I've also been in a depressive episode. I've felt empty, lonely and bleak. I've had suicidal thoughts, though no urges. I have been reminded in numerous ways recently the extent to which I am, by almost any measuring stick, an abject failure. This brings me to two points I've been meaning to address in this blog for quite some time.
I can't even guess how old I was the first time I was chided for my lack of self-confidence. My mom was encouraging of everything I did, as were her mom and her grandmother. My great-grandmother in particular thought I was the cat's meow. Later, my dad would often lament that they had filled my head with notions I was special, and that I needed to know I wasn't. I learned from that to not trust anything positive I hear about myself. I've lived in fear of becoming the egotist that he accused me of being. You can imagine how this fed into my depressive wiring, which I'm certain was there all along in me.
I've reached a point where I can see, and even admit, my good traits. I like to think I'm compassionate, patient and kind. I'm reasonably sure I'm funny, even if a blog full of posts about wanting to kill myself don't really convey that. I'm an above-average writer and I'm comfortable speaking in front of a crowd.
None of these things, though, inspire me to self-confidence. Compassion and kindness aren't things in which you actually measure them through competition or anything of that sort. I've been lauded for my patience over the years, but so what? I'm not the funniest guy in the room, and I'm okay with that. I like to laugh, and if someone else can make me, then I'm all for it. And if you think writing skills are the path to self-confidence, you don't know a thing about writers!
I've always responded to the challenge that I need to be more confident by asking, "Of what?" Just what should I be confident about in my life? My marriage having failed, the daunting task of trying to date has prompted me to take inventory of my life. I have...nothing. I have accomplished...nothing. I can offer...nothing.
The only thing I have in my entire life to offer anyone is just myself. That's not a hell of a lot. Some have tried to point to positive things about me, often leading to some variation on the above list I've identified. But so what? Do you know how many guys are out there in the world who are compassionate, patient, kind, funny, can speak in front of crowds and who don't have my baggage? Guys who are healthy, attractive, have financial security, their own place and car, who know how to excite a woman? I don't have an exact figure but it's somewhere between 19,814 and a zillion. I hate to reduce it to a competition, but realistically that's what it is. My upside is overshadowed by my downside, and I'm a pathetic competitor for the attention and affection of a woman.
No one has yet explained to me how self-confidence actually works. It's a lot like whistling, really, which is another of my deficiencies. Whistlers just assume everyone in the world can whistle. "You purse your lips and blow," they say. I do and nothing happens. They can't understand what I'm even failing to do, so they laugh or shrug and write me off as a non-whistler who will never get it.
The most helpful thing anyone has tried to suggest is that I "fake it" until I feel it. Except even that is meaningless advice. For one thing, I'm terrible at facades and faking things. It's just not my style. (I suppose I should add honesty to my above list of positive traits.) The other reason it's useless advice is that I don't know what I'm faking! How can someone who has never felt self-confidence possibly know how to fake it at all? Why not ask me to speak in Mandarin or repair a clogged artery? I could gamely just try to fake those things, too, and hope I got it right but there'd be a lot of confused and probably insulted Mandarin-speakers and at least one dead patient before I ever got it right.
Similarly, I have been advised often to "love" myself.
I have no idea what this means.
I don't even understand what loving oneself is, and I mean that in the most literal sense I can possibly say it. I understand love of others. I have no idea how that applies to oneself. I am me. Love isn't even relevant. I'm stuck being me regardless of how I may feel about it. Truthfully, I've always been resentful. I can remember as a child, lying in bed and despising my parents for not considering whether or not I even wanted to be born. I existed to satisfy some parental need of theirs, not because I wanted to exist. Since then, I've accepted that I do exist, regardless of why, though truthfully I've never let go of that resentment.
So, Dear Reader, I put it to you: How does self-confidence work? What is it to love yourself? How do these things even happen? What do they look like? What are the steps of either process? How do you know if you're doing them right? When do you know you've succeeded? How much snot can I possibly produce in the course of this one night? How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?