Monday, 3 January 2011
Lets hear it for shooting self doubt into the sky
I've been reading lots of posts over the year end with the same of similar theme. The theme of self doubt. The writings reflect people's uncertainty about themselves as people. So I thought I'd wade in with a therapy article, this is not directed at any one individual at all. That would be seriously wrong, more it's directed as a generic tool for how we learn to accept ourselves. So the only person I will write about is myself, as at the end of the day the only person I can ever have the hope of changing is myself!
So let me start by telling you of a talent I have, it's a gift, something I have polished and treasured over the years..... It is my ability to be totally bloody tactless! When I was younger and opened mouth before engaging brain I would go to a place of self hate for days as a result of some crass and stupid thing I had said. I would believe that no-one liked me as a result of my stupidity. Oh I could beat myself up for England.
And then I started training as a psychotherapist. There I was in the middle of a teaching session and as ever I'd opened my mouth and was just starting to crawl in my hole of self hate. When I looked up at the rest of the obviously cleverer people than me in the room, and I had a moment of self realisation that rocked my very foundations. No-one else was looking at me as if I'd grown another head. In fact the session had moved on and my crass comment was just accepted, as the dialogue about whatever point was going on was far more important to everyone, than stopping to look at me and point their fingers and be shocked by my tactlessness.
It was a life turning point, and not a moment too soon, as I was in my mid 40s! Suddenly I realised that yes I did say some daft things some of the time, but also I said some sensible things, That this group treated me as their intellectual equal not as some poor child they felt sorry for and allowed to play in their gang.
For those that have been reading me for a long time can see a lot of themes from my childhood here that I've talked about before many times.
I was on this course because I was seen as being bright enough to be on it. That even though the things that came out of my mouth maybe be seen as somewhat tactless, that I was never less than honest about myself. One of my strengths is the ability to grasp the picture very quickly and I do not spend hours flannelling about a point I get straight to it. Some might even find that threatening as they prefer a more considered approach. But this direct approach meant that a lot of times we didn't waste time going round the houses of discussion cause someone felt unsafe.
My tactlessness had a positive side, people actually admired that I got straight to the point and would never expose anyone else's weakness when I could expose my own as a way to help them feel safe in the first place.
If you've ever been in any sort of group, someone has to be first to say I have this or that issue before others will join and agree. I have never shied away from doing that.
All of this has meant that in the last 12/13 years since this revelation I have learnt to love myself. Sure I'm still tactless, but imagine if you will a piece of string with tactless in a knot at one end, now holding that length of string in front of me to find the other end, the other knot is where tactful lives.
For me to have the insight to know I'm tactless I equally have to know what being tactful is about.
And this piece of string with it's two knots stretched across my body, well this is a construct, quality or characteristic, it's not a fault, just one of many many that I have.
We all have them some of them bigger or more important than others, so for me one of my big constructs is generosity versus meanness. I love it when I'm generous it makes me feel I'm the person I want to be in life. And I really hate it if I act mean, cause that's not how I want to see myself.
What happens then to people who are hooked into self doubt about themselves is they have hooked into their lists of bad end constructs only, as in my being mean, stupid, tactless and not tactful generous,or intelligent.
So going back to my imaginary piece of string, at a moments notice I can slip to either end of the tact scale. But unlike the child beating myself up for being tactless I now realise that yes I have gone closer to one end or the other but I don't stay there I go back to the middle and in five minutes time I might whisk of to the other end of the string. This about balance. We are not perfect, there is no such thing as perfection
The thing we have to learn is that for every 'fault' we have we also have an opposite end to the string. What we don't have is JUST a list of bad stuff. If we had that then we would have no-one in our lives as we wouldn't have anyone who cared for us.
But people who self doubt or self hate have no balance all they have is list of bad stuff like some hardened criminals with no redeeming features. And this makes me mad.
There is this totally unrealistic desire for perfection. Because we compare ourselves to others and find ourselves wanting. And frankly this is bollocks!
All those 'perfect' people are running scared. People come into see me in my therapy room and the first time they come to see me they are terrified. They think I might judge them and find them wanting. They look at me with my clear voice, and cashmere jumpers and beautiful make up and their self hate kicks in big time. Fortunately I know this and within the first session they have with me they will be made aware that cut me and I bleed just like them.
The easiest way I do this is through swearing, cause after all no nice middle class lady like me is ever going to swear like the client wants to when they are describing some horrid life event. I settle more people down in therapy when I've heard their story by saying "I'm not fucking surprised your upset" Oh boy does it work well, they suddenly realise that despite what I look like I am human just like them.
It is my job to help people learn to love themselves and not be stuck in the place of self hate or self doubt.
My friends love me in spite of my tactlessness because they know me well enough to know that is just a small bit of me and not the sum total. Over here we used to have a comedy actress whose catch phrase was... "Does my bum look big in this?" This was about her compartmentalising her bottom as an object of self hate. So the question shouldn't ever be about one bit of us, whether a construct or a physical feature. And it shouldn't be to other people.
The question should be of ourselves, what do I need to do today to love myself as much as others love me. Cause they don't care about the size of our bums, they love the whole package. And maybe just maybe those people who self doubt should just take that on board!
So in the interests of understanding that piece of string here just a few constructs (qualities characteristics, call them what you may) that matter to me about me.
Stubborn ---------------------- Easy Going
Generous----------------------- Mean spirited
Organised -------------------- Chaotic
And on and on, as you can see my list is a mixture of good and bad ends not all good on one side and bad the other. Just mixed up, as we all are at all times. But there are two ends and once that is understood then self hate starts to be a thing of the past.