feeling bad about who I was. I had ample evidence to support my feelings of inadequacy and the experiences of life only served to confirm that I did not measure up. But in that moment it came to me “all of a sudden” that I was supremely tired of being hard on myself. Yes I may be a marginal personality, but surely this was not wholly a bad thing. What if it was ok to like myself, in spite of glaring faults and shortcomings. I had spent years feeling inadequate and seeking to change myself (with only limited success), but with what result? In spite of countless hours and attempts to change my fundamental self I still remained largely the same person – extroverted, opinionated… marginal.
That day I decided I would no longer fight to become something I could not be. No longer would I apologize for what I could not change and berate myself because I was not like other, more seemingly stable, people. I was done.
I wish I could say I have never had occasion to feel bad about who I am again, but alas some battles continue to be lost and won for some time. I do know, however, that I was fundamentally changed that day. Like all of us I have had my fair share of insecurities and feelings of worthlessness. I have many people who can and have lined up to tell me what kind of disappointment I have been. It is easy to believe them… but not today.
- Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell and What it Means for Health and Weight Loss (sweetaccountability.wordpress.com)