So I was talking to a career coach recently about how much I like my job and my life, but still feel plagued by questions that either invoke an inner Savior complex or point to a bottom less self-hatred/arrogance-
Why do I get all this when there are so many suffering people?
I’m just lucky, I don’t deserve what I have.
If I am unusually gifted, don’t I owe the world something? How could I give something back?
If I’m not aimed towards being the top of my field in the top of all fields, if I’m just another chick in a communications job, I’m nothing.
She suggested I seek a therapist, and I took some steps in that direction.
Yesterday, I had a talk with my manager about my yearly objectives, which looked a lot like last year’s, except for the fact that I”m basically picking up a bunch of work from a colleague that is now on another project, a move which helped my job become permanent. They weren’t really bad, they just reinforced my feeling of being a stupid chick in a comms job which anyone with half a brain could do- which is a horrible and arrogant thing to think, being that I am surrounded by, and managed by, women working in marketing (but mostly) comms.
We talked about my future evolution- because I’m always thinking about that, and basically if I want to stay with the entity I currently work with I’ll have to move to London in the next few years.
But fuck London and the whole goddamn AngloSaxon world pushing their model on the restof “us.” I also need to stay in France for about four more years to get citizenship. If I leave at any point, the clock will go back to zero for my five years required to get naturalization. So basically if I leave France, I will need someone to sponsor me for a visa and all that jazz again, and I’ll be no closer to being able to work freely in Europe.
Not to mention, fuck speaking English and the English and leaving Paris after I have worked so hard to get here, and make a home here.
The last time I left Paris, knowing that I might not find my way back, my existential crisis/depression hit a new low, and I gained 30 lbs. In the end, i did come back and with a great position, or so it sometimes appears excpet days like yesterday, much better than a fucking English teacher or nanny anyway. ANd here, I have enough vacation that I can see my family and see the world. It’s not clear that would be the case if I were to go to London. Supposedly the marketing fnction will gain in stature and breadth so I could do more strategic things, but really the truth is that I am really good at what I do, and fuck me for not appreciating it.
Because the truth is that there has been a hole inside of me, nd I survive by not getting too close and occassionally sacrificng something into this false idol of my lack of worthiness. Like a pagan god, I toss in the occassional prize won of blood, sweat and tears- geetting and keeping and excelling in my job in France, allthose countless As and academic awards, the debate team, and when I’m really low, I try to do anything to appease the feeling of unworthiness, simultaneously reinforcing it and escpaing it through bad dietary choices or the worst, toxic relationships with men- and friendships with people who o so subtly brought me down.
But the truth is there is nothing that will fill this hole, except realizing it is just a concept I have created, and a false one at that.
Could it have been born when no one in my family had boundaries, when I hung out too much with my aunt with no self esteem who was generous to a real fault, not in a saintly way but because she thinks so little of herself? Could it have grown deeper when my father asked me, “what is wrong with you,” when I failed to do some elementary thing- I know he didn’t mean to hurt so deeply but I was always sensitive, or over sensitive some would say. Could it have reached bottomless level when my mother, when I told her I didn’t feel loved or appreciated and wanted to run awayfrom home, called me an ungrateful wretch? Because no one is allowed to have anything about happy feelings about their family, no one is allowed to doubt for a second that sacrificial love makes everthing ok and perfect?
Because for almost as long as I can remember, I somehow absorbed the belief that I, on my own was not enough. People told me I didn’t have to be the best at everything, but I felt compelled to at least try, because without trying I was just lazy and worthless. I believed since I was bright and school came easy to me that my academic achievements were pretty much worthless and I had to be good at sports- that didn’t really work out for me, and I gradually withdrew from that into debate and academic realms-only to choke under pressure there too.
Though I originally loved speech and debate, the doctrine of having a set limit of potential made me feel worthless after I didn’t get trophies as often as some of my teammates, and eventually I quit as I hadn’t improved over the course of my time competing, in fact I got worse, and I eventually withdrew from that and stoppped doing intensive extracurriculars. It just didn’t feel good.
WHen I was about five, I took an intelligence test to get into the gifted and talented class. Given the fact that I started reading at an early age and by about six knew all of the 50 statecapitals, I really thought I would get it, and when I didn’t, said that I hated myself, leading my parents not to want to me to test anymore. Finally, the librarian who noticed I was reading at a sixth grade level in second or third grade recommended that I retest and at that point I got it, although I think my results were borderline. As it turns out, the people who were in those classes from the beginning have taken all types of paths in life, and it’s fair to say that I am among the moreconventionally successful among them. One o fmy classmates had a really tough family life, and is now waitressing. It kills me to see people not have a chance to achieve their full potential, and I realize just how blessed I was and am.
I always compare myself against an ideal version of me, who is neat, and organized, and has exactly the same natural gifts and starting point, but far surpasses me with her discipline. I never win against this person. She is a straight a tri season athlete, and I”m just an A minus student who does winter track.
There have been a few points in my life where I feel like there was a big cleavage between what I could have been and what I am. I wish I had done crosscountry in my freshman year of high school, though I was drowning in school work at the time. I probably wouldn’t have stopped running and would have kept something non-competitive in my life. I was thinking that the other point was when I joined the speech and debate team in college rather than doing crew, which I’d always wanted to try- though found I was not in really good shape for. The girl who walked to practice and couldn’t do the initial run with me on the first day is still rowing.
Add to these stories the time in my life where I had successfully, healthily lost about 50 lbs but was still a tad pudgy, and then went a bit cuckoo, bordering on anorexia. And I still wasnt that thiN! But I remember comparing myself to model bilboards to see the amount of rib bone they had showing and their thighs.
COmparison is the thief of joy.
When I was stressed with not being the best student anymore in high school, that mostly went out the window.
I felt like I desered to eat like a normal person and still be thin. It didn’t really work out for me, though it wasn’t until bsuiness school that I became seriously overweight. I haven’t gained any weight since I’ve lived in France but as of this point havne’t lost any either.
I even faced the demon of Weight Watchers, which I once abused and tortured myself with, waking up starving and occassionally bingeing within my points limit since i barely ate for a week before. That didn’t seem to work for me.
NOw I realize it’s healthy mind, healthy body, and recently have felt a lot better about life and found it easy tomake healthy choices and exercise a bit.
Just yesterday after my talk with my boss about yearly objectives made me feel really sad and self aware of this problem.
Because I can’t see clearly what is good and bad in my life, what I like ad don’t like, when I am uided by feelings of inadequacy whatever I do. In business school, I just gave into them. I can’t live my life like that though, and writing this is part of facing those really ugly feelings and a part of myself that has undermined my happiness for as long as I can remember.
Is it my idealism and believing we are in sucha fallen world? Is it Catholic theology of guilt and sin and over Platonized ideas of how far we are from the ideal that plagues me? Is it some combination of being an overgifted child who didn’t feel accepted except through her accomplishments, who eventually realized she woudl never be the best at everything leading her to great insecurity/arrogance, and having a life that doesn’t follow the script for my concept of what an MBA should be like, much as I hated my MBA when I was in and hated myself for not following a more charitabe or artistic path?
But at some point I realized, probably any path would seem stupid.
Except writing, maybe, which I don’t think I want to do as a day job.
Except that as a chick in comms, it pretty much is my day job, and has nourished my artistic self esteem and encouraged me to write more, and pays for my travel and creative stuff while also allowing me to live in Paris. Even if I feel like all I do is send otu fucking invitations and clean up after sales people whoare so fucking more important than I am.
Fuck you stem fields and feminist guilt about my pink collar job and being in a goddamn support function, this world where only numbers are respected.
Fuck you my stupid strategic brain, which is already worried about 15 years from now and if I’ll be stuck in mygoddamn support function, fuck you jealousy and envy making me feel like all my MBA peers are doing way better adn more “MBA-like,” work than me and my degree was a total waste and I”mnot leveraging it enough as a nana in comm.
Fuck me for wanting to be a decisionmaker, for wanting to be top in my field, when I’ll freely admit tat while I enjoy my job and continue to be ambitious, it’s not my main passion in life and I don’t want my job to take away from other stuff in my life.
FUck me for not submitting to travel magaznes and having a “real” blog and having sent a book of essays to tons of friends with only a few actually responding.
Fuck me for not taking the time to proofread things nad believing it’s all fucked anyway so better done than perfect- the flip side of perfectionism.
Fuck fuck fuck fuck.
The “tragedy” in the title is two-fold-
- The ill-gotten gains of this warped way of thinking have hurt more than they have helped. Could I have achieved all I di dand bein France and do all the things I have done, without this hole pushing me further and faster and onwards and higher? Yes and no. what I can say is that things I have done out of self hatred, like losing th elast twenty pounds, have not been really well appreciated at the time- I still didn’t feel good about my body- and ephermeral and have come back to haunt me. I weigh about one hundred pounds more than my lowest point now.
- The other aspect of this tragedy is that it’s pretty heretical against not only myself but also the philosophy of valuing life. This tragedy is that it’s made me not enjoy the blessings of my life nd to doubt myself, part an parcel of God’s creation, endowed with basic goodness. ALl of those seconds are times I will never get back. ANd it is the opposite of gratitude to believe you are never enough.
I think the only way to win against the hole is to deconstruct it. TO realize, perhaps first of all, that worthiness is a concept that I have created in such a way that it’s like a basket with holes that cannever be full. There is something wrong with my definition, and I also have to realize this is just a concept. It is something I and society have made up. But it doesn’thave any real existence in itself. That being said, concepts can be useful, but my concept of self worth is so flawed that it’s not even worth arguing with. IT is something that can’t be repaired, hence why it’s such a bottomless pit.
I’d like to take a second to reflect on how high functioning someone can seem having this problem. I didn’t drop outof b-school, though I threatened to. I didn’t refuse to get out of bed. I still ahd some energy, and I never succombed entirely to self hate. ANd people really don’t understand your suffering when your dreams are coming true and you have everything and more to be happy.
But the truth is that this is an undoing in itself, because it further invalidates your feelings, and any sense of self worth.
THa’ts a thought- that honoring your feelings is the key to self worth. I’ve always been more of a thinker and seen following ones feeliings as week- hence the recriminations about going to France, etc. One can validate the feelings without agreeing with them. But telling someone theirfeelings don’t matter is indeed, saying that they don’t matter, only what the outside looks like.
This gets into shaky ground since subjectively people think and feel tons of things that might be completely baseless. I love making fun of the safe space and trigger warning crowd (excluding people who might have actually beenvictims and suffer from PTSD) and thought police crowd, who say their feelings matter more than anyone’s right to do practically anything.
But yah, I tink it’s fair to say that if any time your feelings are dismissed wih people saying, “but everything is prefect for you,” it would indeed contribute to the feelingthat you yourself are worthles, all that matters is what you achieve or accumulate in the eyes of others.
I guess allowing myself to feel my feelings and make choices based on my feelings without comparing myself to other people is probably going to be the way out of this.
Yeah, I hope I can just stop fighting withmyself.
I hope Ican stop suffering. I want to stop suffering.
ANdI don’t wnat to turn this journey into the latest step of the quest for perfection.
“If only I get over my feelings of worthlessness, then everything will snap into place in my life an I’ll be lovable, thin, financially secure, and socially wel-adjusted.”
ALthough I do think that self worth will hep with a lot of those things, I know that is a trap.
I will know I have succeeded when I feel better.
It’s up to me.
Namaste and joy to you.