Battling an Inferiority Complex and Low Self Esteem
I haven't talked much on here recently, I'm sure many of you must be thinking it's work, home life or illness. It's kind of a mixture of all three, but most importantly my social life was taking a turn for what I thought would be the best...but it nosedived as I should have known it would.
I had an old acquaintance reach out to me. We hadn't seen each other in years. I was super nervous but optimistic, yet somehow when I saw them everything in me shut down and I felt terrible about myself. I ruined the entire outing by acting like an asshat and saying the stupidest shit imaginable.
What happened here? It's difficult to summarize. There are a few major contributing factors, like who this person was to me, what they are now, and how different we are from each other. But more importantly it brought to light that I still struggle with an inferiority complex and I still battle social anxiety. If it wasn't for either of those things I probably would have made a life long friend and not fucked everything up. Then again, maybe I wouldn't have. Who knows, the opportunity is probably lost.
I have been in isolation for over a decade. After I lost a good friend to drug abuse, I entered into University and got on with nearly no one. That's not true, I made a few friends but they weren't the outside-of-school-hours kind. Even after graduation I've never managed to solidify a friendship with anyone new. The only person left is my friend Liz from the 9th grade and I rarely see her because we don't live in the same city.
I'm always very standoffish when you first meet me or catch me in social settings. I clamp up, sound like I'm snapping when I talk, or shut down entirely. I'm fearful of doing and saying the wrong things, which only inevitably leads to actually doing and saying the wrong things. That's irony for you, isn't it? I've been told to get out more and that practice will help me to overcome my social anxiety but in a city this small it seems laughable to think that would work. I've looked at meetups, none of it interests me, there's a lot of business and coding groups in my city. I found one group of introverts which only made me laugh at myself because I'm not actually introverted. I'm just different.
That word...different. I think the majority of bloggers in the Goth and alt scene can identify with my struggle of being different. You know how it is...Don't talk about your fascination with taxidermy to anyone. Don't tell them you listen to The Cure or Joy Division. When they question why you always wear black don't say it's because you're in touch with your dark side, tell them you have a black cat and don't like the fur showing up on your clothing. Or if you're really like me, don't tell them about your choice to not have kids, how you reject societal norms, and that you feel like a boy on the inside (watch the shit hit the fan with that one).
Social anxiety has been the bane of my existence for ages. I've always put on this facade of who I am. My senior years in high school were possibly the only years I was being honest with people. As a freshman I had been trying to please everyone, constantly joking around and acting retarded. It didn't get me anywhere, just a lot of acquaintances who didn't see me as more than a joke or someone to fill in the gaps between classes. It was like that in uni too, only it changed into me being more of a crotchety bitch who was trying to deflect attention from herself. I met some nice people but I guess I was so guarded it never amounted to anything beyond the occasional chat. Now I'm so inexperienced socially I forget how to behave in public. I talk to people like cats sometimes. I'm not kidding! I don't even remember who I am anymore. Am I me, or am I my clothes? Does that even make sense?
I tried creating a workbook to review the self defeating thoughts that keep resurfacing, the qualities I think I might have, and those negative ones that I know I do. I think this could be a helpful exercise for anyone else who may combat feelings of inadequacy. Has it helped me? That remains to be seen. I've clarified a few things but I still don't understand who I am and how it relates to everyone else.
Overcoming an Inferiority Complex
Make a list of your negative attributes.
Self centred, igrnorant, uncultured, inexperienced, vulgar, avid non-conformist, judgmental, shy, low self esteem, brutally honest, negative
Can any of these attributes be corrected over time, are some of them exaggerations or untrue?
Am I self-centred? Probably. We all tend to be self-involved. If you're too selfless people walk all over you. I try to be more giving and outwardly interested. My vulgarity and ignorance is certainly something to be improved upon. I could swear less, talk dirty less and be more open minded. The best way to do this is to become a good listener and to think more before I speak. I could be more cultured and experienced if I only sought life experiences out, but finances and my location have made that rather difficult. The only way I've tried to overcome these barriers is by reading and trying to collect other people's experiences...it feels really fucking shameful when you can recall stories from friends but none of your own. Is my being a non-conformist a negative thing? That's deep. Maybe I reject a lot of things because of some internal struggle, like it's out of jealousy or something. Largely I'm not a non-conformist by choice, it just comes naturally and is certainly apart of my individuality and uniqueness. I think it's important to be unique. I'd rather that than being predictable and boring, so perhaps I'm being too hard on myself for being different. Shyness can be overcome in time but sometimes it's necessary to be shy. I need to stop being too honest and too open about everything, some things should be revealed over time. If I talk about the wrong things too early in a conversation people will believe that whatever it is I'm talking about is of the utmost importance to me because this is the first conversation, it's my first impression. I fuck that up a lot. Yet, there are some things that I think are important for people to know about me (this is good practice, you should try making a list of things you want people to know about who you are so you can be prepared for those first time interactions). I could also try to stay positive and change my attitude when I catch myself slipping.
What do I think is my biggest barrier to becoming socially accepted?
That is a hard question to answer, don't feel bad if you can't. I think this one takes some soul searching. My biggest problem is that I'm not receptive to socializing. I've conditioned myself to live without it and I've closed myself off from people. The reason I lost friends in university is that I didn't open my heart enough to being loved and supported. I'm fiercely independent emotionally. I act like I can do without even though I definitely can't (I might try convincing myself that I can, but the other day I said I would give up my art and everything I hold dear if someone would just "connect" with me on a personal level). I want to be more receptive, I have to determine the path to achieving that.
Make a list of positive attributes.
Mine: creative, unique, funny, caring, empathetic, sensitive, honest, trustworthy, supportive, emotionally intelligent, strong, driven, talented
This is always harder. Coming up with things that you like about yourself is likely going to take twice as long as the negative attributes list. Don't feel like that's weird, it's normal. It's also normal if some of these attributes conflict with your negative ones because we all have internal conflicts, we also over exaggerate our flaws. I'm self-centered but empathetic? Wtf? But I am. I am very interested in other people, I want to care for and support them emotionally yet I have difficulty unplugging from myself. I might talk too much about myself and not ask enough about them, although I do care to know them. Make sense? While these qualities are good I feel like the majority of them are not easily discerned by other people. There are things we know about ourselves that a stranger wouldn't. By randomly talking to me on the street you probably would not know that I am trustworthy. Some of these things are learned over time and the problem for me is that a lot of my attributes need time to be established. Someone would have to invest time in me to become aware of how loyal a friend I can be, therefore my first impression on someone needs to be freaking amazeballs. Hence, why I fucked up so supremely with my old acquaintance. He's not going to come back to find out more about me. I'd be very surprised if he did.
Analyze your self defeating thoughts.
Start with a self-defeating thought and then break it down with a positive affirmation.
Self-defeating thought (A): "I'm not as good at art as Ladyfair is."
Affirmation (B): "But I'm far better at (x) than she is."
A: "I can never think of what to say. I'm stupid."
B: " I can listen and encourage conversation by asking questions. I can read to expand my knowledge or seek experience."
A: "No one is interested in what I think or feel."
B: "I cannot account for or intuit what another person thinks about me. I can only do my best and keep trying."
This next one is a hard one, it needs an affirmation to follow it but I feel it should also be further analyzed.
A: "So-and-so hates me, I wish I had their acceptance."
B: "I should move on to find someone who values me."
B: "I should move on to find someone who values me."
^ If so-and-so does in fact hate me, and I'm not just over exaggerating something stupid I did, or internalizing something they said or did as an attack, then I need to determine why their acceptance is important to me. Who are they to me? What do they represent? Do I feel that knowing them can benefit me somehow? Can I find that benefit through other means (or other people)?
Every negative thought should be followed by a positive one. You need to find things you value in yourself and stop the cycle of self hatred, especially before you can make any real friends. Believe it or not, that negativity shows. It's in your mannerisms and your speech. Try practicing positive affirmations daily. You have to believe in them, though. If you catch yourself having a self-defeating thought acknowledge it as such. For instance, I struggle with OCD. I might think of setting my towel on fire. I know that I don't want to and that's abnormal, it's an aspect of my OCD and not a real belief of mine, therefore it's not what I really think. Your negative thoughts aren't real reflections of yourself, you're just having a shitty day, acknowledge them as shitty thoughts and replace them with affirmations. You might say, but Ladyfair, I really do hate myself! And that is such a fucking pussy emo thing to say. It's juvenile and unrealistic to believe that you have no good qualities about yourself. Find what they are and remind yourself about them daily. You have to change your thought process, that shit is not going to fix itself.
This is what I intend to do. I challenge my readers to do the same. Please share your experiences in the comments below. Next time I might talk about assessing your values and your ideas about friendship and socializing.