The bad news is that I’m 46 years old, live in a smallish flat only, have only a part-time job and no career, am not much of a father to my children, have repeatedly failed my wonderful fiancée, and have an entire life of further failure to endure.
Now there’s a glass half full/half empty scenario if there ever was one, right? Unfortunately, I tend toward the pessimistic glass half empty side of things. I don’t like it, but I do tend that way. Since I don’t like it, I’m working on changing my attitude(s). To that end, I have a satchel full of self-help books next to my bed, in one of which I read this quote earlier today, attributed to Henry J. M. Nouwen:
“When our value as human beings depends on what we make with our hands and minds, we become victims of the fear tactics of our world. When productivity is our main way of overcoming self-doubt, we are extremely vulnerable to rejection and criticism and prone to inner anxiety and depression.”
It’s a quote among many others aiming to illustrate our intrinsic worth as humans, every one of us. The idea of the chapter is that of unconditional human worth, something that is a reflection of the human core. The author insists that self-worth, the value of the human core, is completely independent of any and all “externals”.
That struck a chord in me. Something else I tend to do is compare myself – unfavorably – with those around me. Those with successful careers, polite and outgoing children, beautiful houses, obvious financial means, and talents. It’s just too damned easy to look at myself and see everything I’m not, and diminish any value I may have to the world or to some people in it. See above.
That attitude has many consequences, not least of which is that the wonderful and amazing SSG has to continually reassure me that I’m not loved because of money, or career, or talent, or anything beyond the core self that I am. When I say continually, I’m not exaggerating. It’s utterly frustrating and exhausting for the poor girl, who has enough (real) issues to deal with already without adding my distorted and false problems.
In short, I can’t help but assign value to myself (or not) based on “externals”. Since I’ve no talent to speak of, have no career, and consider myself failing in the three relationships most dear to me, I assign little to no value to my core self.
I have no desire to here delve into why I have that attitude toward myself, but wish only to address it in my current circumstances and consider what I might do to combat it. Perhaps you reading this are feeling the same things I am and will benefit not only from those combative ideas but also from the notion that you’re not alone and not crazy. At least not remarkably so 🙂
Anyway, one of the more recent and more destructive bouts with this self loathing happened in the midst of SSG’s move from her beloved home city to another, closer to me by 8 hours. Much of what could go wrong with the logistical aspects of the move did in fact go wrong, and I took it upon myself to blame myself for each and every one of the problems. Not surprisingly, I felt bad. Downright awful. My subsequent conversations with Claudia were full of that self loathing and self blame. Understandably so, she’d had it at that point, and told me in no uncertain terms that if I wanted to support her and be of help to her I needed to stop making everything about ME. My psychiatrist strongly reinforced that idea in a session not long after. I was absolutely befuddled, as I had not realized that even though I was feeling bad for the pain and suffering I caused others, I was indeed making it all about me and how it affected me. Oy.
Cue the self-help books that I’d been disregarding for some time.
Were it an animate being instead of a book, it would chastise me up one side and down the other for what I was doing to myself (and to others). My self-worth, my intrinsic goodness and value as a human, is not in the least tied to what happens around me. While I feel plenty justified in blaming myself for everything that happened, those with a more objective view see things a little differently. It turns out whether I have talent or not, have a great career or not, have a positive affect on my fiancée’s move or not,… I have value as a human. My worth as an individual, and my goodness as an individual, are unaffected by all those externals.
Mine are, and yours are as well.
What this brings me to is that we have to understand that notion before we can move ourselves out of the depression and anxiety that self-loathing bring. We have to understand and know that we have a pile of self-worth at our inner core regardless of everything going on on the outside. Every one of us. Me, you, everyone. We have to, in fact, be kind to ourselves before we can make that move away from depression and self-dislike.
Another quote I ran into recently sums it up perfectly, this time from Henry Miller:
“You can’t take care of other people, you can’t nourish other people around you — whether you’re trying to manage a team of two, or a team of fifty, or even writing for an audience alone in your cabin in the woods — if you’re not taking care of your heart. You just have nothing left to give. You would be depleted.”
© Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Sid Dunnebacke and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.