Sometimes I find it truly amazing how a small things can take root in our minds. Growing, developing, and branching like a tree, a small idea can make all the difference in the world, or at least in how we view it. I think I have always known certain things that are true about the world, but it wasn’t until the last twenty four hours, when I’ve had a couple good conversations with friends, that I’ve realized what the difference is between me and the world.
It’s probably a point of contention, but I think most people are very obsessed with themselves. Not in a bad way, and not everyone, and not all the time, but there’s a drive within our brains, wired into our subconsciousness, to look after ourselves first. To think of ourselves first. To put ourselves first in decision-making opportunities. I need to be clear again that I don’t think this is a negative thing. I think it’s a neurobiological thing. It’s just something our brains are programmed to do naturally. Many people overcome this, with acts of true altruism, or when people in their lives become extensions of their Self, like one’s spouse or children.
Interestingly though, I say most people are obsessed with themselves, and that’s okay, because I think that the obsession that most people have with themselves is generally quite neutral. Everyone thinks constantly in the first person, experiences live cognizant of their unique perspective, and sometimes handles positive things well and negative things poorly. Everyone beats themselves up sometimes, or praises themselves appropriately. Narcissists praise themselves inappropriately, whereas I do the opposite. I live in an internal world where I beat myself up inappropriately. I either have a lot of guilt about something I can’t remember or explain to anyone else, or just a natural disposition toward it. But, unlike most people I know, I simply can’t like myself. My strong characteristics, which I can name as well as anyone, “aren’t really that good.” The bad things I do are inconceivably bad compared with what other people do. Small mistakes eat me up, whereas I carry the weight of my big mistakes for… well, I can say forever because I haven’t let any of them go yet.
I was reading a story today, that seemed appropriate even though I can’t apply it to my life:
Once upon a time a psychology professor walked around on a stage while teaching stress management principles to an auditorium filled with students. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the typical “glass half empty or glass half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, the professor asked, “How heavy is this glass of water I’m holding?”
Students shouted out answers ranging from eight ounces to a couple pounds.
She replied, “From my perspective, the absolute weight of this glass doesn’t matter. It all depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute or two, it’s fairly light. If I hold it for an hour straight, its weight might make my arm ache a little. If I hold it for a day straight, my arm will likely cramp up and feel completely numb and paralyzed, forcing me to drop the glass to the floor. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it feels to me.”
As the class shook their heads in agreement, she continued, “Your stresses and worries in life are very much like this glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and you begin to ache a little. Think about them all day long, and you will feel completely numb and paralyzed – incapable of doing anything else until you drop them.” (Source)
I have all the weight, and I’m obsessed with myself like everyone else, but unlike most people, I never put the weight down. I never praise myself, or feel particularly proud of myself. I do lots of things simply because I have no better reason to do something else, not because doing or not doing something is good for me (or more often, I don’t not do things even knowing they are bad for me). I am simply wandering through life, doing what comes to mind, knowing no matter what, I won’t be happy with myself. It’s made me realize that line I was telling myself about not having regrets might be a lie.
Through it all, it’s not the things I’ve done that really matter; it’s the fact that I’m a person who does things because I know no matter what I’m going to be unhappy with myself. I’m tired of being that person, and today I emailed a therapist to try and get a first appointment. I think all of the other times I’ve been in therapy have just been for the symptoms of this problem I have where I can’t love myself. I want to change that, and I have a feeling “the rest” will either correct itself, or it just won’t matter as much.