Some Rights Reserved by paul (dex) at Flickr
Here are two posts about self-esteem (here and here) I’ve recently published at Health Central. “Loss of self-esteem” has become the clinical term for one of depression’s key symptoms, but it doesn’t convey much about living with the contempt I used to feel for myself, day in, day out.
One habit that was especially hard to break was the constant comparing of myself, always unfavorably, to just about anyone I met or even read about in the news. A day was filled with reminders of inadequacy because of this, but I think part of it was also envy. I’ve always felt contradictory impulses – tearing myself down but also feeling strongly competitive with other men. I could easily shift from feeling powerless to imagining myself capable of super-achievements. I suppose these are different forms of insecurity, damaged sense of self, loss of self-esteem – whatever you’d like to call it.
The other habit was lashing myself with the failures or blunders I committed each day. Of course, I could never see the positive side of anything I did when consumed by depression. I obsessed and winced over each mistake and took it as yet more proof of worthlessness. Strange how limited the mind and emotions become in this state – one answer, one judgment for everything.
In one of the Health Central posts, I describe how I’ve worked to break these two habits I lived with for so long. They still come up, but more as ghostly reminders that I can back-hand out of the way.
I hope you’ll find these posts helpful.
Will C. says
I think depression–among other common dysfunctions–has become so institutionalized in our culture, that as a society we’ve stopped really trying to fight it, and instead have formed coping strategies into social norms. In general, just as during the winter you don’t keep reminding others about how cold the weather is, in a dysfunctional society you don’t mention emotional difficulties–that only reminds people of their own misery. And the hopelessness people feel when trying to imagine the scope of the problem, or the difficulty of changing things, only re-enforces the emotional distress, the societal depression (or maybe oppression). Hence comes “The Audacity of Hope” as an apt summation of our state of affairs; regardless one’s political leanings, our president here does show himself adept at illustrating the emotional tide of this moment.
Unfortunately, I believe a more pressing tide is the rising wave of ASPD, which I think comes as an inevitable outcome of the social shunning of earnest emotion. These, I think, are more the sort of people who use one’s emotional flaws as a means to their own success, and they’re flourishing in our current climate. The media culture, reality TV, rampant advertising, all only help to cement this sort of exploitive thinking into our collective unconscious.
And yeah, ‘politics…’. Anymore, I think the word should just be formally spelled with and ellipsis after the ‘s’.
Hi, Will –
There’s a thriving industry around depression, and drug companies would lose billions if they sold meds that really got rid of it. The social and cultural view of emotions here is like the Taliban’s view of women – keep them out of sight, completely hidden, only let out under strict escort. While a general social depression may be upon us, I think it’s more the disaster Yeats saw coming a hundred years ago. “The best lack all conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity.” (I think I’ve got the words right.)
Will C. says
IMO many of those feelings of inadequacy are preyed upon by others. So many people need to tear down others to feel better about themselves, and that sort of behavior plays neatly into my own self-esteem problems. Yet such people seem so ubiquitous, that I often recede from society altogether, rather than defend myself from those unsolicited attacks as that seems to just re-enforce my own patterns of negativity.
Often the internet is even worse; I wish there were more troll-free zones. Politics seems recently to have picked up this habit as well.
Hi, Will C. –
That’s my experience too. I’m not sure why so many people react with such contempt and anger. Perhaps they can’t tolerate hearing about emotions – or seeing someone dominated by them – that they’ve had to control and hide. It’s certainly a dominant trait in US culture to keep feelings to yourself – as soon as feelings drive your behavior, you’re thought to be either weak or crazy.
I agree on politics too – but that’s far worse – the consequences affect us all. But don’t get me started on that! 🙁