You Suck

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassions, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

So I was sitting in the tub this past week (cue disturbing visual image) and reading an article about “fun with semi-colons”. I’m not really a tub guy but I had a busted wing and it was either that or stink. If I had a dime for every time I’ve started an article with the line, “so I was sitting in the tub”. I have become a nerd who reads psychology and philosophy and Mental Floss. I can live with that.

My wife walked in the bathroom and upon hearing what I was reading, sardonically announced, “I have never been less attracted to you.” If I had a dime for every time…

Making fun of myself is easy. I have plenty of ammunition. I’m an expert at self-abasing, most of us are. I was birthed in Canada, where false humility is a national preoccupation. Growing up we all believed that self-promotion was sin, and bragging was something you only did if you were an American (it’s not you, it’s us) or hung out with people who had really good hair. In grade ten I had an afro so had little reason to brag. Ok, I was prone to self-promotion and I secretly miss the Fro.

It is common, although often incorrect, to assume that people are arrogant when they brag about themselves. This seems to have little foundation in any real psychology once you exclude the narcissists and the psycho/sociopaths and your Uncle Bert. For the rest of us, isn’t it true that (I got that line from a lawyer who kept putting words in my mouth during a trial I was called to testify as a counsellor at)… Isn’t it true that for most of us we tend to brag because we are actually insecure and generally feel bad about ourselves? I can sense, somewhere deep inside me, that when I lean towards self-promotion I am usually trying to convince myself and others that I am not the secondhand turd that some people believe me to be. I’m just saying, for me.

Insecure people brag. Secure people rarely feel the need. To be candid, the more I learn to accept myself the less my detractors matter. It is a testimony to this problem that at this point in the article I feel obligated to include the detraction, “I don’t mean that in an arrogant way”.

There is a measure of psychological sense to the religious confessional. When clients are trapped in the cycle of emotional self-abuse I often ask them, “Do you feel you have done enough penance yet?” There is something in most of us that is prone to continue the self-blame cycle forever. When will the day come when I have punished myself enough? Shame is a powerful and pervasive sickness that can trap a person and convince them that they do not deserve a rich life. At some point in the journey it is time to say enough is enough, forgive ourselves one day at a time, and scratch a little happiness out of life.

“Your problem is you’re… too busy holding onto your unworthiness.”    Ram Dass

This is not a self-help piece that ends with a parade and hot chocolate, although I highly recommend both with a splash of irish cream. In the real world, it is up to me alone to learn how to move beyond my own insecurities and learn to become comfortable with who I am right at this particular time. I will never be “good enough” until I learn to settle for good enough. Many of us can agree that we are sick and tired of feeling bad about ourselves.

Bragging can be a very healing and affirming thing, when done with someone who is safe and gets it. I have a few friends who really encourage me to feel good about myself. You know who you are and thank you. There is a time and a place for everything, apparently, and when was the last time you really bragged about something that matters to you? We need to be cheerleaders for our friends. In a world that constantly reminds us how we do not measure up we all need someone who is wise enough to give us a chance to crow. Everyday and in every way we are given the message that we do not measure up, we’re too ugly, too fat, or too old, or too whatever. And always not enough – not enough education or maturity, not enough love or health or understanding from a world that appears to take delight when you wipe out and they can get it on tape.

So go ahead, brag a little. You’re pretty awesome.

4 thoughts on “You Suck

  1. Well written! There’s nothing wrong with a little bragging. If we do a good job and no one acknowledges it, at least doing so ourselves can give us the boost and affirmation we need to keep going.

    Life gets cluttered and complicated, so sometimes we need to remind ourselves of our values, of what really matters to us. Maybe bragging can serve as that reminder. It seems to me that we tend to brag about what has significance to us. If someone worked out longer at the gym, and bragged about it the next day at work, it could be because he or she reached a fitness goal and needs to feel that pat on the back to affirm they’re finally doing something for their health. Maybe when someone brags that they are the first on the block to get their garden planted, it’s not necessarily that they’re in competition with the neighborhood, but maybe because it’s that “Happy!” season again to enjoy one of their passions, when they get to feel happy and good about getting outdoors, and about growing their own food and flowers. That sort of thing.

    Sometimes at work I’ve told another person about a compliment I’ve received . Maybe it’s because it’s important to me to pull my own weight, be part of the team, support my friends …and sharing the compliment confirms to myself and my co-workers that I really am doing my best.

    I have to add, though, that it is truly a blessing when others do acknowledge our accomplishments or skills or good qualities. (Now, watch me turn that around and do what you told us to do…) Yesterday I got back to work after an appointment and found a lovely red-orange Begonia on my desk, with two business cards that a couple of outside contractors had each signed with their thanks, because I’d helped them for 3 days to make appointments and manage the schedule of people coming and going, and acted as a sort of ‘secretary’ to them while they were around. It was funny because just the previous evening I had been admiring two decorative items that my sister was showing me, thinking how cheerful the red-orange colors in them were, and how I needed a little of that color in my life. Voila’…it appears on my desk for doing a good job. Yay, me. (And thanks, Universe!)

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