Friday, February 08, 2008

Burden of extremes

I had a bit of an Aha! moment, as Oprah calls them, yesterday during an Al-Anon meeting. I had just come from a session at which my therapist told me for the first time, "Self-esteem is a choice." I was still deciding if I believed that, when someone read this reading from "Hope for Today."

"Before (getting into recovery), I always compared myself to others, particularly my family members, and vowed to be better than them. I sought the elation of winning and wanted to be praised. My constant comparing and competing gradually edged most people out of my life. Ultimately I was not even good enough for myself, an attitude that led me to harsh self-abuse.
As I attended meetings, I gradually learned about the concepts of balance and perspective. I listened as other members shared about their mistakes and character defects. Their reactions to them -- self-acceptance, making amends, and patience -- showed me there are different ways to behave in the world. ...
In studying the steps with my sponsor, especially the 4th and 5th steps, I realized that beneath my extreme competitiveness lurks the true nature of the problem -- pride and fear along with a sense of inadequacy. I'm afraid of not being liked, of making mistakes in front of others, of being vulnerable. In short, I'm afraid of being human.
Today I know that in trying to be "better than," I am actually diminishing my opportunities for fun and spontaneity. I'm isolating myself from those very people I wish to invite closer to my heart. I'm putting myself in competition with my Higher Power. In battling God's will for me, I risk losing the thing I really want to win -- personal recovery."

Wowza, wowza, wowza! So many times I have shared my feelings of being "less than" in almost every situation in life. Yesterday I realized that one of the reasons I feel that way is because I have had the idea that if I am not "better than" someone else, I must be less than. I have constantly been "battling" not only all these people around me, but also my Higher Power to be "right" and to be "good" and "best." And having fallen short of those unattainable goals, I have participated in all forms of self-hatred and abuse, operating with no sense of equality and acceptance -- either of myself or others.

This is powerful stuff for me and I am thankful to God that I was able to be at that meeting and that my heart was ready to hear this message. Truth be told, I didn't catch all of the reading in the meeting ... but I caught enough that I knew I needed to go back and read it again, and enough to write in my notebook -- "All this time I've been feeling less than, while trying to be "better than" others. I have no sense of equality." I look forward to having a different perspective and moving forward as I pray for this burden of extremes to be lifted.

1 comment:

The Traveler said...

One of the strongest side effects of this particular realization for me is that when somebody tries to compete with me or make them self appear favorable compared to me I now know that their attitude is coming from a position of poor self-esteem, and it's much more a reflection of who they are than who I am. So, I can disregard what they're trying to do; it's not really personal to me. In fact, It's not really about ME. It's about THEM, needing to bolster them self at my expense.

It's a paradox of behavior, because by engaging in this destructive behavior, they hope to improve how they feel about them self. However, to truly improve one's self-esteem, one needs to build up those around one - treat them well. We get back what we give out.


This is the whole key to healthy relationships and to genuine intimacy, but it's often times counter-culture, and counter-intuitive.