I find it strange how I can be told something about myself, many times, over many years, and suddenly a point comes where I can finally really get it. In my case, that is how I feel about myself, and how that affects relationships with those around me.
Over the last couple of years I have been spending more time around fellow men, and that has been a very conscious initiative to find more unmarried men who are not doing some tricky balancing act between job, wife and children. I realised how much I enjoy the company of other men. I become the best version of myself, especially in a group of guys. My insecurities don't suddenly disappear, but somehow they become OK. I become OK when I am with men. It is OK to suffer from depression - lots of people do. It is OK to admit how anxious women make me, and I am often left in wonder how even men I consider very good looking, and very successful with women, suffer from the same issue. It is quite re-assuring actually.
So in the process of being OK about myself - all of me, I can connect quite deeply with guys, and that feels really good. I feel accepted, valued, respected, and consequently, OK about myself. My energy levels rise and suddenly I feel lively and glad to be a alive. It is literally like a switch.
This is a very different experience to how I feel in the rest of my life, especially with women I find attractive, and often when I am alone. The "OK" switch is mostly in the off position. I am ashamed of the same things I feel fine admitting to the boys. Whatever I do, or whoever I am, is not good enough. If I am fearful of something and don't do it, I am a scared pussy. I hold myself in contempt. Same if I am nervous, or indecisive, or anxious.
It is strange how the same person can feel so different in different circumstances. I really want to bring that sense of OK-ness to the rest of my life. I remember my therapist saying to me many times over the years that any woman that liked me became instantly unattractive, because if I hated myself, I could not possibly love anyone that found me attractive. There must be something wrong with them. I am not sure I was ever really ready to hear this - in fact, it just annoyed me when she said it. I always thought eventually I will find a girl so beautiful and so lovely that I will feel OK about myself.
Because, of course, everyone with a beautiful woman has a perfect life. And everyone who gets married is happy. And everyone who is rich is totally happy and well adjusted. And every sportsman that achieves a dream is happy the rest of their life (just look at Tiger Woods!). Perhaps we all know that chasing the dream is bull, but just can't face the reality. That whatever that thing is we think will make us happy, rarely does. Not long term anyway. We are looking for something external to heal our own wounds - how we feel about ourselves. The only thing that can make us feel better about ourselves is us.
My experience of feeling better about myself is that it is not easy (understament...). If it was, I suspect millions of people visiting this site would not be here. Therapy can feel like a one-way ticket to nowhere. Medication the same. It is so easy to feel that nothing will make a difference - I have thought that many times. And we all know where that hopeless train of thought leads.
I can look back over many years now. A lot of the time I can acknowledge there has been change. But a lot of the time it is imperceptible. It is so slow. I still feel down. Sometimes bordering on hopeless. But those times seem to get shorter. Their intensity seems - nay - is, less than ten years ago. It is incremental change though so hard to notice as it is happening.
Mental illness is so prevalent. There is so much shame around it. I feel deeply ashamed. Mental illness may result in more deaths than many physical illnesses, but somehow it is OK to say I have cancer - you can't do anything about that - it just happens to you. But there is the impression that people can do something about mental illness. They should be able to overcome it by themselves. As if anyone would actually choose to be severely depressed or suicidal. Perhaps it is this stigma that makes it harder for me, and others, to accept they suffer from mental illness. Meaning we don't get seen. Can't be accepted for the whole of us.
And as much as I would like to change the things I don't like about myself, more and more it feels like a mission to just be OK with them, although that is not so easy either. This weekend I was out with some male friends, and one of them was listing what he thought were my good qualities, and his views about how I came across to women. Positive comments. And I thought - REALLY? You think that of me? It was really hard to let that in and believe it - I was actually a embarrassed hearing it. I don't really believe it.
Perhaps therein lies the problem. I see myself more negatively than others do. Who's to say my view is more valid than the views of many others??? Maybe they are right and I am wrong? Which means I best start working on believing something different....