I have a big problem.
I give a fuck about what people think.
Often I am told that seems the opposite of who I project. I’m shouty, assertive, opinionated, and pretty heavily tattooed. I look and sound like I could eat you for lunch and spit you out and that I give no fucks.
And sure, to some extent that is true but the wanting to be liked and giving no fucks manifests itself in different ways.
Example: with past romantic relationships, it doesn’t matter who broke up with whom, I taught myself early on that if they didn’t want me, I didn’t want to be with them and if I didn’t want to be with them, it didn’t matter if they wanted me.
Yet, I use sex as a way to show that I love and am loved.
(There has only been one man in my romantic history this attitude is nullified and that is my partner. But our relationship is another series of blog posts.)
Another example: I don’t give a fuck about what people think of what I wear. I’m in my mid-40s and my off-duty wardrobe is pop culture t-shirts, jeans/shorts/skirts, Chucks, and cardigans. Sometimes I break it up with dresses but for the most part, my clothing choices haven’t changed since my 20s but when I see someone looking effortless chic in clothes I would wear, I feel like a slob or dowdy in my clothing choices. I don’t feel cute or pretty, I feel awful and fat.
Yet another example: I keep telling myself, and proclaim to others, I know I’m not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s okay and on some level, I wholly believe that but when I’m not having a good mental health day, I question why anyone likes me at all because I feel like I have nothing to contribute or give.
More examples: I fret when people unfriend / like / follow me on social media. What did I do that they decided they didn’t want me in their lives and how can I change it so this doesn’t happen again? I have two graduate degrees but put me up against someone who is a lawyer, doctor, or some kind of engineer and I feel stupid. When people tell me I’m smart, I don’t believe them. My days of feeling body positive is shot to shit if I find myself next to someone of my height who is obviously thinner than me. But strangely, I know I am attractive and I don’t give a fuck what people think of my face only what my body looks like.
If I am eating in public, I feel like I’m being judged.
I believe I am always being judged, compared, and expected to follow a set of rules and regulations that only those doing the judging know about.
The list goes on and on and I have a zillion of examples of the divisive behaviour.
I yearn for attention and for it to be positive.
I want my goddamned gold stars for jobs well done.
I am constantly projecting my beliefs on other people.
I am constantly competing with the world, give up when I feel it’s not good enough.
Living this way is fucking exhausting.
Talking it over with my therapist and verbally expressing this publicly is hard. (I was taking a break writing this post and started tweeting my thoughts on the matter but as it became a thread, I stopped to concentrate those thoughts here.) I think deep down we all want to be liked and self-assured but I feel like I take it to a whole new level. I genuinely feel the only way I’ll be successful is if people like me and since I believe they don’t which damages my self-worth, I’ll consistently fail.
But why do I think this way?
There is a lot of differing factors, I’m theorizing, that are contributing to this. It’s my relationship with my body and food. It’s my relationship towards sex. Bipolars are known to be hyper-sexualized. I have sex to be loved. A therapist a few years back told me I didn’t have to have sex if I didn’t want to. Logically, I’ve always known this but to hear it from someone else was freeing. I stopped having sex so much because I thought it was expected of me and I stopped using sex for leverage. The person I was sleeping with at the time thought I had lost interest when I didn’t want to fuck them 2-3x a day. When I told them what the therapist said, they were genuinely disappointed we weren’t fucking 2-3x a day. That told me much about the relationship, and of them, and it wasn’t too long before we separated.
It’s my relationship with my parents. My parents split when I was still a baby and my mother, who has always worked, continued to work so I felt like if I was a good girl and I was mindful of my behaviour, she wouldn’t need to be away from the home so much. It’s my relationship with my extended family. There was always competition to be heard. I attributed it growing up as a German Catholic who are stereotyped as loud and boisterous but I only learned later how dysfunctional my extended family really was.
It’s my relationship with education and intelligence. I was always placed in gifted programs but I had a hard time with classwork and tests. I dropped out of high school. Twice. I got my GED when I was 19. Even though I went on to double major in my undergrad and got two graduate degrees, a statistical anomaly of those who get GEDs, it wasn’t enough. I recently found my transcripts and I felt like my grades were poor even though statistically I did well. It’s my problems with pronunciations and word retrieval when I speak that makes me feel like I sound like an idiot.
I wouldn’t learn until my mid-30s I had ADD. How much would have my belief system and approach to education and my intelligence have changed if I could have managed my brain or even believed in myself?
This thought process I’ve outlined here is always going on in my brain and like I said, it’s fucking exhausting.
In order to be mindful, I need to be present. In being present, I find peace. If I worry about the future, I am giving myself reasons to be anxious and if I worry about the past, I am letting my depression overtake me. If I’m constantly comparing myself to others, I lose out on my own projects I am putting into the world.
Some of these responses to our lives are normal but it’s how we approach and deal with them is in my opinion what sets me apart from others. I have ideas and dreams that I want to follow and living in this cycle is prohibiting me living my best life.1
So the question is: How do I find self-worth in who I am and genuinely stop comparing myself and projecting my thoughts on to others so I can move forward?
In a recent therapy session, I was talking about this very topic and how I constantly compare myself to people and my extreme jealousy of their lives. My therapist immediately asked if I was a danger to myself or to those people aka was I stalking them? Jesus, no, I said. I only read their Twitter feeds a few times a week and sometimes I’ll look up if they have articles written about them. I’ll go weeks, sometimes months, of not giving a shit about these people only to find myself scrolling through their Twitter feeds or Google images of photos of them or listening to podcasts of old interviews they’ve done and I’ll do this over the course of a few days. Then I become disgusted with myself, stop this nonsense, forget for a few weeks or a month, and eventually start all over again.
It’s a vicious cycle.
Her question, quite rightly, scared me. Could I become a stalker? Am I getting all Single White Female up in here? Bipolars and Borderlines are known to be obsessive. I didn’t feel like I could become that woman stalking people but being honest with myself, I could see how my actions could multiple and could be interpreted as such. My therapist said it’s okay to have an interest in someone’s life like a celebrity or a band; we’re curious human beings, but it’s my 0 – 60 attitude towards it that becomes or could be problematic.
I need to stop this behaviour.
I want to stop this behaviour.
I want to live my best life.
So what’s next? How do I stop this cycle and get some self-esteem?
My partner says, “Just stop doing what you’re doing. You know you’re self-sabotaging and hurting yourself.”
But that is easier to say than to do, right? Anyone who has some kind of addiction to something like smoking knows that even the desire to quit isn’t enough. I knew all the health perils of smoking or the smell of my clothes or the yellowing of my fingers should have been enough to stop me from smoking but since I associated smoking with alleviating extreme stress, eating nice meals, and staving off boredom of long drives, “just one more cigarette” was all it took for me to get back in the habit. My partner at the beginning of our relationship said, “It’s me or the cigarettes” and that shook me. I started working on giving up cigarettes and it was hard as fuck. The early stages of withdrawal were torture. Sometimes I fell back into the habit when I was particularly anxious or stressed like when my mother died but I’ve been 90% smoke-free for the last decade.
What changed and how do I apply that to what I am outlining here?
I wish I could magick up some reasonable answer. Logically, and rationally, I know measuring myself against others is detrimental to my well-being. I know I am worth more than I give myself credit for and I’ve accomplished a lot of what I set out to accomplish. When I’ve hinted around this topic to others, many have said there are those who admire me which blows my mind because I always ask why?
Knowing the rational and logical way isn’t always enough because there is always the “just one more time” and “I promise I’ll never do this again” itis. Because it doesn’t matter if I stop visiting my interests social media as there is always something else somewhere else I’m comparing myself to which feeds the worthlessness.
We all know, at the end of the day, we’re all the same, right? We want to be loved and admired but we’re so busy gunning for that affection we forget who we are and what is important to us. This is often discussed as imposter syndrome. The idea is to “fake it til you make it” but what if you can’t even fake it? What then?
It’s a dichotomy: I believe those who say they don’t give two fucks are deceiving themselves but at the same time I believe we want to believe that to be true.
If you have been around the self-help/self-care/mindfulness/happiness blogosphere even for a bit, you’ll see a lot of commentary on creating mantras because if you say it often enough, you may end up believing it. This is even a tool in DBT. I thought this was a bit of hooey but as I type this out, I’m thinking maybe that’s not a bad idea. I am pretty desperate these days to get off of this ferris wheel of self-hatred. I’ve got shit to do!
One of the reasons I started this blog was to talk about being mindful when you have a mental illness and as a document to journey where I am and where I’m going. I have to accept that there are days I am going to fail and there will be times when I am successful in believing in myself. So, I’m going to start a few things:
- Scale way back on reading up on or checking out the objects of my interests social lives
- Document the days when I do and document the days that I don’t obsess over other people’s lives. The goal is to make the days in between the dos longer and longer just like I did when I attempted to and eventually quit smoking.
- Write a mantra in my daily ToDo list to check off so I have a constant daily reminder of my own awesomeness
These steps seem small, I know, but it’s something. If I have to stick a post it on my laptop to remind me of those small steps can mean large changes, then I will.
I can honestly say despite all the ugliness portrayed here, I believe enough in me to give this a try.
1. I am not Oprah but I use this term because it does have a value in explanation.