“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.
Desperate For Approval
Anyone who works in the mental health industry can tell you that almost everyone struggles with crippling self-esteem for some of their life.
It is an epidemic.
We are a generation that cannot love ourselves and are intimately aware of our shortcomings. You don’t really need to tell me my faults; I have spent much more time fixated on them than you have. I know my personality quirks, some of you have pointed them out time and again. I know that I have issues, I really do. Chances are that you are keenly aware of your foibles as well.
I’m losing my hair. Actually I have been losing my hair for most of my adult life but for some reason the process has been ridiculously slow, for which I am somewhat grateful. Every now and then someone will delight in pointing out this fact to me – like I haven’t spent hours squinting in the mirror bemoaning my fate. I like to turn to them and exclaim, “I am? I did not know that!”. I turn around, pretending to try to look at the back of my head and mumble, “Are you sure?” This usually shuts them up, at least until the next time. Some of you know what I am talking about – you have weight issues, or a mole, or some physical issue you aren’t proud of. SInce you were young people have commented on your mole. Kids made fun of you. Someone has called you ‘fatty’ or ‘four-eyes’, or ugly or short or whatever. Apparently you did not know you were fat – it was awful nice of them to let you know.
I used to have a female acquaintance who seemed to derive great joy from pointing out my physical shortcomings; she thought it was hilarious. I, however, found it less than amusing. At the time I was struggling with how I looked and her cruel attempts at humour only entrenched the insecurities I already had. To this day if someone compliments me on my looks I am prone to be dismissive and blow them off. My wife, who understands me better than most, is apt to say, “shut up and take the compliment”. She’s good for me… and a redhead. I have a few other friends who know me enough to see beneath my overt confidence and realize that, like most of us, I am prone to feel bad about myself.
Growing up I was taught by an unforgiving society that any attempt at self-promotion was called “arrogance”. Telling others you were awesome was an unforgivable sin and punishable by derision and scorn. Adults told me, told you, not to brag because bragging about yourself was very, very wrong. Be humble, I was taught. People who talk about themselves are egomaniacs.
I have learned a little about ego and narcissism since those days.
“Liking yourself” is usually not a sign of an insecure and arrogant person. People who are ok with who they are do not need the approval of others and are usually not fixated with gleaning the approval of others. Self-confidence is a very good thing, when authentic. Appreciating your skills and personality, even loving yourself, is a very good thing. It’s time for someone to say it – it’s important to like who you are.
It’s time to make peace with you.
I am keenly aware that I will probably never be perfect. I am fairly certain that I am not going to be an underwear model anytime soon (hold on to that visual image…). Chances are I am never going to be famous. I might even turn out to be a bald old man some day. I’m trying to be good with that.
As I have often said on this blog, the opposite of poor self-esteem is not good self-esteem. The opposite of poor self-esteem is self-acceptance. Learning to like and appreciate who you are is perhaps the meaning of life or at least the beginning of wisdom. There is nothing you can do about your shape, beyond cosmetic changes. Most of you are going to gradually lose the fight with gravity, the older you get. You may never be rich or famous or popular.
Are you ever going to be ok with that?
There is no magic formula for poor self-esteem. There is no way you can suddenly think you are awesome when you have spent a lifetime loathing who you are. Healing begins with putting away the microscope and the unrealistic expectations. You don’t need to pretend you are something you can never be. Making peace with your shortcomings has nothing to do with thinking you are beautiful or perfect or brilliant. It has everything to do with putting down your weapons of self-destruction and refusing to let yourself fixate on what is missing. Like most things in life it’s about changing how you think, not how you look.
Married To Jesus
A true story given to me by a friend of a friend of a guy I used to know. It’s been sitting in my Inbox for some time now and I couldn’t find any good reason not to share it with you. It’s about living with a very nice Passive-Aggressive…
I used to live with Jesus, or so I thought. She was different from the people you would probably know – after all, most people don’t ever get a chance to even meet the Messiah, much less live with her. But I did.
People usually act differently in public than they do when no one is there to see what they are doing. Not Jesus. It was scary how consistent, how absolutely unflappable she was. Life is an exercise in guilt when you are married to the Holy of Holies. How do you get mad at someone who is always the same? How can you fight with someone you sometimes believe is always right? When you are married to the King of Kings it’s always your fault. Feel unloved? It’s your problem. Frustrated by her lack of empathy or the fact that she never panders to your emotional needs? Get over it, this is Jesus we’re talking about.
Living with Jesus is hard on your sense of self-esteem. After all you are clearly not worthy. People often remark, “I know why you married her but why did she marry you?” You are in love. You worship Jesus. You have a very twisted marriage.
But she wasn’t really Jesus. It wasn’t until much much later that you realized she was actually very repressed, very emotionally unavailable, distant. She was a textbook illustration of Passive-Aggressive Personality Disorder. There was a whole world of anger and pain all closely hidden from the world, hidden even from you. You literally had no idea she was even remotely unhappy. That person whom you thought was perfectly happy and reasonable was in fact a deeply wounded and angry little girl who clearly had issues with self-awareness and vulnerability. There was even what some would call a passive-aggressive arrogance – quietly confident that in every situation she was always right.
The lack of emotional vulnerability contributed to my growing sense of neediness and romantic starvation. Jesus was apparently above feeling horny or expressing romantic intention. She also did not like to throw around phrases like “I love you”. She was an island and she expected everyone else to be likewise. Years later her best friend would confess, “I really never knew her. I don’t think anyone really did”.
No she wasn’t Jesus. In fairness she never asked to be put on a pedestal. I think. I was looking for a soul mate and she was looking for a business partner.
After almost two decades of being a burden she cut me loose to go “find herself”.
She said she couldn’t stay with someone who was needy.
It has been a while now and time has given me the insight that all those years of marriage could not. It turns out I was a pretty decent husband after all. Spending every day trying to impress the Christ will do that to a person. Apparently she was not perfect, though I would never have believed it.
No one is disappointed in me today. I haven’t failed yet today.
It’s going to be a good day.
I’m Disappointed In You
Have you ever had someone in your life who seemed constantly disappointed in you? It didn’t seem to matter how hard you tried, it was never enough. Sometimes they didn’t have to even say much, you just knew – you are a loser, you will never be worthy.
I know what it is like to live with disappointment. It was a glib smile and a few words, a gentle sigh. I failed again. In my particular case it made me needy, so very needy. Dedicating every waking minute to impress, to please, to do, didn’t seem to matter. Disappointed again.
Maybe it was your dad, or your mom, a relative or a friend. For many of us it was our spouse – a wife or a boyfriend whose expectations and selfishness bruised and ultimately scarred your heart.
Poor self-esteem. Bad self-image. Feelings of inadequacy. Second-guessing yourself. Minimizing your accomplishments. Squinting in the mirror. Fear. Doubt. Self-loathing. Pain. Never good enough. Loser. Pathetic. Bitch.
On some level we all know that it is our own responsibility to feel good about ourselves. In theory. In practice, when someone whose opinion is supposed to matter denigrates and often subtly destroys our wholeness, it is very difficult to feel worthwhile. We know we are not supposed to base our self-esteem on others but how do you do that?
Quick quiz – If ten people tell you that you are beautiful and one person tells you that you are ugly, which one will you remember?
I wonder if the reason we believe the insult is because somewhere, down deep perhaps, we believe them. Many of us have been told we are ugly or fat or stupid or bald or pathetic or worthless all our lives. How can we possibly have good self-esteem now?
The truth: The opposite of bad self-esteem is not good self-esteem. The opposite of bad self-esteem is self-acceptance.
The truth is, you may always be fat. You may always be bald. Joan Rivers is scary proof that plastic surgery can only take you so far. You may be considered ugly by the beautiful. You may never go to college. You probably will never be famous. Or rich. Or even successful. And you get cry all you want and rail against the system, get angry and frustrated and die in a flaming manure-ball of bitterness. I see people every day who absolutely refuse to accept their illness, or their spouse, or their saggy boobs. I know how they feel. There are seemingly countless things I don’t like about myself. Nobody needs to point our my flaws, I see them in glaring technicolor. You don’t need to be disappointed in me, I can do quite fine on my own, thanks.
One day I woke up and realized in retrospect that I was living my life to impress someone who was incapable of accepting me or loving me for who I really was. I understood that I had been running myself sick trying to earn her love, only to hear her sigh with disapproval. I still care about this person, actually very much, but no longer feel compelled to sacrifice my soul for a smile and a nod.
Emotional wholeness rarely comes by accident.
How To Pick Up Women In Their Twenties
I am not in my twenties and do not make a habit of hitting on any women, especially not women that young. I do, however, have a very attractive and intelligent son who was more than willing to provide a few insights for this Part 2 of “How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women”.
In my first instalment I wrote about manipulating a group of women who were in their late thirties and forties. You may want to familiarize yourself with that article before going on. It has been, and remains, my most hated and revered article to date. I have received private letters, several in fact, accusing me of being abusive and misogynistic, even cruel. Read it for yourselves and ask yourself why I would do such a thing and then freely tell everyone I did so…
In this instalment I begin by recognizing that everything I am about to say may not apply to you. Like many of my articles what follows is based on generalities. Please understand I’m not talking about anyone in specific, only trends and observations which may not even be objective. If nothing else it should be interesting.
You are sitting with friends at the local bar and I can tell, because you wear it like a beacon, that you are looking for a guy. I intend to be that guy. You are not in your forties so I am not going to gush, not going to give too much away. In fact, just the opposite. Your divorced mom is looking for someone who is emotionally sensitive, someone who is going to make it all about her. That isn’t my tactic, though some of the techniques are transferable. When I first meet you I’m very interested, very charming. Initially, at least, it’s all about you. But only initially. If we have been introduced I will be nice to you for a minute or two, then move on. If we are not introduced I will make a point of ignoring you and talk to the person directly beside you. I’m not going to hit on you, I’m not needy. And that is really the point.
1. I’m not needy. I act aloof but not rude. Okay, occasionally I can even be a bit rude. I will make the obligatory conversation, but little more. While I am talking to you I may check out other women. I will talk, engage, but we are not exclusive. That is the point. Heartiste writes, “That aloofness is catnip to women. You may as well prop a neon sign over your head that says “Preselected by women who have come before you, and who are standing right next to you.” Aloofness is one of those male characteristics that women are finely tuned to discover, isolate, and hone in on, because it tells them, subconsciously of course, that THIS MAN, this one right here, has a lot of choice in women. ERGO, this man, this one right here, must be high value.” I know this because the internet is polluted with websites that teach this very thing. Confidence and self-assurance is an aphrodisiac to some females.
I don’t need you. I may or may not be interested, but I’m keeping my options open. I like myself and I don’t need anyone. I’m mysterious. It’s hard not to want what you cannot have. My strength and even dominance is very attractive. If you don’t believe me than why are so many women attracted to the bad boy? Yummy.
The social context has changed in the past few years. Women in their thirties and forties want to invite a man into their emotional world. In your twenties he invites you into his social world. As one twenty-five year old player told me today, “If you can get the girl to leave her social grouping and come over to yours you are 80% of the way into her pants.” That’s important to remember because…
2. It’s all about social context. Meet my entourage. We are not at the bar to take pictures of ourselves for Facebook. We are interesting. Come hang out with us. Let me separate you from your friends and take you out of your comfort zone. Let me introduce insecurity. After all…
3. I’m here to exploit your insecurity. I may compliment you but it is often tinged with irony or sarcasm. The unspoken point is the exploitation of your negative self-image. The trick is to not let you know I’m interested and get you wondering whether or not you are worth my time. Watch me dominate the social setting, see how I handle myself. Am I or am I not interested in you? Later, when I am very direct with you, and tell you I want to be with you, you are surprised, intrigued, complimented, and affirmed. But make no mistake, the underlying tactic is dominance (and not in a good way…). There is an interesting dichotomy at play. You want to be thought of as a strong woman but you also have insecurities. Doesn’t a part of you wish you could be taken?
Even a plain guy can confuse a beautiful woman if he acts like he doesn’t need her.
As a counselor I find this topic sickening. There are people out there, regardless of age, who use psychological and emotional manipulation to exploit the vulnerable and hurting. It usually isn’t until it’s too late that it becomes apparent that a damaged and delicate person has been exploited and often degraded. It is also unfortunate that so many women get taken in more than once. Some of us are attracted to personalities that lend themselves to narcissism and depravity. It is a sad thought that the confidence and maturity you think you are attracted to may only be a tool to tear your heart out.
Ladies, we lie to you. We believe that we understand the score far more than you think we do. If you don’t believe me ask anyone who has gotten into a relationship with a narcissist. Everything was amazing… at first. We told you what we thought you needed to hear. We held the door open, we talked about our feelings, we shared our hearts. We know you get off on that stuff. Some of us actually read about how to pick up women. We are smarter than you think.
I am often asked why I write about this topic. Sadly, it has become apparent that many vulnerable and emotionally damaged people are being treated as prey by morally bankrupt individuals who think nothing of ruining lives as long as they can get what they want. I would invite you to read some of the heartbreaking comments on the first installment of this topic here. That alone is incentive enough.
I have this crazy idea that if you know what is going on you might know a predator when he buys you a drink.
- How To Pick Up Vulnerable Women (scott-williams.ca)
- Do You Really Want A Sensitive Guy? (scott-williams.ca)
- The Biggest Complaint I Get About Men, Hands Down! (scott-williams.ca)
Imagine Me Naked
Some time ago I was cleaning up at the little club I used to run, in preparation for the evening’s events. I had been sweating, washing floors and hauling furniture. I usually bring a change of clothing. But not that day.
No one had come in for over an hour. I figured I was safe. With this in mind, behind the bar I proceeded to drop my pants in order to change into clean clothes. At that precise moment a lady walked in and asked for a latte.
Never before have I felt so close to the bar. In fact, we became one as I sought to prepare the latte without letting on that I was wearing no pants. Socks, shoes, shirt, but no pockets.
It reminds me of this bit by Seinfeld:
“Why is it so difficult and uncomfortable to be naked? It’s because when you have clothes on, you can always make those little adjustments that people love to do. Hitching, straightening, adjusting. You know, you feel like you’re getting it together. But when you’re naked, it’s so final. You’re just, ‘well this is it, there’s nothing else I can do.”
That’s why I like to wear a belt when I’m naked. It gives me something. I’d like to get pockets to hang off the belt. Wouldn’t that be the ultimate? To be naked and still be able to put your hands in your pockets. I think that would really help a lot…”
It may shock you to know that I have been in counselling. Maybe not. I once had a counsellor tell me I needed to stand in front of the mirror naked for one minute each day in order to get more comfortable with ‘me’. I told this to someone and they went “eeeew”… which did not help much.
So with all this rolling around in my noodle I continued to grind the beans, praying all the while that I would not have to move. So of course the lady blandly asked where the sugar was, it being at right angles to where I was hiding. I reluctantly told her and proceeded to push my torso inside the small floor fridge as she walked to the condiments.
As she left the club I followed her behind the bar, keeping my beautiful barrier between us until she naively walked out.
Imagine me naked. Ok, don’t. No one should have to see that. Most of us, myself included, are not in love with our naked selves. I tease my wife that she “secretly dresses me with her eyes”. One of my best friends, Jordon Cooper, says I have a “face for radio”. I am no longer as insecure about my looks as I once was, but can still testify that for most of us, physical appearance has a significant role in determining our self-esteem. My wife once pointed out to me that I was squinting while looking in the mirror at our bedroom sinks. I had no idea I was doing this but apparently was squinting in such a pronounced fashion that Annette thought my eyes were closed – a subconscious reaction to a psychological malady. Body image is a life-long issue for most of us.
A few years ago, again while naked, I had an epiphany. I realized in the shower one day that I had been berating myself all my life and was unwilling to move forward, heal, and stop the body dysmorphia. Like so many of us I wasn’t thinking about my body because I was overly proud or seeking to show it off, I was in fact transfixed on the negatives and unwilling to let the embarrassment go.
It has taken me far to long to realize that this is just a shell and no matter how hard I try or how much I whine I am only going to get older, saggier, less flexible, and probably balder. There is little, short of surgery, that I can do to arrest the passing of time.
A shell. Maybe a fat shell or a ridiculously thin shell, a hairy or bald shell, a saggy shell or a beautiful one, does it really matter? Isn’t it time that we stop letting plastic, Photoshopped, insecure skeletons or fake vampires with no nipples dictate how we feel about ourselves? It doesn’t really matter what you look like if you are healthy and can learn to like yourself. For some reason my wife thinks I am good-looking and that needs to be enough for me.
Even if she didn’t, I’m tired of jumping through hoops for a shell.
Casual Friday: Does Anybody Out There Know Who I Am?
Tony Campolo tells a story in one of his books about something that happened after World War II. There were more than 200 Frenchmen who returned to Paris suffering from amnesia. They had been in prison camps and were so psychologically devastated by their ordeal that they had lost the conscious awareness of who they were.
In most cases, their identities were quickly established, but after all that was done, there were still 32 men whose identities couldn’t be verified. The doctors who were treating them were convinced that their chances for recovery were slim unless they were connected with former friends and relatives and restored to their once-familiar settings.
Someone had an idea to help. They published photographs of the men on the front page of newspapers throughout the country, and gave a date and time when anyone having information about any of these amnesia victims could come to the Paris Opera House. Well, on the appointed day, a crowd gathered to view these war veterans who didn’t know who they were. In a dramatic moment, the first of the amnesia victims walked onto the stage of the darkened opera house, stood alone in the spotlight, and slowly turned completely around. Before the hushed audience, in a halting voice, he said to the crowd, “Does anybody out there know who I am?”
It is a profound question.
I mentioned on this blog that recently I had a Grand Mal seizure at work. Fortunately I work at a doctor’s office and two of the best doctors I have ever met were on the scene within seconds. At least that is what I was told. I don’t remember any of it. Apparently I also became physically violent at one point as well, although I wasn’t there to see it.
It is a scary thing to wake up on a gurney and not know what is happening. It is very similar to waking up from an operation with that foggy pseudo-understanding that something has happened and you should know what that is. You understand, on some level, that you shouldn’t be in an ambulance – it’s a work day. It gradually dawns on you that you don’t know where you are or for that matter, who you are.
I could not remember where I lived.
It is a bizarre thing to realize you do not know who you are.
Many of us spend our entire lives trying to find out who we are. We jump through hoops and do things hoping to be loved, only to find out that we have lost a sense of ourselves. We grew up believing we were going to be rock stars and multi-millionaires, at the very least healthy, wealthy and wise, but we aren’t, and we may not get there anytime soon. It is easy to build your identity on the wrong things, trying to impress the wrong people for the wrong reasons. It is no wonder than that so many of us have come to the conclusion that the real world is boring and life has little meaning unless we find it from within.
The older I get the more I realize that life does not hand you meaning, you have to grab it for yourself. The paltry drive to acquire more money and status is so entirely meaningless yet enticing. How many rock stars and celebrities have to kill themselves or end up in rehab before we as a people stop spending our lives wishing for something that does not heal our souls?
So who are you? As Billy Crystal says in the immortal Princess Bride, “Hey! Hello in there! Hey! What’s so important? Whatcha got here, that’s worth living for?”
- Casual Friday – Stampy The Elephant (scott-williams.ca)
- Beating Anxiety And Depression Is Possible, But It May Be More Work Than You Are Prepared To Do (scott-williams.ca)
Living My Life To Impress A Five Year Old
Many of us were damaged emotionally when we were children. We were criticized, we were belittled, we were told how to live, how to act, what to wear and how to think… by other children. Have you been to a playground lately? Have you noticed that their opinions are fairly… stupid?
Or maybe it was a relative who criticized you and turned you into an introvert, or taught you to suppress your emotions, or hide who you are. A relative you now realize is an asshole whose opinion does not matter.
So why are you still acting like he told you to 25 years ago?
Perhaps you had a parent who told you that you were an idiot, or stupid, or worthless. Twenty years later you still battle insecurity, still feel like a loser. In counseling we find out that you feel this way predominantly because of what you were told when you were a child. You now realize that your alcoholic, abusive, degenerate father is a moron.
So why do you still hear that voice in your head?
My grandmother and other relatives told me/taught me countless times that I was a mouthy, disrespectful, immature burden that should be “seen and not heard” (and preferably not seen). I grew up to live up to some of those expectations, perhaps because I believed them on some level. I have taken the time to analyze why I spent so much of my early adulthood trying to fit in, rebelling against the status quo, saying everything on my mind without filtering, etc. In spite of great parents who loved and believed in me I now believe that those relatives taught me important and dysfunctional lessons that I have spent decades trying to come to grips with. With little effort I can still hear my grandmother’s voice. My uncle’s voice.
Mental health professionals are fond of telling us that much of our psyche was formed when we were little children. It is increasingly apparent that many of us had our dysfunctional coping skills, our poor self-image, and our self-destructive tendencies formed while we were yet little people – impressionable, ignorant, socially retarded, childish little kids who had no idea how to filter out the negative and destructive messages. We heard messages and learned lessons that continue to haunt us, regardless of what we understand intellectually. We believe, on one level, that we need to “get over” our past. Making that happen, however, is a different challenge altogether.
We have been imprinted, and those tattoos do not just wash off. It is one thing to realize that you have been molded by dysfunction, it is another thing altogether to effectively break free from that influence. Those attitudes and coping skills have become a part of who you are and how you cope. You have owned them. Really you had little choice.
Every day I talk with people who have been emotionally scarred by childhood or adult friends, or authority figures, or those who were supposed to love and protect them. In counseling they begin to recognize that several of their foundational beliefs and coping mechanisms, ways of dealing with the world that they have relied on for decades, may in fact be deeply flawed. It is a horrible and humbling thing to realize that you have been living your life believing distortions about yourself and your world.
For decades you have believed that no one can be trusted, and you have proven yourself correct countless times. You have evidence to support your cognitive distortions so they must be real. Anger is the way to deal with perceived slight. Always stick up for yourself. Never give up. If you want something done you have to do it yourself. Forget about the past. Meekness is weakness. All men are assholes. All women are bitches. I’ll never get better. I’ll never be able to cope. Never let anyone see the real you. Don’t take crap from anyone. Hurt them before they hurt you. Hitting your partner is ok if I say “I’m sorry”. I won’t measure up. Yelling works. Vulnerability leads to abuse. Nothing will ever change. I’m a failure. I can’t be honest. I’m damaged goods. No one could love me. I’m a loser. The list goes on and on.
Go back to the playground. Go back to that bedroom, that old house, that church basement. Take a hard look at that abusive parent, relative, adult, child. Healing and growth begins when we realize that the voices in my head and the attitudes and coping skills I developed to protect myself may not work anymore. They may, in fact, be keeping me sick and powerless.
You don’t have to listen to him anymore. She was wrong about you. That wasn’t your fault. The coping skills you so despise in yourself isn’t your fault either. You were doing the best you could with very little information and support in a dangerous world not of your making.
It’s not your fault. Talk to someone. Time to question everything. Time to be free.
- Beating Anxiety And Depression Is Possible, But It May Be More Work Than You Are Prepared To Do (scott-williams.ca)
- Depression: How To Feel Like A Loser (scott-williams.ca)
Living honorably is something that I have had to learn throughout my life. I am very outgoing, energetic and often intense and these character traits often clash with my desire to live my life in such a way that I and others would consider worthy of honor. There is a real temptation to try to “shortcut” when facing challenges – for example doing whatever is expedient at the expense of that which is honest, honorable, imbibed with integrity. Often those with extroverted personality are given to exaggeration or embellishment in order to represent themselves in the best light possible. There is a tendency to cover ones insecurities and negative self-image with boastful claims, thereby living a life with less honor, less honesty, than one should.
For many years I have sought to practice the honorable lifestyle. As a counselor I am keenly aware of my own faults but also aware of my propensity to be overly hard on myself and therefore compensate. I also am blessed/cursed with a keen sense of introspection and often spend hours every week analyzing how I am doing, how I am coping, whether I am living my life with integrity and honor. When I was young my mantra was, “I am going to change the world.” The older I get the more I realize that changing the world begins with changing myself from the inside out. Being honorable is not about looking good but rather about being good. As I have often said, “It’s one thing to talk the talk, it’s another thing altogether to walk the walk.”
Eleven years ago I believed my life was on track. I was only a few months from testing for my black belt, was doing fine in my career, had an amazing wife and kids. But a series of misadventures occurred that changed my life forever.
Over the next few years the pain of this loss barely receded and I was forced to look inside myself and question my values, my perceived strengths and weaknesses, and my integrity in general. I realized that I had not been as self-aware as I had imagined and began the difficult task of rebuilding my life. Thus began a decade and more of self-examination and introspection with regard to who I am, how I live, and how I relate to others. I have come to realize that I must strive to live honorable every day, every moment, and not just when others are watching. Honorable living is about who I am when no one is looking, when I am alone with my thoughts, in every aspect of my life.
I have not yet become the man I hope to be someday but am attempting to live in such a way that I can be proud of who I am becoming. It is my desire that someday, on my headstone at the graveyard, someone will be able to etch in – “at least he tried”.