Healing Unseen and Ancient Wounds

I can’t help but roll my eyes when I read self-help guides. Identify my talents? Take pride in my good qualities? Look into the mirror and smile? You’ve got to be fucking kidding. They swear by concepts such as “embracing a positive attitude” or “faking it til you make it.” I’ve read all of the tips and I’ve scoffed, doubted and, ultimately, rejected each one of them. But after finally voicing my twenty-year internal struggle with self hatred, I think it’s time to do something about it. I want this to be the last time I search “how to build self-esteem” in the Google search engine. I want to put in the work, find happiness, and realize that I, too, deserve it. I want to find the person hiding behind all of that black smoke.

 

The Basis

I’ve borrowed a few tips and tricks from various self-help guides and restructured them to work for me. My main goal is to change my thinking from negative to positive; to dilute and dispel all of the toxicity. To begin, I will evaluate where I stand today, at the dawn of my journey to self-acceptance and love. I’ll revisit these three questions at a later date (TBD) to see how or if they’ve changed.

1. Write about your strengths, good traits, achievements, and successes.
2. Make a list of your immediate, short-term, and long-term goals.
3. Rate your level of overall happiness on a scale of 1 to 10.

 

The Work

Each week for a month I will practice these four steps:

1. Name three achievements from this week (personal, professional, emotional, etc.)
2. Write yourself two compliments, carry them with you and read as often as possible
3. Document one new strength you’ve discovered about yourself
4. Write down ten positive affirmations and speak them out loud in front of a mirror (do daily if possible)

 

And So It Begins

Alison Scarpulla

Alison Scarpulla

 

1. Write about your strengths, good traits, achievements, and successes.

I am organized, driven, detail-oriented, logical, empathetic, understanding. I’ve moved across the country to a new city, landed a job immediately, was promoted in less than a year, and I’m currently succeeding in the role. I am finally moving into a new apartment. I have good credit (thank you, staggering student loans).

2. Make a list of your immediate, short-term, and long-term goals.

Complete this entry before the fear of actually following through with this overwhelms me, find a career I’m passionate about (even just a little bit), finish my degree, travel the world, run a half marathon, restore my body to normal health and functionality, find myself again.

3. Rate your level of overall happiness on a scale of 1 to 10.

One. Don’t even need to think about it.

 

 

1. Name three achievements from this week (personal, professional, emotional, etc.)

Completed a stressful task at work (setting up with a new payroll company) and saw the results of my effort.
Went for a 4 mile run even though I didn’t want to.
Attended a social gathering for my roommate’s birthday and actually enjoyed myself and the company.

2. Write yourself two compliments, carry them with you and read as often as possible

I have good style.
I am a hard worker.

3. Document one new strength you’ve discovered about yourself

I am open-minded. Despite believing so strongly in all of my self-deprecating thoughts, somewhere deep in my psyche there is hope that I can change these thoughts. I honestly never thought I’d be willing to try something like this.

4. Write down ten positive affirmations and speak them out loud in front of a mirror (do daily if possible)

I forgive myself for all the mistakes I have made.
I am beautiful and smart and that’s how everyone sees me.
I do not settle for meaningless, boring, and frustrating work.
My thoughts are my reality so I think up a bright new day.
I am in complete charge of planning for my future.
I compare myself only to my highest self.
I am more than good enough and I get better every day.
I embrace the rhythm and the flowing of my own heart.
I am too big a gift to this world to feel self-pity.
I am worthy.

The Plight of the Quiet, Shy and Awkward

Haiiro

Haiiro (2012)

Here’s the thing: I hate myself. I have hated myself since second grade. I’m pretty sure I hated myself before that but having destroyed so many brain cells from years of excessive drinking and high-school experimentation with drugs, I cannot say this for certain. I can’t blame my parents for this self-loathing; they did their best to encourage me to be me, always telling me they loved me and that I was smart and beautiful and unique. Yet somehow, as early as age seven, I hated myself. I compared myself to other girls, I was shy and embarrassed around boys and the popular crowd, I thought I was ugly. At seven fucking years old. Unfortunately, almost two decades later, those feelings have not changed.

I feel that there are two very strong forces fighting against my chance at happiness in life. The first, which I believe actually stems from the second, is my complete lack of sober socialization. As I matured, I thought I knew how to flirt with boys and have relationships with them. I’m realizing now that they flirted with, liked and had relationships with Drunk-me. Drunk-me is talkative; Drunk-me is funny and has opinions about things; Drunk-me actually has a sex-drive. While Drunk-me has my fair share of problems, the problem itself lies in Sober-me having virtually no experience with relationships with men, platonic or otherwise. I have always, always struggled to open up and relax around others, especially with people who I find attractive, who are older than me, or who I perceive to be “cooler” than myself. Once it’s up to Sober-me to interact with these people, I fall short and they lose interest. I’m afraid that the social skills of Sober-me never progressed past the age of 15, when I began drinking to socialize. It is a horrifying thought but it explains a lot about my interactions with people today. I am a 26 year old with the socialization level of a teenager. Christ.

The other force that is working against me is my low (see: non-existent) self-esteem. I have a hard time talking about it because I want to throw the word “depressed” in there but not having been diagnosed as such, I hesitate to say anything even similar. What I can say for certain is that I am sad most of the time and when I am not sad, I feel nothing. Occasionally I’ll say or do things, but it’s never said or done with any passion. If I leave any impression on other’s lives, it never has a lasting effect and fades instantaneously. I am a ghost.

As an example, today I spent the majority of my day with a group of friends planning our upcoming road trip to New Orleans. Sounds like fun, right? We went to brunch, mapped out a route, browsed the various roadside attractions we’ll be passing by and booked our hotel in the destination city. I spent a total of six hours in great company making plans for a huge life experience, and yet that the exact same day could have happened with or without my presence. Conversations were had but I was not a part of them. I listened to people I’m supposed to be friends with have a good time with each other, teasing, laughing, casually hanging out; I chuckled here and there but I was an outcast. I was boring. I was dull. I was stupid. I was ugly. I was lame. I was fat and weird and awkward and I wish they were taking someone else on the trip so I wouldn’t feel so bad for being such lousy company.

This is how I think of myself every single day and it only worsens with time. Where I used to have interests and hobbies and favorite subjects, I now have feelings of inadequacy. I find myself saying things like: “I’m not familiar with that subject” or “I watched that show once, it was okay,” or “I recognize the band name but I don’t really remember how they sound” or “I don’t have any strong feelings about that one way or the other.” At this point, I don’t have any strong feelings at all. I am not strong. I am poisoning myself from the inside out. I don’t feel worthy of claiming ideas or interests or passions as my own because, compared to others, I don’t like them enough.

It always comes back to comparing myself to others. When I’m with people, I am silent because I feel that I am less everything compared to them. When I’m not with people, social media has given me the opportunity to compare myself to others on an even broader spectrum than I could before. Not only can I compare myself to people I actually know, I can compare myself to people I don’t know and probably never will. Against them I can scrutinize my looks, thoughts, intelligence, cliques, accomplishments, wealth, ambition, passions and interests, my overall happiness. Yet I know that social media allows us to create masks of ourselves for the world to see. I look at my own social media pages and see only posts of the fun things I’m doing and the people I know and the good moments I have and what a hypocrite! I sit here alone contemplating my own misery and contempt; comparing my true level of happiness to false and unattainable goals.

I’ve never been tested for or diagnosed with depression or any other mental illness but I cannot imagine that what I’m experiencing is healthy. I’m afraid that with the combination of a social media centered world and my damaged self-esteem, I have completely forgotten how to have a personality, how to relate to people and how to live. A few weeks ago I was describing this to a close friend from my hometown, trying to put to words what it feels like to watch my own self-destruction. I told her that what I see is the image of a woman with a head filled with black smoke, you can’t see her face because it’s just a dark and empty void. This is how I feel when I look at myself each day, when I lie in bed alone, when I interact with friends and acquaintances. Unrelenting, toxic thoughts, slowly destroying me and everything around me and with each passing day the cloud of smoke grows.