Themes of self-worth and self-confidence seem to be popping up all around me lately, both in my life and in the lives of those I care about. I have come to wonder if the first doesn’t feed the second. How can we expect self-confidence if we don’t feel worthy.
Last week, I met someone who is reading these blogs. Initially, it caught me off guard. I suppose I thought that aside from my family and a few close friends, no one would be interested in reading my pontifications about life. Who the hell am I to have anything important to say?
Well, apparently there is at least one person out there and she graciously complimented me on our blog and encouraged me to keep writing. I didn’t take the compliment very well, I kind of deflected it. It’s not because I’m humble; in fact I can be quite impressed with myself at times. No, I didn’t take the compliment well because I didn’t feel worthy of it: that’s different than being humble.
I have always struggled with self-worth. If you know me, or have known me in the past, you might not guess that. My “mask” is pretty convincing. You see, I have a big personality that I can wield to great effect when I want to. I am one of those people that can walk into a room full of strangers and own it. I can project confidence, and in earlier versions of myself cockiness and arrogance. As I have grown and matured a bit that has morphed into an ability to engender feelings of interpersonal connection with people. But yet, as open and as vulnerable as I can appear, that public face belies the hidden inner truth: I struggle with poor self-image and truly feeling connected to others.
I think that I have come to use my vulnerability, and now maybe this blog, as a shield to protect myself. I “out vulnerable” people and it keeps everyone at a safe distance. It’s like an emotional game of chicken, most people will only want to go so deep before they will pull back, so I just have to be willing to outlast them and I’m safe. (Ya, I’m not sure what happens if someone ever calls my bluff.) You see, I only let you in so far, it may feel like I have let you deep inside, but you are really only seeing what I feel safe enough to let you see, if I let you get too close, you might wander into my truly vulnerable places, into the authentic depths of my being where I doubt everything, where I have no confidence, where I keep every hurt, every embarrassing moment, and every rejection locked safely away. There have only been a few select individuals in my life who have been given access to this treasure room, and fewer still who I have open that box for.
I want to though, I want to take someone there and show them. You see, I brought someone there once and I showed her every artifact and every keepsake. It was magical! She was unrushed and unconditional in the loving care with which she walked down memory lane with me. Like a proud mother who is overjoyed to see her child’s distorted Play-Doh coffee mug or the imperfect watercolor. Kristin didn’t see the flaws in my momentos, she saw them as a splendid mosaic of my life: what made me, me. She taught me how to see myself and the world through that lens.
I remember talking with my Dad about this once and he said, “She helped you to see something we all saw, but you never could.” It’s true, the love with which Kristin would look at me disarmed me. It melted away my defenses and my mask. I used to think, “If this incredible woman loves you like that, maybe you need to take another look and try to see what she sees.” I don’t think that I ever felt worthy of her love until after she had passed. Only then did I feel like I passed the test, I kept my promise to love her and care for her to my utmost ability, with an integrity of spirit and a selflessness that I never knew I possessed. Only when her life was over did I truly feel worthy.
Well, that might not be entirely true, I still have my moments when I might let some low-self worth sneak its way back in and taunt me. But, that’s where my work is now, in the nurturing and cultivation of the seeds of worth that she planted in me. In Kristin’s physical absence, it is now my job to keep learning and growing and to honor her love by believing that I am worthy. So, with a thought of why not me? I am worth it. I mustered up some courage this week and I asked an amazing woman out to dinner; she said yes! Too soon to say if I will one day feel safe enough to show her the man behind the mask, but I want to, want to, so that’s a start.
Lastly, to the kind woman who went out of her way to say a nice word to me, I apologize and thank you, old habits die hard. Next time, I’ll remember that I am worthy of your compliment and appreciatively accept it.
UGH! you always pick the tough ones, this topic just happens to be the reason I self sabotage, only let myself get so far, and why recently I was called out, “Parker, I think you have a commitment issue.” Alright Kevin, if you can, I can. As far as letting people in? If I’m an open book then there is never a need for anyone to look any deeper. Well good morning, Kevin. I wasn’t expecting this prompt, but why not?