Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spirals of Self-Hatred

Confidence and self-esteem, those two so closely tied together things, are tricky.

Sometimes I really think I have this confidence thing down.  In a workshop, I speak enthusiastically to and with the large group, everyone's eyes upon me, with not even a twinge of fear.  I go up to individuals afterward to tell them how much I liked that comment about sustainability they made, or simply to introduce myself with a smile and a firm handshake.  I say "yes" without pause when asked to speak somewhere, and think cheerfully of how much fun it'll be.

This confidence leads into self-esteem: wow, people like hearing what I have to say, like meeting me, like me.  I have some awesome friends.  That's cool.  I'm proud of what I've done and do.  I like who I am.  I like me, too!  Hell, I love me!!


Then I'll say or type something seemingly inconsequential without putting much thought into it.  Or, even worse, think long and hard, then realize only just after I've opened my mouth or hit the send key how stupid whatever I said just sounded to me. Then comes the twisty feeling in my gut: how could I have said something so stupid??

Then, like the opening of a dam, usually kept tightly closed off in some part of my mind, comes the rush of all 10,000,000 other things I've ever said or done that have made me wince: brought on waves of shame and regret, or even just mild twinges of it.  Every single thing...

This tends to happen especially when around certain people, people I think are especially cool, or especially cute, or especially smart, that I seem to be unable to say or do anything cool or intelligent when around them or in communication with them.

It only takes one event, or one slightly low mood and a surfacing memory, to make me spiral down this path of self-hatred.

Of course, in an hour or two, I'll likely get a nice email, or have a friend say something, that gets me all happy and confident and self-loving once again.

I feel like this is probably a fairly normal occurrence for a lot of people.  But really?  It sucks.


It feels really strange to be posting this, actually.  I've come to feel obligated to write a *certain type* of post on this blog.  Posts that are of a higher quality with more constructive content.  But...  I'm trying to keep in mind what I want this blog to be, and that's to be a place I can freely express myself online.  That expression often is about unschooling, and often is in a more article-like format.  But when what's on my mind is something far more...  I don't know, personal, I guess, I want to feel that that's okay too.  Which is why I'm posting this, despite reservations!  That is all.



  1. Oh, I understand. I do the same thing.

  2. But see...this makes you "human" to all your readers. I think that's especially important within the Unschooling community. Your confidence and good nature are amazing...but, you also have the same doubts as other folks. I think it's not only good for other Unschooling people to read about your doubts and/or regrets, but I'll bet it's good for you to write about them as well!! You are so inspiring, especially for Unschooling girls and moms. It's nice to know that you have the same feelings that we do!!

    You rock:
    Gerushia's New World

  3. Oh...and I guess I might add ~ I'm 46 and I STILL have spirals of self-hatred every now and again!

    :) Kim

  4. Hey, I'm 60 - and supposed to be "successful," whatever that means - and I still experience that occasionally. The only difference now is that I don't let it bug me so much. Some days, I can even shake my head and laugh at myself. That's because I realize that I'm the only person judging (or remembering) what I just said that was supposedly so awful! So why don't you try laying off judging yourself!?

  5. I experience that too, still, but, as Wendy said, it doesn't affect me quite as much as it did 20 or even 10 years ago (although I still cringe, never mind wince).

    I think that an extra thick skin is helpful when you write on the internet, especially when you have views that are not mainstream. I admire your courage in getting back up and continuing to be open about your views, even if it does mean that they are going to be misunderstood or dissected.

  6. Rats! I was hoping unschooling cured this ailment...

    I know that my past troubles came from all the people (especially in school) calling me "weird" and being asked "are you retarded or something?" for choosing to do a lot of things differently than most of those who ruling society would consider "normal." After a while, I'd stop myself short, anticipating that what I might say would be made fun of.

    It took a while for me to understand how to fix that in myself. I still have a hard time, especially when people don't talk to me like a human being and insist on talking down to me while playing the role of important person. But it's a skill you get better at with practice and introspective spelunking, and laughing at it is a great start.

    Just the other day at work, in fact, someone criticized me for not combing my hair in a "professional manner." Should I pay for a "professional" haircut instead of doing it myself? Should I use "professional" styling gels and suffer the neurotoxic damage it causes just so that people won't be inconvenienced by my bedhead? Silly people.

    There are so many possible ways someone could potentially judge you, all of them quite ridiculous. It could cause you to go utterly insane if you put too much thought into it though.

    Surely mainstream media, and the overall shame psychology that advertising uses must be causing some unconscious trouble?

    But it sure is helpful to be a nice person who is surrounded with enough nice friends to remind you that it's all in your head, huh? :)

  7. I completely understand this situation. One moment you're confidently rolling along and the words are flowing freely, dealing with people is pleasant... then you get hit with a wave of embarrassment at certain words, or the way you said those words. You question your intention and think 'if only' you'd said something differently, or maybe not at all. On one hand it's good to be conscious of what you're saying, sometimes to remind yourself to just listen only and hold back a little, but the most important thing is not to let (as much as possible) other people control how you feel about yourself. Our own interpretation of words/situations/events determines how we feel, and no one except you can force you feel negatively, though it might seem that they can.
    As girls, we seem to have a knack for visualising an entire situation and all its facets, people's responses and feelings etc., when the truth may be completely different. It's easy to let the negative things stand out more (they always do), but your contribution, openness, willingness and genuine nature speak for themselves about your own self worth.
    Self image, especially low self esteem, is a personal issue only *compounded* by our surroundings. Take note of what causes you to question yourself, but challenge them and continually reinforce those positive affirmations about your worth. To me, your ramblings and thoughts have so far been enjoyable to read, eye-opening in some cases, encouraging, and they show a level-headedness and introspection not easy to come by in our peers.

  8. The thing is to keep a sense of humour close by. It's the best cure for any ailments,fine airs and low down blues. Taking oneself too seriously is boring for everyone so laugh at yourself; laugh at others. We are all fools after all grin! Wink!

  9. I understand that, Idzie. No one can hate me like I can. I can question even some of the smallest comments I've made. It makes me feel like crap.

  10. I understand. I've been blogging for years and am aware (even if no one else cares much) all my previously erroneous or cruddy things are on display. I can't trick myself into thinking I behaved or believed better than I did.

    However... your bravery and public self are helping so many people, as evidenced by those who write or email or comment or tell you so. You don't have to keep writing for Them (or "us") but if you do keep writing, you are doing the world a tremendous service.

  11. Thank you all so much for the kind words of support, and sharing of personal experiences.

    And just as a clarification, this wasn't sparked by anything to do with blogging and what I've written publicly (not that some of that hasn't been cringe worthy in retrospect), but simply everyday life and interaction with people.

  12. Idzie, you are awesome - thanks so much for this blog! :)

  13. This is so true I know exactly how you feel! keep writing!!! you do an awesome job!!! :-)

  14. I'm somewhat late to the punch in this response, but thought I'd throw in my perspective.

    It's really easy to believe our thoughts. As you’ve seen, we can think we're incredible one moment and worthless the next without much reason for doing so. First, something triggers one (positive) conditioned thought, then a different (negative) thought is triggered. Neither are true. In some fundamental way, I think we all know that we are more than the positive or negative nonsense that comes from our (and others’) internal judges. My best advice (which I often fail to follow) is to avoid identifying with or even believing thoughts – especially ones that try to tell you what/who you are. And that doesn’t mean arguing with what isn’t true; it means just recognizing it as such. Observe a thought for long enough without engaging with it, and it will eventually just fizzle out and fade away.

    Oh, and you know what I try to do with that voice that says “you suck at…” or “you should have…”? I recognize it as something separate from myself – as just the conditioned nonsense that we all inherit from our cultural conditioning – and I tell it to go f--- itself. You owe it to yourself to fight back when you’re being bullied by your own thoughts.

  15. ... I love it when anonymous comments are beautiful, helpful, and inspiring instead of snarky and biting. ^__^