I’ll begin with another Ally McBeal quote and a warning that this is another fairly self-indulgent post you can feel perfectly free not to read.
Georgia: Ally, what makes your problems so much bigger than everybody else’s?
Ally: They’re mine.
I realise that there are people out there who have Actual Problems – proper ones with significant impact – illnesses, money troubles, disabilities, family grievances, break-ups, homelessness – but in spite of these problems being more severe, and the fact that they are other people’s problems and they exist, doesn’t render mine any less valid or in need of address, just because I have a little problem with self-worth, and that might be the extent of it.
I went to see my counselor again today, ostensibly to receive the next installment in How To Deal With Your Miscarriage, but ended up circling round the whole ‘self worth’ issue again. She’s such a wise woman, that lady – a few hundred years ago and she’d’ve definitely been one of the Wise Ones in a very successful tribe.
So we delved into the matter awhile and it gradually became apparent that the problem I have is not with anyone else’s judgement of my value (which I am prepared to accept are accurate, both positives and negatives) but with my own, which is deeply entrenched in recycling and reiterating the negatives other people have given me.
The Wise Lady then asked me a pertinent question – What would it be like, do you think, to begin to make your own assessment of yourself?
At which point I began to cry big, fat tears. To my shame.
Because for my whole life, since I was a tiny child when this was what I learned, I’ve operated under the assumption that my opinion doesn’t count and that I am a burden, an inconvenience and something to be ‘dealt with’. So the idea that I could even have an opinion of my own self worth was a huge, novel idea; that I don’t need to rely on what other people think of me or how I measure up against society’s ideas of success was not something which had ever occurred to me.
I know I’ve read lots of ‘self help’ stuff over the years which repeatedly suggests that first you have to ‘love yourself’ to heal, but they never go into what you should do when you know you’re not worth loving, or even if you did want to learn to ‘love yourself’ your viewpoint is irrelevant, so nothing will change.
These twisted views were deeply, deeply ingrained, and it appears that for probably the best part of 25 years since childhood started to go so horribly wrong, I’ve not been able to see the wood for the trees.
Lots of people have tried to tell me the ‘what’ and the ‘how’, but until today, no-one’s hit on the ‘why’.
Thank goodness for my wonderful, Wise Lady and her good sense. Well, until the next thing…
…she asked if I’d found a memory box for Jesse (I have) and then she suggested I have a real or imaginary box in which, over the next week I try to put good things about myself. I blinked and said I’d find a real box quite hard. Quick as a wink she said “I want you to find a real box to do this with.”
I grimaced and agreed, slightly grudgingly, not wanting to let her down, but not wanting to spend the money on an actual box because I’m not worth it, remember?
She then made it a million times worse: “What if I gave you a box?”
*visions of self running far, far away*
Me: “Well, er, I think that would be even harder. Definitely.”
Wise Lady: “Why is that?”
Me: “Well, it’s bad enough to waste my money on a box for me, never mind wasting yours!“
Wise Lady: “Is it a waste? What if I want to give you a box to do this?”
Me: *mumble mumble, embarrassing tears* “Er, well, I suppose it’s your choice.”
Wise Lady: *grinning* “I’m going to give you a box”
So at the end of the session, she went to find this box, couldn’t and then got her colleague looking for it, too – another person inconvenienced because of me and this damn box! – but still couldn’t find it so promised to bring it next week.
So this week, I now have the task of trying to think of good things about myself, which I like, which I value, and which count. I’m sure that sounds ridiculous to anyone for whom this is second nature and who’s been doing it all their life. I still have to figure out whether I’m doing it because I think it’s a good idea and worth doing and I’m worth doing it for, or because I don’t want to let my Wise Lady down.
I tellya, a quarter of a century of wrong thinking is going to take a heck of a lot of undoing, but as Husby says; we’ll get there in the end.