Friday, November 11
Most days I find myself facing existential crisis. I don't use that term lightly... and I'm only writing about it because I have finally realized that my daily dose of crisis isn't all that normal. And because being vulnerable - understanding my own weakness - is an important part of thriving in life.
The seed sprouts from a mild sense of disconnection. That can come from pretty much anything - when I misinterpret communication from a friend or even a stranger, when there are delays, and pretty much any time my expectations and reality don't match perfectly.
The sense of disconnection, if it remains and my mind has a moment to think, sensitizes me to one of my personal shame triggers - the deeply set belief that I'm not worthwhile in relationships... and that people would be better off without me in their lives.
My inner persona recoils with shame when the trigger gets flipped. It begins chanting positive affirmations in the hope that one will stick: "I'm not a worthless person. I've done lots of really good things. I make a difference. People love me for who I am... right?"
But in that moment all the things I've ever done don't matter. They're all in the past. They talk about the *past* me - not the current me. And then I am suddenly engaged in a war with myself, feverishly attempting to show that my life and life's activities prove my worth.
My day-to-day flashes before my eyes, from my distant plans for the future down to the things I did just moments before.
Everything gets weighed. Everything gets judged. Does this really make a difference to the world? Does this really prove that I am good?
And if I can't explain how something in my life is essential to the wellbeing of humanity, it gets tossed to the cutting floor.
Then there's free time - pre-existent or created through the culling - and, without skipping a beat, my internal urge demands that each moment be filled with a valuable, meaningful activity that will change the fabric of the world.
If I can do it, then the crisis fades. The shame quells. And the exhausting fear of being a failure quiets into the fear of failing.
But if I come up short - if I can't identify something meaningful enough, or if I lack the resources to work on it, or sometimes without any excuse at all, the feeling escalates to true crisis. Overwhelming shame fills my soul, and I find myself wanting, wishing I could do anything to get away from myself. Sometimes I have the foresight to drug myself with endorphins at the gym. Other times I down an entire jar of peanut butter, even on a fast day. Or I try (it used to work) to drown myself in video games or movies.
Eventually, no matter what happens in my internal war, the feeling subsides. I clean up the wreckage and start my life again.
Good things come from my sorties with meaning. I find myself pushed constantly - daily even - to better understand my role in the universe and how I can play a better part. I think about how I can be a better friend, a better brother, a better father someday, and I make real plans on how to fulfill those goals.
But I am realizing that these constant daily battles are deeply rooted in fear and shame. I am afraid that I'm not enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not good enough. I'm ashamed that I'm not worthwhile as a friend, as a potential husband, as a future father, as a brother and a son. And so many of the good things I do are an attempt to prove to myself that I'm good enough.
But it doesn't work.
Because while I may be able to convince everyone else, doing great and marvelous things will never make me accept myself. A resume full of glorious accomplishments won't take away my flaws and my weaknesses. Nothing will. And only humility, and compassion, could ever allow me to accept myself for who I really am.
I don't yet believe that I am worthy of love. I don't yet believe that I am worthy of friendship or compassion or anything good at all. I've done good things. I've spent my life trying to prove my worth. Most days I'm honestly happy. I spend my hours and minutes doing amazing things and connecting with people in ways I never would have thought possible.
But sometimes I still have trouble believing in me.
Posted by Mormon Guy at 4:50 PM