Liberation: This is one of those days when I am fighting the self-esteem battle hard

No need for sympathy here — I’m not fishing for love or compliments. Just trying to document this so I can look at it. One of the biggest obstacles to writing for me is the chorus of voices in back of my mind that chant, you are stupid, you are unworthy, you’ve never had an original thought, who do you think you are to think you can write, you are incompetent, lazy, ugly, unkempt, disorganized. That chorus was really loud today and I am writing down the reasons here so I can fight against them in future.

  • It’s late January / early February, that three week phase of the year before my birthday when my mood has been most challenged for my entire adult life. February is also a bad month for a lot of people in my real-life circles, and the first news of an incident that was either a conscious or unconscious attempt at severe self-harm reached me today. It will not be the last. This news not only makes me sad, it also fans my own underlying tendencies and fears about them and unpleasant recurring thoughts. I know to stand strong, but shock, sadness, sympathy and fear intensify the negative self-talk. Strategy: in the past, I have linked to Jazzy’s list of resources for getting help when we need it and reminded myself and others that we would be sorely missed and also used Armitage photos as a strategy against the February blues. There are probably some new photos I can add to my list.
  • Corollary: my birthday is coming. Prolonged opportunity for bitter navel-gazing about how I am a year older and have accomplished very little. I tend to think about the same things year after year. I’m so not looking forward. Also, the mom memories question. Strategy: Forestall all obstacles to celebrate or refer to birthday, remind secretary not to send it out on departmental listserv. Remind myself of this beautiful gift last year.
  • Due to preoccupation with emotional reactions to other messages (see below), I have not been able to convert into words on the idea for a post and which I brainstormed with such joy about while lying in bed this morning, fantasizing. My self-concept is strongly tied to my perceived capacity to produce things. Strategy: write so I don’t feel bad about myself, but that is sort of self-defeating in terms of the underlying problem. Writing as avoidance of bad feelings. Try to remind myself that I am more than I produce. The sum total of life’s purpose is not productivity or work.
  • First message this morning was from the people who installed my mother’s monument (dad custom ordered it so it took a long time to get it done, though I guess they got it in the ground before the hard freeze, or maybe there hasn’t been a hard freeze yet, I’m not sure). Was I planning to be there for the committal? Yes, I was, although no one had shared with me the information that the monument is in the ground or that a date for said committal had been established. Hard fact of my life: for my father and brother, if you’re not within thirty-five miles of them, you are not real except when it suits them. Additional hard fact: I remember thinking when mom told me that her diagnosis was terminal that this was the end of my family because my father and brother are poor communicators. I knew this was how it would be. Augmented by: my feeling that they must know how upsetting getting the message in this way would be. Trying to remember: neither of them can acknowledge their feelings with much ease and so it was easier for them to have someone who to them is not a stranger (although she is to me) pass on this information. Strategy: Although I am worthy of better communication from my family, accept that this is how my family is and move on. They do not do it because I am not worthy, but for their own reasons.
  • Supplemental to that: a summer of unemployment and downward mobility means that I don’t have the money in “six months savings” petty cash to buy that plane ticket. I will have to take it out of long-term savings. Although most of the consequences of this job have been excellent, that is not one of them. Aggravating factor: dad would be glad to pay. Aggravating factor: I have not asked for money for anything since 1999. Aggravating factor: intermittent family discussion about money going on right now. Strategy: Since asking dad will make me feel even worse, bite the bullet and be glad I *have* savings, as many friends of mine who were hit harder by the Great Recession do not. Strategy: cut down further on non-essential spending to revive surplus in petty cash. Coke / sodas are probably a good place to start.
  • Second message this morning related to my former life as a professor involved an effusive compliment. As it showed up in my FB feed, affirmations appeared there. I have wrestled all my life with accepting compliments. Hearing them feels like I imagine mild torture to feel, although I have learned to be polite. I am still not over the shame of the tenure denial. The particular matter referred to in the message has always stuck in my craw (even when I still counted as a successful professor). I have no regrets about the path I followed, but if I could erase that specific piece of my life from public memory, I would. It’s impossible, however. The negative self-esteem provoked by compliments amplifies the voices of the chorus. Strategy: winnow out grad school and professional friends on FB to absolute minimum for now (can always re-add contacts later when I am less sensitive), so I have fewer reminders of failed professional moments.
  • Corollary: the way I feel I close off whenever anything happens that underlines the gaping cracks in my self-esteem. It’s a physical thing, my eyes widen, my jaw clenches, my shoulders hunch in toward my body. All this is an obstacle to writing. Strategy: unknown. I have wrestled with self-esteem my entire life.
  • Threat on horizon: possibility of positive performance evaluation at work. My usual strategy for this in the past was submitting the absolute minimum I had to to pass the evaluation. Strategy: unknown, as that’s not going to work in this setting. If I want to address the downward mobility problem I have to better at tooting my own horn.
  • Realization that my well-organized payments system is in disarray, also due to downward mobility. Dreading looking at accounts again because they underline the financial questions. But shame here comes from feeling that I’m not coping adequately with the normal tasks and expectations of adult life although I have reduced my obligations to the absolute minimum. Strategy: just fix those things as they are all simply administrative tasks. Once they are fixed, they will return to not bothering me. This is actually something concrete and easy to do.
  • Most of the things I want to write about on blog at the moment are fairly visceral — even those relating to Armitage fandom — and I haven’t had the desire to visit them, given my generally raw mood at the moment. Moving into the sweet spot for that stuff is hard. Strategy: tell myself that my already problematic mood means that enhancing it slightly shouldn’t be as bad as I am dreading. Accept that I can go there and survive.
  • As I start to think about having blogged for five years, the realization that some things (the eternally episodic fan battle over various sorts of pictures of Richard Armitage — I was thinking about this and objectification in detail in the fall of 2012, for instance — and the application of WWRD to discipline every discussion, no matter how measured, that someone finds unpleasant) will not go away. Conflict with my decision after the fall that if needed to have a notional audience to right, I needed to do more to influence the possibilities and flexibilities within that audience. Strategy: unknown. Think more.

~ by Servetus on February 1, 2015.

17 Responses to “Liberation: This is one of those days when I am fighting the self-esteem battle hard”

  1. Well I don’t want to make you feel mildly tortured with compliments so I will keep my trap shut. But I definitely see a wide gap between how others see you and how you see yourself. Probably that’s true of everyone. If you figure it all out, I hope you’ll post the answers.

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  2. Thanks for sharing your strategy for dealing with that chorus of voices. Reading this has helped me notice that I tend to stick my head in the sand when I come up against similar situations in my own life, and gives me courage to take a good look at my own stuff.

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    • Thanks. I used to do that a lot, or figure it would go away eventually … I feel like time is getting shorter. Sort of like Alyssa’s remark the other day, if good things are going to come, I need to get on the stick …

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  3. Thank, you for writing all this down. I think different things will resonate with different readers. For me it was the acceptance that, for some people, out of sight is out of mind. As someone living on the opposite side of the world to family and old friends I can relate to feeling left out and the knock on the self esteem that can have. It’s not us, it is them but being offended is pointless….expressing that hurt to them even more so.

    On another note, giving up soda sounds like a great plan. Those little things mount up when bought daily. I used to have a coke virtually every afternoon, until someone pointed out the paradox of my generally healthy lifestyle and drinking something made up of chemicals and sugar. So it is (free) chilled tap water for me now and even the thought of coke makes me feel gassy!

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    • I used to go around a lot about this with people … because although I enjoyed living in Germany, for instance, I didn’t have a career that left me a lot of flexibility about where to live. And no matter how hard the away person tries, it’s usually not enough.

      re: sodas — I think my diet is not especially unhealthy, the issue for me is really the cost. I cut my Starbucks budget down by about 3/4, and the effect of that was much less caffeine and sugar but also a lot less calcium, I fear. If I have one Coke a day, at $1.65, twenty days a month, that’s approaching 5% of my rent …

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      • As far as I know, there are no dietary benefits to coke unless you are one of the rare people with low sodium. And even then, there are better ways of getting that mineral. You won’t be losing anything worth having.

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        • no, except that I like it a lot 🙂 However, the savings are a priority at this point, and I don’t need to stop forever.

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  4. Eine Frage, Serv: Wie oft gehst du bei Tageslicht nach draußen? Nicht im Auto, nicht ins nächste Café, sondern wirklich raus? Empfehlenswert sind mindestens 30 Minuten täglich. Tageslicht ist ist wichtig gegen den “Winter-Blues” und positiv für den Schlaf-/Wach-Rhythmus. Auch bei grauem Himmel.

    Du glaubst, dass du in deiner Karriere versagt hast. – Nach meiner Auslegung nicht, aber das kann man anders sehen, also: okay, vielleicht hast du “versagt”.
    Aber weißt du, was schlimmer war? Dass du dir so, so, SO lange nicht eingestehen konntest, dass es für dich die falsche Karriere war. Wir alle machen Fehler, wir alle entscheiden uns ab und zu für die falsche Alternative, und es tut weh, sich das einzugestehen und nach einem neuen Weg zu suchen. – Wenn du deine gedankliche Liste durchgehst, was du erreicht hast, dann solltest du diesen Punkt ganz oben auf die Positiv-Seite setzen: Dass du es endlich geschafft hast, eine “Karriere” abzuschließen, die dich fast völlig zerstört hat (!), und eine Arbeit zu finden, in der du zufrieden sein kannst.

    Halt die Ohren steif und lass dich nicht zu sehr niederdrücken von Sorgen und Grübelei! ❤

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    • Hedgehogess: You are absolutely right about the daylight. I had a minor melt-down three years ago, and got the advice from a colleague to go outside while it was still light AND exercise for 30 minutes. Now, I’m not the world’s greatest sports buff, so I walk – briskly – for 30 minutes each day, and it’s done me a world of good. I recommend it. Really!

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    • I’m usually eating lunch outside these days. Probably 5 out of 7 days a week. Around the beginning of April it will become too warm for that.

      re: sticking with things too long — it’s kind of a double edged sword in my life. It has good results but it means I get stuck. Relationshipwise also. Sigh. Oh well.

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  5. No compliments allowed. I am thinking about them, but I will not give you any if you don’t want them right now. There may come a time when you might like to have a few thrown your way. I like the way you are thinking of strategies to cope with your challenges. You will figure it out, and when you do, please allow yourself a pat on the back, at least. If you can’t take compliments from us (your followers/fans/friends) please work on taking them from yourself. I will break the rules and say you deserve it.

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  6. So much of this really resonates. I don’t have any potential solutions to suggest, but perhaps it helps to know you’re not alone in these kinds of struggles.

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  7. […] for obvious reasons, I’ve been wondering lately what Richard Armitage fights with himself […]

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  8. […] crazy synchronicity, the kind of thing I always believed was coincidence. Here I am fighting with myself to write, to make myself free of all of the beliefs that hamper me, just when Richard Armitage picks a role with the possibility of playing chapter […]

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