“Just because you have a nightmare doesn’t mean stop dreaming” Jill Scott
“For us to have self esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue” Margaret Cho
So much of my time has been spent learning to reparent myself.
As a black intelligent gay man, I have spent years learning to hate and distrust my opinions and thoughts and almost as many years learning the opposite. In an effort to move our lives into ones of our own creation, nowhere do we get more tripped up and squashed than in the arena of feeling bad about ourselves/ feeling unworthy (to dream and invent ourselves).
Much like being mired in the belief that things will not work out because they didn’t before (creating our lives from the standpoint of disappointment) and the welcome distraction of relationships that allow and encourage confusing love with care, feeling bad about ourselves lets us off the hook and provides a wonderful set of excuses.
If I am depressed, too tired, too confused or too “whatever” then I can give up early and often.
When I have felt bad about myself or some life changing decision that I screwed up (when you are 20-25 every decision carries a healthy dose of doom and gloom), it is rarely about what us presently going on. Instead, I am worked up because of a past decision. What I am suggesting is an all out revolution. A revolution that at its center involves taking a break from feeling bad about yourself and then naturally moving into feelings of worthiness.
Often times those of us who live and move from our hearts’ desires and dreams (the ones who have the capacity to imagine a different world and can actually “see” it) are ridiculed by well meaning but ignorant and frightened adults.
We are told to be less, do less and dream less. Another way to look at this is the indoctrination to mediocrity which entails systematic and deliberate humiliation which always leads to “feeling bad about who we are”. It is particularly difficult to move toward my goals and dreams when each time a step is taken in that direction, I have to fight against a voice that says : watch out, Oh my God or the always popular and highly effective, “don’t !
When I first began seeing a therapist years ago, I suggested he read a book on shame.
Although highly clinical in nature, the overall message was clear. We, as young people, are often shamed to such a degree that once the person who shamed us is no longer around, we simply take on the policing of ourselves and continue the shaming cycle. We are taught to feel bad about ourselves.
Every time I sit down to write or have ventured onto a stage for any type of performance, I must do battle with a cacophony of voices that says “don’t”.
Every time I dare to speak and think in any public forum, I feel the overwhelming power of shame. I battle the well meaning but frightened adults whose voices swirl in my head and remind me constantly of the consequences of not “shutting the hell up”. I am reminded of the possibility of community exclusion. So my choice becomes remain silent and filled with all sorts of self doubt or use certain tools that remind me that I am not my past and that “feeling awful” won’t solve anything. When I am struggling with a new decision that is very reminiscent of an old one, a feeling of screwing up may arise.
I like to keep the soldiers in my “love army” close so that I have a clear understanding of both past successes and the creation of new approaches to problem solving.
Feeling bad makes me say: I can’t do this or I’m not good at that. My “love army” regime gets the opportunity to point out several things: You can get a job/ You are great with money/You will have a wonderful intimate relationship with a wonderful man.
This is in direct opposition to : I majored in the wrong subject/ I bought something artistic at five years old and what an awful life altering decision that turned out to be/ Men are pigs and nobody wants anybody over thirty. To defeat the thing that keeps you stuck (feeling bad), build yourself up constantly with a very select group of soldiers .
This is a war we can and must win.