Monday, March 15, 2010

Self-Doubt Sucks -the post in which she lectures herself

For this insight, I went to graduate school?????

The insidious thing about self-doubt is that, when you're in the midst of it, it feels so justified. You know that other people occasionally feel doubt, but that they're just being humble or experiencing a momentary lapse. You, on the other hand, really are incapable, and everyone is about to know.


The truth? EVERYONE experiences authentic self-doubt sometimes. Presidents, philosophers, activists, writers, parents.... everyone. Some of us do live there a little more than others, this is true. The top ten reasons why I am inadequate can spring to my mind with very little prompting, and this training I'm undertaking is activating that process quite nicely.

This is a strange twisted path for me. The link between being told repeatedly (however subtly) that you're inadequate and then coming to believe that to be your own thought, is well documented. People participate in their own oppression all the time. But honestly, I thought it was more likely to apply to children and, well, people less gifted in the intellect department.

Really, you want to make this argument?? I'm smart enough that I ought to be impervious to insidious emotional abuse. Therefore, I must be authentically incapable. Isn't this kind of the opposite of self-doubt? Well, no, on two fronts. First, arrogance and self-doubt are quite frequently the same thing. And secondly, the more fundamental (primitive, as in "first in time") parts of our brain -which have nothing to do with intellect- understand repetition and rehearsal. And the "Andrea's not as good as Math-Rat at just about anything" message (everything from higher-order reasoning to washing dishes and grocery shopping were covered, believe me) has been widely repeated -frequently by me. Rather, repetition over decades will penetrate even the toughest of shields; very few people are that resilient in the face of abuse.

So, now what? It's not so much about re-erecting the shield, these days. There's no one -other than me- trying to bash it in. It's about changing the messages. Dave's strategy, conscious or subconscious, I really can't say, was to take a strong person, and set it up so that everything he did was better than what that person did. Therefore, he must be a strong person. When that person (me) was fully broken, I could no longer fulfill my assigned role. Being discarded was inevitable.

The flip side to that same thing is that the game only works if it starts with a strong person. Ergo... I'm a strong person. Or at least, I was, once. But who cares if a person now known to be shallow and sad himself recognized me to be strong? I don't, actually. But it's time to acknowledge that many many of the negative messages in my own head are actually his. His game. His narrative. His needs.

I'm not quite up to replacing those thoughts with happy, uplifting self-talk, but I can acknowledge that many of the negative thoughts are NOT MINE. And, I do at least know that I'm smart enough to have thoughts of my very own.

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