Comparing ourselves to others

This is something I’ve been working on a great deal in order to make my personality more stable and to lessen my feelings of insecurity. I thought it might be helpful to me and others if I wrote a post about it.

Big dog little dog

Practically everyone compares themselves to other people to some degree. One of our basic emotional needs is to feel accepted by the society we live in. It is therefore natural that we compare ourselves to others to check whether we are doing ok or not. Unfortunately, like a lot of normal habits, if we’re low on self-esteem it can get out of control and start to cause us damage instead of making us feel better. It can even become distorted and end up as a way of punishing ourselves when we already feel inadequate.

The trouble with comparing ourselves to other people is that we never have a full picture of what another person really is, even if we know them well we can never fully understand the multitude of experiences that went into making that person the way they are today. It is also impossible to ever really understand how another person feels or how they comprehend the world around them and that’s a difficult fact to grasp, we’re more comfortable with certainty, not ambiguity so we make assumptions about people and those assumptions are often wrong. In fact, in my experience, they are wrong most of the time.

To make matters worse, we identify parts of ourselves that are lacking in some way. We tend to think that if we were prettier, skinnier, smarter, fitter, richer, in a relationship, had more friends, were better at small talk, funnier, taller, shorter, wiser or less anxious then everything would be ok. We focus on our perceived short-comings and convince ourselves that they are the answer to all our problems. This is a very normal way of abdicating responsibility for ourselves, we ignore the fact that people can be perfectly happy without any of the qualities we long for. I know this to be true for myself, I have long believed that if I were prettier my life would be better, conveniently ignoring the fact that peoples’ attractiveness is no way related to how happy they are. Supermodels are among the most insecure people on the planet and if you don’t believe me, watch this –>

So what tends to happen is that we see other people who have the attributes that we are convinced would make our lives complete and we make the assumption that they are ‘sorted’. I have learned over and over again that this is quite simply not true. I had a friend once who was so pretty that people on first meeting her assumed she was a model. The moment she had one glass of wine however, she’d spend hours telling me how fat and ugly she was; she was in fact bulimic. She also had a glamorous career and was great fun at parties (if she didn’t catch you alone). People thought she was sorted, they saw the things she had that they wanted for themselves and they assumed she was happy. As a close friend I only occasionally saw the panic attacks and forced purging that told the real story.

Another friend of mine was so successful in her career and personal achievements that she was almost intimidating. I know that other people looked at her and assumed she had it all. I knew her intimately and I know that deep down she felt like a fraud. Everything she achieved was done to prove that she was worth something and no matter what she did nothing was ever enough. She had grown up believing that only perfection was acceptable and she measured herself by the most stringently unfair standards, but it was never enough. Her problem was on the inside where no-one could see it, she was driven by a deep sense of inadequacy and the only way she knew how to deal with it was to achieve more and more. Sometimes the people who seem to have everything, are driven by the same fears that hold others back from achieving anything.

That leads to another important point, what really matters in life is not what we do, but why we do it. What drives people to have careers, raise children, travel the world or work really hard at a sport? Are they doing it because if fulfils them with a deep sense of meaning and satisfaction or because they think those are the things they should be doing, things that are expected of them? Do people make lots of money because it gives them a sense of security or because they’re lucky enough that what they good at is also highly valued by society? It is our motives for doing things that govern how we feel, not what we achieve (although obviously we should enjoy and be proud of our achievements). Some of the happiest, most well-balanced and smartest people I know have achieved very little on paper. Some of the most attractive, popular, accomplished people I know are deeply unhappy.

Comparing ourselves to others is a way of judging ourselves; we feel that in order to be acceptable we have to obey certain rules about what is right and what is wrong. Judging ourselves completely undermines self-acceptance and self-validation and we need to be able to accept and validate ourselves to feel whole and happy. We need to be able to find within ourselves the strength and courage to be who we are rather than who think we ought to be in order to be accepted. I know how difficult this is; these habits become part of ourselves at a really early age when we are trying to establish our identity. If we have been damaged in any way while growing up we are likely to crave the approval of others even more so it is even more likely to become a key part of who we are and is then very difficult to shift.

I have been working on this for quite some time – when I first became aware of the habit and realised it made me feel worse about myself and not better I made an effort to start chipping away at it. Because I brought the habit into my conscious awareness I started to recognise myself doing it and when I did I stopped myself. The best way is to completely stop what I’m doing: I put on the radio or TV, phone up a friend for a chat, pick up a book, or simply force myself to think about something else. Before long I was noticing the habit more often and becoming aware of it sooner so it didn’t take hold so much and had less power over me. Overall, I’m developing my belief that I am enough, that I am a good person and I don’t need to spend excessive amounts of my time comparing myself to others whether it’s in a negative or positive light. I have learned what is important to me, I’ve decided that I’m ok with who I am and that’s all that need concern me. At one time I wouldn’t have thought this possible but it takes patience and persistence, two qualities I have also had to acquire for myself on the road to recovery.

More Power of Vulnerabilty

If you enjoyed the TED talk by Brené Brown then this longer talk is definitely worth a watch. Here she discusses the importance of vulnerability, the difference between guilt and shame, empathy and sympathy. The need for self-validation, the ‘blame trap’ and many other things crucial to building self-worth and meaningful relationships.

How to build self-esteem – part two

So here are the other things that I’m doing to raise my self-esteem, the skills I’m building that are helping me to feel more sure of myself and stronger.

The door was open all along..

The door was open all along..

Responsibility for self – This is one I struggled with for years. Quite simply I wanted someone to fix me, I was broken, I was unwell, someone please save me! It doesn’t happen. It’s not possible. I was unwell but just like someone with diabetes who needs to change their diet to feel better, I had to change my habits, my ways of looking at the world and my beliefs, no-one could do that for me. It took some tough talking from my ex to get me started which wasn’t nice at the time but I eventually learned to start taking responsibility for myself and that is such a powerful thing. I’m no longer a victim, things don’t just happen to me, I’m in control. If my life is a mess it’s because of things that I have done. This isn’t a question of blame – I wasn’t bad or wrong – I just hadn’t learned how to live in a way that made me happy. If someone didn’t learn Japanese as a child you wouldn’t think they were ‘bad’, if they decided to learn it now you’d probably respect them for it. Life skills are just the same and like learning languages, the older you are the harder it is but it’s still absolutely worthwhile.

Now I’m not saying everyone recovering from mental health problems is going it alone, I absolutely believe that they should grab every shred of support they can get, but no matter how much or how little support there is they can still take control of their recovery and start moving forward. That simple act will boost their self-esteem and give them a sense of self-determination – the opposite of feeling like a powerless victim waiting to be rescued.

Could have done with some work on its self esteem.

Could have done with some work on its self esteem.

Self-validation – Validation is a big thing when it comes to BPD, if you have BPD, chances are you were invalidated when you were a child. Invalidation is when someone behaves or talks to you in a way that makes you feel ‘wrong’. My parents were good people but they often invalidated me, they didn’t understand my strong emotional reactions and they often either said I shouldn’t feel what I was feeling or acted as though my feelings were silly. So, I grew up thinking I was just plain ‘wrong’ in some way. It was then natural for me to look to other people to validate me because the more you’re invalidated the stronger the need for validation is. And of course my focus was on getting that validation from others because that’s what seemed most important, it was what I had been lacking.

Like all things a balance is the best approach, I’m not aiming to become completely self-validating, it’s normal to want the love and acceptance of others, but if that’s all I rely on my personality becomes very wobbly. If I feel I’m being accepted by others I feel good, if I’m not getting that validation, I feel bad which leads to, of course, mood swings and that horrible empty feeling. So how do I self-validate? First of all, I’m learning to stop judging myself, judging is the opposite of validating and it’s what we do in order to fulfil some idea of being ‘right’ or ‘good’ so others will approve of and validate us. That is a cycle that I’m breaking down and it has a lot to do with acceptance (more on acceptance here). Taking apart life-long habits is a long process and at times it can seem impossible but persistence is the only answer. One thing that may help is to write down a list of things that validate you personally, for example: “My feelings are totally valid, they are telling me things I need to know and I will listen to them.” “I am not bad or useless, I am a kind caring person who is doing my best with difficult circumstances.” Perhaps think about what you need validated about yourself and write them down, practice looking at the list regularly to break the habit of self-judgement.

Another critical part of self-validation is recognising damaging beliefs and challenging them. Like I said before, we have ideas of what makes us ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and we try to comply with the rules so that others accept us. The trouble is that these ideas form when we are very young and don’t understand the world very well, when we still see it in black and white terms as a child does. We’re also not usually consciously aware that we have these beliefs – they often clash with what we rationally know to be true. So that is why I used to feel that I had to be perfect and make no mistakes despite knowing that no-one is perfect, and that I have to look like a model in order to not be rejected by people despite knowing that looks are not the reason that people care for each other. The only way I know how to tackle this is to constantly ask myself “Why?” (like an annoying three-year-old). Why do I feel this way? What am I really scared of? What is the belief under all this that is making me so unhappy? Again, it takes time to get rid of these beliefs but there are ways of working on it. Once you have identified some of your damaging beliefs you could write a list of the arguments against them: “I do not need to be perfect, I can be loved the way I am like everyone else.” “I do not need to look like a model, people do not love others because of their looks.”

He's not fooling anyone.

He’s not fooling anyone.

Be Authentic – This is a more challenging one and is something that happens gradually as your self-esteem grows (advanced self-esteem). Everyone has defenses to some degree, masks that they hide behind. At one point I was almost nothing but defenses, when I was with people I became what I thought they wanted me to be, when I was alone I quite often felt empty and directionless. Now that I’ve been working on the things that matter to me – focusing on what I want rather than pleasing others I feel a stronger sense of self. I’m learning to like and accept myself more and that is becoming more important to me than what others think of me (I still care what others think but it’s not all I care about). As this feeling grows I feel more able to be myself around others and don’t put on an act to make them like me or think about me in a certain way or to hide the real me. I can’t control what other people think but I can control what I think and that’s now what I focus on. I constantly remind myself that if I don’t allow people to see the real me then how will they ever grow to like me, I don’t want to be liked for an act that I put on. The more I do this the more grounded I feel and the less of a ‘strain’ it is to be around other people. Take care of loving and accepting yourself, everything else falls into place after that.

So self-esteem is about many things and they all link to each other and overlap. I personally feel that is a great thing because I see good self-esteem and  a feeling of self-worth as ways of ‘underpinning’ my personality. They keep it stable and from collapsing when things get tough. The more things I can do to prevent that happening the better as far as I’m concerned. If you would like to read more about ways you can build your self-esteem I highly recommend this book.

How to build self-esteem – part one

I’m always talking about self-esteem as one of the most important aspects of recovering from BPD, it is relevant to many mental health problems though and in general, good self-esteem is necessary for a happy life. I know that for my own recovery building my self-esteem has been one of the most crucial things I have done and I’m still working on it. I no longer have the mood swings and feelings of emptiness that used to dominate my life and I no longer struggle with attachment the way I used to. I’ve learned about ways to work on self-esteem through reading many books and observing people who are more skilled in these matters than I am. I’ll try and share with you what I have learned.

How can it possibly get better than this?!

How can it possibly get better than this?!

Meaningful Activities – I’m discovering as many things that are meaningful to me as possible and doing them as much as I can, these can change over time, and some things come and go but this is a rough list of what I’m  focusing on at the moment:

  • Being creative – for me that is art, craft, baking, cooking, making my home a nice place to be, DIY etc.
  • Writing – expressing myself through written words is very fulfilling for me and of course is creative too
  • Learning new skills – particularly software skills, I tend to enter ‘flow’ state when I do that and it’s why I’m going to study graphic design at college, it will also be a creative outlet for me
  • Supporting people – I try to do that through my blog and on twitter and of course in real life too
  • Relationships with others – I am learning how to build lasting genuine friendships and how to be more skilful in my relationship with my boyfriend
  • Having goals in my life – I have started to write a book about my recovery and I have applied to do a counselling course, my dream is to one day set up a healing centre for those with BPD and similar problems
  • Educating myself – I love reading and learning very deeply about the subjects that interest me
  • Looking after my health – eating well and getting some exercise and showing some pride in personal appearance are all important for self-esteem (I’m struggling with this one at the moment!)

I’m not saying that baking a cake suddenly infuses me with a powerful sense of inner confidence. But if I just spend time doing as many things as I can (big and small) that give me a good feeling my life feels like it has purpose and meaning, my sense of self-worth has gradually grown and I have gained a stronger sense of who I am. If something goes wrong, such as feeling rejected, I know that my life is about many things and is not just focused on how others feel about me so I am much more resilient. I keep a list of the things that make me feel good so I can keep reminding myself of what to do. What’s on your list?

Discover your Principles – I’ve been very lucky when it comes to this, the way I was brought up and my habit of reading widely has given me a strong sense of what my principles are from an early age. Principles make up a big part of who we are – they are the rules we try to live by and they give us guidelines when we’re not sure what to do. If you understand what your principles, or values are, you feel stronger inside. I think of it as a supporting framework for my personality. Recently my values have been very important to me, I had some really difficult choices to make a few months ago but because I really understand my personal values that made it easier for me to decide what to do. I made decisions that some people didn’t agree with but I am happy that I made the right choices in accordance with what matters to me and I feel stronger for that.

Many people grow up and adopt their parents’ values automatically, or maybe values they learned from teachers or other influential adults. They don’t question this and later in life they may behave in ways that contradict those values and end up feeling guilty or ashamed of themselves and not even understanding why (a lot of problems with sexuality stem from here). This is a sign that they need to think about what their values are, what is important to them. I went through a period of questioning whether my parents’ values were relevant to me – some of them were and some of them weren’t – that process was part of me growing up and deciding what was meaningful to me personally rather than simply accepting others’ ideas.

If you’re not sure how to figure out your own values, my suggestion would be to think about things that make you mad, such as a news story about an animal being treated badly, or maybe something about how refugees are dealt with? What feelings come up? How you feel and the strength of those feelings will tell you what your values are. It might be a good idea to write down the things that affect you strongly and work out your values from there. Also, bear in mind that our values change over time – I was a vegetarian for eleven years because of animal rights beliefs but as I’ve grown older those values have become less significant to me and because I’m aware that my values have changed I don’t feel guilty if I have a steak.

She might need to think about that one..

She might need to think about that one..

Friendship boundaries – This is about how you let people treat you. I’ve never been a doormat but for years I tried to do too much for friends because I thought I had to give everything to make them like me. I didn’t feel worthy of being liked just for who I am. This isn’t the case anymore. I realised that patterns kept repeating themselves in my friendships so I must have been making some mistakes. I looked to other people who ‘did friendship well’ to learn lessons and I’ve now taken them onboard. I was one of those people who always ends up looking after everyone on a night out, talking someone out of a panic attack whilst everyone else was out having fun on the dance floor (and at the time I didn’t think I minded). I had a friend who told me she loved coming to my place ‘to chill’ but never invited me on her numerous nights out. People came to me with their problems and when their problems disappeared, so did they.  wasn’t being a friend, I was providing a service. Friendship isn’t about letting people take all you have and hoping they appreciate it and stick around when you need them. It’s a give and take situation and both parties have to set their own boundaries.

Now, I still really want to help the people I care about but I realised quite recently that if I make all of myself available to people all of the time, I have nothing left for myself. Then I get stressed out and can even end up resenting the other person and the friendship suffers and dies out. Having healthy boundaries is what makes a friendship last and it benefits both people. I have finally come to understand how much of myself I can give, we all have to figure that out for ourselves, but please bear in mind that we all have limits – not one of us is a saint. I avoid going out with people who get drunk and have an emotional crisis just when my favourite song is coming on. Going from one drama to another seemed fun when I was very young, or it seemed like it made my life more important and interesting but it gets boring after a while. I’m now more interested in having good solid friendships, I have no problem supporting a friend if they’re having problems but that is not all I’m there for.

I think this kitten needs to be a bit clearer about its boundaries.

I think this kitten needs to be a bit clearer about its boundaries.

By this point in my life I’ve got quite good at spotting people who will only take from me and not give back (‘emotional vampires’) and I avoid them completely. I no longer rush into getting really close to someone as soon as possible because it can cause problems – by the time I realise that my new friend is going to expect more support than I can possibly give I’m in so deep it’s hard to step back. I’m not saying that I don’t care about people who are really struggling, I care a lot but I now understand how I can help in a way that is good for them and me. I focus on letting them know that I care for and accept them no matter what and that I will be there for them for years to come, not just for the next bumpy six months. I also don’t feel the need to ‘fix’ people any more or find solutions to their problems, I just accept them and love them as they are and through that they will hopefully learn to feel the same for themselves.

The trick with boundaries is that you set them and the you allow the other person to decide whether they accept them or walk away. It’s a risk you take but it’s better than losing friends over and over again and it really does make friendships more stable and long-lasting. Now that I have learned these lessons my friendships are much more stable and I never worry that my friends will desert me. I support them when they need it and they support me but mostly we just enjoy being friends.

Dear Stephen

Today I read Stephen Fry’s blog post about the reaction to his recent suicide attempt and his seemingly ironic loneliness. I’ve never written to a ‘celebrity’ before but I felt strongly that I wanted to respond to him, this is what I wrote:

Dear Stephen,

I’m not going to tell you how marvellous I think you are, I believe that it will only sound hollow to you. I’ve chosen to write this despite the apparent futility due to the simple fact that your words spoke to me and now I want to speak back.

I too used to experience this particular kind of loneliness, and still do to a lesser extent. I would spend time with friends, enjoy their company and then come home to the emptiness that was me. For reasons I won’t bore you with I grew up not liking myself very much and not feeling that I deserved to be happy. I  wanted other people to like me though of course, so the last thing I would do was show them who I really was. I’m a pretty smart person, it was quite easy for me to figure out how to get people to like and admire me and they generally have. I’m not a woman who’s ever been short of compliments, but they seem hollow. And if anything, the more praise I get, the more I dislike myself and the more empty I feel. My entire personality formed around manipulation: not the nasty sly manipulation of someone who sees others as objects to be used, but the desperately needy manipulation of someone terrified of seeing their own self-loathing staring back at them from someone else’s eyes. And because I know deep down inside that I can make people like and admire me, their liking and admiration is meaningless and so sometimes I just want to shut it all out, to be on “my lonely ownsome”. Well, in my darkest moments it is meaningless. But, of course, I still want it. Stupid vicious circle. So despite my ability to elicit affection and love from other people I never actually made any real connections. How could I? The real me is hidden away so well I don’t even know if she actually exists. But now that I’ve become painfully aware of all of this, I’m trying to put it right. I cling on to the knowledge that I’m not really a bad person and I’m slowly learning how to be a real person. I have to try at least.

I think this answers the question, “How can someone so well-off, well-known and successful have depression?” But perhaps I’m simply seeing too much of myself in you because I crave that connection.

Fondest wishes,

Clare

I feel ugly

I’m going to write something that is extremely difficult for me. Most of my blog is about obstacles that I’ve overcome, today I’m going to write about something that I still find really difficult. I actually consider this my last ‘major issue’ – I have plenty of issues but I’m talking about the stuff that impacts on my daily life negatively and gets in the way of me being happy. It isn’t really part of BPD but I do think it is something that most people can relate to. What I’m going to do is attempt to work through this like I would normally do in my journal but do it for all to see. Firstly, because speaking my shame is the quickest way to get rid of it (no matter how hard it is) and secondly, because I hope it might be useful for readers to really see exactly how I try to work through these things for real. I have not spoken to anyone about this before. I actually feel sick right now..

Here goes. I feel ugly. Deep down inside I feel very ugly. When I catch a surprise reflection of myself it can devastate me and send my mood into a nosedive. I am terrified that when people see me they think, “Urgh, she’s ugly.” There, I said it. I’m going to take some deep breaths now.

Oh God, I can't believe I'm doing this.

Oh God, I can’t believe I’m doing this.

On one level it might seem that this is a very shallow, superficial problem, but the effect is anything but. These feelings have affected me for as long as I can remember and it is actually harder for me to confront this than all the BPD stuff such as my attachment issues, jealousy, my sense of emptiness and the plain fact that I wasn’t who I thought I was. The one thing I have in my favour is that I know when I’ve faced my deepest fears before I’ve always managed to work through them and come out feeling better and so I have faith that this will help me, no matter how painful it is. A few weeks ago I couldn’t have brought myself to say the words “I feel ugly”, to myself, never mind publically, this is a process and I’m choosing to go through this process.

My first step is to understand why I feel this way. Like most people who were bullied at school I was ridiculed for my physical appearance and often called ugly. The only boyfriend I had at school dumped me after a week because all his friends were laughing at him (he told me that to my face). There were many boys who liked me at school and confided in me but they would never have considered going out with me because I was not pretty or popular. I left school at sixteen because I had been so unhappy there (although I was accomplished academically). At about this time I started to ‘blossom’, I actually developed a nice figure and men, not just boys, started to notice me. I loved the attention and started to dress to play up my figure (flattering, not tarty). I remember always thinking, that I wanted my body to be a distraction from my face (and still did until I put on a lot of weight recently). I assumed everyone looking at me thought “She’s ok… From the neck down.”

I’ve talked about my attachment issues before: when I was little I only felt safe with my mum and when I started getting involved with men, I transferred that attachment to them. If I was attached to someone I would only feel safe when I was with them, if they weren’t there I would feel lost and empty until they came back. Obviously because of these feelings being attractive to men became extremely important to me. I guess it comes down to my all-or-nothing personality – my black and white thinking, I wanted all men to be attracted to me. Or maybe to express it in a better way, the more men that were attracted to me the better I felt. I can’t believe I’m telling you all this..

And it wasn’t just about my physical appearance, I shaped my whole personality to be attractive to men. I didn’t want them just to fancy me, I wanted them to fall in love with me. Particularly as I know I don’t have a conventionally pretty face, I felt I had to give everything to making men want to be with me. I have always been good at reading people and I learned how to manipulate at an early age (I confessed that sin here). But this wasn’t a conscious manipulation, I just knew how to make men like me and my personality formed around that. It wasn’t something I deliberately planned and plotted, it was just what I became, it was what I did to try to fill that emptiness. I effectively packaged my whole self to appeal to as many men as possible and I had no idea that I had done it until just a few years ago.

I was quite good at it, too good in fact. Many men I just wanted to be friends with ended the friendship because they wanted more. Not only that, I totally alienated women. I’ve had very few female friends and the ones I did have never stayed around long. Again, it is only relatively recently that I understood why this was the case, I always just told myself that I wasn’t a ‘girl’s girl’. This is where I point out one of the important lessons I’ve learned in life: what you desperately want and what drives you isn’t always what will make you happy. I wanted men to want me and they did, but did it make me happy? Hell no.

Go away! I'm hideous!

Go away! I’m hideous!

But back to the ugly. It’s not even that I don’t think I’m pretty, I don’t even think I look normal. I won’t go out the door without doing my hair and make-up and very carefully choosing an outfit – even just to the shop around the corner. I can’t stand having my photo taken and the thought of being filmed makes me feel sick. I have anxiety attacks when I am getting ready to ‘be seen’. I learned to deal with anxiety by pushing it into the background and getting on with other things (when possible). This anxiety is low level however and has never gone away. These feelings are something I’ve been able to live with, but it has always been there eating away at me and I don’t want to feel that way anymore.

*cries for a while and tries to avoid thinking about it all*

So, what do I need to do to make this go away? First of all I can see that I’m holding beliefs that aren’t true i.e. my belief that all men have to be attracted to me or the sky will fall. Of course, rationally I know that is nonsense but how do I get myself to feel that way. Well this has obviously been a way for me in the past to boost my low self-esteem, to fill the emptiness inside of me. So how can I do that in a way that is better for me? (I started writing a list of the ways I’m working on my self-esteem but this post is going to be really long as it is so I will make that a separate piece to follow soon, stay tuned). As well as working on how I feel about myself I am also going to challenge my false belief about needing all men to be attracted to me whenever I feel that is it present in my mind.

I feel ugly, but not this ugly..

I feel ugly, but not this ugly..

I’m also going to give some more thought to what I really feel, if I don’t face these feelings because I’m scared of them they will always control me. So I stated that I “feel ugly” but ‘ugly’ isn’t an emotion, what is it I’m really feeling? A lot of shame. I’ve dealt with shame before – the best way to beat it is to speak it (this post is radical therapy). I used to whisper the things I was ashamed of in the dark under a duvet to my boyfriend, you do what you have to do. It really worked for all of my BPD issues and I know it will work this time. What am I ashamed of? I ashamed of how I look. Why am I ashamed of how I look? Because I was told I should be ashamed by those bullies at school; because the media tells me I’m not pretty enough. But is it me that’s ‘wrong’ or those bullies, or our image-obsessed culture? I’m pretty sure I am not ‘wrong’ for looking the way I do, why should I feel wrong? Why should I feel ashamed? I’m getting angry now, how dare these shallow, un-caring people make me feel bad when I’ve done nothing wrong?! I am not wrong, I am fine as I am. I will not feel ashamed.

I am not ashamed of how I look.

What else do I feel, when I say I feel ugly? I feel afraid of rejection. I hate the thought that people look at me and dismiss me because of the way I look. But I’ve dealt with fear of rejection before with my other issues. I know that my fear of rejection is really my fear that other people will confirm how I feel about myself deep down inside. This is about acceptance, if I don’t accept myself who will? Is it more important that I accept myself or that others do? I want other people to like and accept me but I can’t control how they feel. I can control how I feel (even though it takes work). I can work on accepting myself for the way I look. I will stop comparing myself to how others look, I will stop analysing and criticising my appearance, I will stop shying away from my reflection as if I am hideous. It will take time to break these habits but it can be done, I’ve done it before. I haven’t done anything wrong, I don’t deserve to be rejected. I am not going to reject myself anymore.

I accept my appearance, there is nothing wrong with me.

I’m not going to write much more, this has been an exhausting process and I have already dealt with what seem to be the most important points. I feel tired but relieved. I do actually feel a little different about my image now, I feel a little more compassion, my feelings towards that part of me are not quite as harsh as they were when I started writing this. By confronting these feelings and fears I’ve been dragging around for years I have taken a huge weight off myself. It was painful and there’s a lot of soggy hankies sitting beside me but I have learned that pain is temporary and not to be feared. I have learned that facing the things that hurt the most makes the biggest difference to how I feel. I have said this is a process, I have just taken a huge step writing this and an even bigger one will be publishing it *feels sick again* and I know I have a lot of work to do to break down these habits down but what is the alternative? To let these fears control me for the rest of my life? That is not who I want to be.

Self-doubt and where it can get off

Clearly, no-one had shown El Greco how to paint properly.

Clearly, no-one had shown El Greco how to paint properly.

Recently I have been struggling a bit with self-doubt in regard to the direction and goals in my life. I’m pretty sure that nearly all of us have these doubts from time to time and we all have to resolve them in our own way. At the moment I am reading a book called ‘On Becoming a Person’ by the very influential psychologist Carl R. Rogers; last night when I was quite overwhelmed by my self-doubt I came across this passage and thought I would share it. I found it profoundly helpful and hopefully others will too. I certainly couldn’t phrase this any better than Rogers has so I will quote at length:

“TOWARDS TRUST OF SELF 

…Watching my clients, I have come to a much better understanding of creative people. El Greco, for example, must have realized as he looked at some of his early work, that “good artists do not paint like that.” But somehow he trusted his own experiencing of life, the process of himself, sufficiently that he could go on expressing his own unique perceptions. It was as though he could say, “Good artists do not paint like this but I paint like this.” Or to move to another field, Ernest Hemingway was surely aware that “good writers do not write like this”. But fortunately he moved toward being Hemingway, being himself, rather than towards someone else’s conception of a good writer. Einstein seems to have been unusually oblivious to the fact that good physicists did not think his kind of thoughts. Rather than drawing back because of his inadequate academic preparation in physics he simply moved towards being Einstein, towards thinking his own thoughts, towards being as truly and deeply himself as he could. This is not a phenomenon that occurs only in the artist or the genius. Time and time again in my clients, I have seen simple people become significant and creative in their own spheres, as they have developed more trust in the process going on within themselves, and have dared to feel their own feelings, live by values which they discover within and express themselves in their own unique ways.”