Thank you to everyone who commented on my post yesterday 🙂 I loved TD’s response –
“Isn’t it odd how everything we do wrong – getting ill, stubbing a toe, getting a less than perfect mark, forgetting that the new episode of Scrubs was on (grrrr!) – is all our fault, yet when something goes right it’s luck?”
Yeah…I’m not guilty of this at all 😛
Every time I write something that could be read as if I am complimenting myself I feel horribly awkward. I even feel embarrassed about some of the comments I receive, like I could be judged as egotistical because of other people saying nice things about me! That really is a bit ridiculous. I must try to get a grip on this. OK –
Sometimes I think I might possibly be not an entirely useless person.
Oh alright, that’s pathetic. Don’t agree with this next bit whatever you do, because otherwise I’ll feel like I came across as fishing for compliments or being boastful, but since feeling like I would rather sit in a bath full of worms than do X usually means that it would be good for me to do said X, I’ll try again –
I think I’m quite pretty sometimes. I am intelligent, even if occasionally I worry that my eating disorder ate my brain. I am creative, I make nice jewellery and I am a talented artist and musician. I am brave, determined, strong willed and great at solving problems. I am fiercely loyal to my friends, I love helping people and I think I might have it in me to inspire hope in others. On the whole, I am quite glad that I’m me most of the time.
There. Now, everyone please pretend that didn’t happen.
Why is it that so many people have a problem with saying nice things about themselves? Is it because they don’t believe in themselves, or because they are scared to sound narcissistic? I think up until recently it was fifty-fifty for me. I didn’t believe in myself because the only way I knew how to cope with life was to stop eating or hurt myself in some other way, and I kept getting into crises and dropping out of life. Until this year the only things I had to be proud of were concrete things like good grades in exams. They didn’t make a lot of difference to my lack of self esteem because the degree of intelligence a person has is a result of their genes, so if I ever did think “well I suppose at least I’m clever” it was usually followed by “but I don’t deserve to be, because I keep screwing my life up”. But in fact, even those exam results didn’t come easily. Take my A levels – I was raped six weeks into my first term at college by someone I’d met there, so spent the next 18 months in a haze of severe depression and PTSD. When I should have been studying and then revising I was actually hallucinating people with guns behind every tree and putting all my energy into starving myself. When it came to exam time, I suddenly pulled myself together and taught myself two years worth of work in ten weeks, and went on to get straight A’s. To do that requires more than intelligence, it shows courage and determination (and a photographic memory!). The girl who raped me didn’t even drop out of college until a couple of months after the event, so even before I pulled myself out of the spiral I had going on I was being either incredibly brave or incredibly stupid not to quit college altogether due to the intensity of my fear that I would run into her again.
Still, even giving myself credit for that, between that year and this one I achieved very little to be pleased about. This year got off to a terrible start. I seemed to be allowing the anorexia to steal everything that mattered to me without the hint of a fight. Now I will accept that I was ill and out of control, but then I hated myself because I thought I was just weak and a coward. I couldn’t find anything about myself to be proud of. I didn’t even feel an anorexic pride for getting to such a low weight, because I wasn’t having to struggle to resist eating, it was just that the idea of eating more than ‘allowed’ was as terrifying and alien as the thought of eating a tarantula. But in a strange way the depth of my helplessless then makes the fact that I DID turn it around mean even more to me. I do feel proud of myself now, I have evidence that I can do wonderful things when I put my mind to it. I feel competent, capable and able to trust myself now, which is better than a thousand A grades.
So I have far less of a problem with self belief now than I used to. But the second thing I mentioned – worrying that I will come across as conceited – is still a big hang up of mine. For five years or so after the bullying that happened in my early teens I was quite traumatised by the experience – I had flashbacks, nightmares, phobias, could barely bring myself to look people in the eye or speak above a whisper, and I hated myself. By the age of 18 I had finally dealt with the worst of it and felt a lot better about myself, but even today, although the actual memories of the bullying don’t bother me anymore, I still have a few residual habitual thought patterns that clearly come from that period in my life. One of them is that I am terrified of seeming as if I think too much of myself. I was a quiet, shy kid, and it’s definitely true that shyness can come across as aloofness sometimes. I was always being accused of being ‘up myself’, even though I was nothing of the sort. It’s quite difficult to be full of your own importance when you are already full of self loathing!
Even now, 12 years after the bullying ended, I continue with the bad habit of putting myself down before anyone else can. I insult myself half in jest all the time in conversation, even with my therapist (whose job is, essentially, to be non-judgemental!), and I always qualify any advice or comment to friends and fellow bloggers by first saying “I’m sorry for being annoying/stupid/irritatingly positive/sounding like a self help book/*insert other derogatory statement here*”. I have to stop apologising for myself. It’s so hard though, I feel like if I don’t show other people that I don’t take myself too seriously or think too much of myself they will hate me, so I apologise in advance to stop myself feeling so anxious. Still, doing self defeating things to relieve anxiety only makes that anxiety worse in the long term, so I really should start making an effort to get on top of this.
I’ve often said that this time around in recovery, I get a huge kick out of rebelling against my eating disorder. Once I accepted that anorexia was an illness and that it was firmly in control of me I decided that I’d had enough of living under a petty tyrant, and that I was not going to be dictated to anymore. I planned my recovery like a military operation, preparing myself for every obstacle. I even burned my favourite anorexic jeans – just how much more of a ‘fuck you’ statement could that have been?! I went into town earlier to meet a woman conducting research into recovery from eating disorders, and her final question was “if you could sum up your experience of recovery in a few words, what would they be?”. My answer had to be “an act of rebellion”. And it occurs to me that this is a similar issue. Bullying is the attempt to stamp all over another person’s self esteem, to make them feel terrible about themselves, to make them hate and doubt everything about themselves, even years afterwards. I still fear being judged and laughed at to the extent that it affects my behaviour and happiness more than a decade later. People can be prisoners in all sorts of respects.
So my real act of rebellion today is to say that I like myself, I believe in myself and I am a worthwhile person, without qualification or apology.
Do you have a problem with compliments? Do you just not believe them or are you scared that someone will come and stomp on you if you dare to think that you might be an OK person? And if you’re feeling brave, be a rebel and tell me what you like about yourself 😉 no qualifying statements allowed!
Three good things about today:
1. The first thing I saw on facebook this morning. I have to stop going on about it or people will think I’m quite mad, but thank you for making me laugh Jonathan 😛
2. Getting to participate in the research I mentioned. I want to be a part of the attempt to understand eating disorders better so their asses can be more efficiently kicked!
3. I bought more of my favourite gluten free muffins on the way home, mwahahaaa. I am on a bit of a sugar high now!