Compliments, confidence and self esteem

Before I became ill, my idea of what depression was is likely to be similar to what many still think depression is- being a bit sad, maybe even lazy.  I’ve talked before about how some things really threw me- I never expected paranoia.  That was a blow.  Not being able to trust people because I’m convinced they are, if not plotting, then at least only being nice as a way to get me to shut up.

I never expected random bursts of emotions- both positive and negative.  To suddenly, and inexplicably come over in a fit of giggles, or to wake up feeling angry, upset or hurt.  I never expected the opposite either- to be completely bereft of any discernable emotion.

But there is one thing that has existed in my pre-depression days and that has been exacerbated by this condition- my confidence and self esteem/ self worth.

Under a pseudonym I wrote about how much I hate myself.  And it’s still true.  I genuinely don’t think I’m a very nice person, and that I am deserving of any and all negative and painful things that come my way.  With women especially.  I find it unbelievable that anyone could be attracted to me.  Or would see me in a sexual way- seriously?  Me?  You’ve seen me, right?  And I guess whilst my self esteem is so low I’m not going to be found hanging on anyones arm at their upcoming Christmas do or whatever- and that’s fine, to be honest the way I am right now it wouldn’t be fair on another person to have to put up with me.  But still, we are social animals, and pair bonding is quite a common topper of the “things to do in life” list for many and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that- but, it comes hurtling back to the low self esteem.

Now throughout my life I’ve never been the popular kid, I was bullied profusely at school to the extent I have a permanent defect in my jaw after a bully punched me in the head just for standing there. I guess depression has been a part of my life years before it had a name and I wouldn’t be surprised if it were found I’ve had these issues throughout my life.  But it still keeps coming back round, my total lack of confidence and self worth.

The industry I’m in and the things I do you’d be forgiven for thinking I must be quite confident and out going.  Indeed, how can someone with no confidence stand in front of a room of people and entertain them for an hour, make them laugh, make them think and make them applaud and cheer.  Yet for the past month that’s what’s been happening.  Surely I must be confident?  No, not really.  Many performers have low self confidence but use their work as a mask.  And to a large extent that’s what I do.

Confidence is sexy apparently, and I do a good impression of someone who is confident- all the while breaking slightly inside.  People have been complimenting me over the past few weeks and I find that very hard to take.  Because I don’t believe it.

Why would people be impressed by me?  Or look up to me?  Or think I’m someone worth sticking with and respected?  Me?  I just don’t get it.  Many people feed off the compliments; to me they feel like they chip away at something inside.  Almost as if the idea of success is more frightening than failure.  And it is.  Because I don’t just see the “You did a really good show, you should be proud” and just take it.  What I see is, I did a good show and therefore I have to be bigger and better next time and that scares me.  Compliments give me a bar to reach for, and reaching for that bar is distressing.  Because I simply don’t think I was good enough in the first place.

Failure and success are two sides to the same coin, and either one can actually cause problems.  Though well meaning, the compliments can actually make me worse.  Because I don’t believe I deserve them- because the people making them must just be saying it to try and make me feel better, because I just don’t think I’m very good.

But I still soldier on.  And the other downside of being like this is when I do find myself attracted to someone, I first of all assume they would never be interested in a million years, but also I start to act up a little bit.  I wouldn’t say I get clingy (others might) but I do start behaving in a way that *I* think they would want me to behave, be that trying to act a little more macho than I am, or by saying things that later I realise are immensely stupid because I can’t just be myself – because who would be interested in “me”?

And this isn’t meant as a I’m no good at what I do/ woe is me/ why wont you love me type of post.  Its just looking at the way my own perception of myself causes me to act in different situations.

I don’t do well when things go my way, because there is this nagging voice in the back of my head telling me I don’t deserve it, that it’ll all come crumbling down, that it’s a lie, that I’m kidding myself.  And I shouldn’t be.  I need to start accepting that yes people (for reasons I can’t fathom) do sometimes find me attractive, that yes what I do theatrically or as a one man show is good and people enjoy it- I’ve been asked to do shows all over the UK because people like what I do.  And regardless of how I feel at times, I have done well in the past year.  But writing those last few sentences, I still don’t truly believe them.  As if they aren’t about me.

Because like it or not I am not confident, I have little self esteem and I have a low opinion on my own self worth.  I *deserve* the bad things, I don’t deserve to have someone as a partner because, why would they be that stupid as to want to be with me?

See, I cant stop it. I can’t stop the self deprecating comments.  After writing that, yes I’ve done well and, do, do well, I HAD to write about how much I hate myself.  Because it’s the only way I can get through this post.

I’m not looking for sympathy, I’m not looking for people to pat me on the back and go “there, there”.  I am not looking for attention.  I’m looking to try and explain how I feel about myself because of this condition, and how it impacts on how others see me.

Because the loss of self esteem, the loss of that confidence, they have a major impact on how I function.  I do need the compliments, even if I can’t take them.  Because I’m a human being and I don’t want to be seen as a failure.  Even if being a success is frightening, I’d still rather have that fear than the dread of failing.

So I am good at what I do.  Some people are attracted to me.  And when people compliment me they mean it.  But my mind wont let me accept these things.  No matter how much they are repeated.  Because I’m broken.  And I’m trying to fix it, but it’s a long hard slog, but one day, one day I might be able to accept that I am good at what I do.  But that day is not today.

So before people think depressives are just feeling sorry for ourselves- we’re not.  We truly believe the negative things about ourselves which are usually inflated whilst the positives are buried.  Being complimented means having to take a real, long hard look at yourself and accept that you are a good person.  That people do respect you, even if right now the idea of accepting it is alien and scary.  We are all fighting something, in my case I’m fighting myself.  I feel a little like Harvey Dent, but my scarring is internal.

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One Response to Compliments, confidence and self esteem

  1. unnati says:

    i felt exactly the same way and still do… to some extent i suppose.
    i am trying to change, and also overcome what it seems like millions of issues. its a good thing. But at some point, i just get tired of all of it, and sometimes cry for no reason.
    Just somehow want to get it all out of my system
    Tips? 🙂

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