Monday, April 30, 2012

Thoughts on Candidness, Self Esteem, and Pride in One's Self

I am realizing that I actually know a disproportionate number of folks who live their lives in a state of shame about one thing or another. However, this wasn't something that became clear to me until relatively recently.

I grew up knowing more than a few people who had this sort of attitude. Also, I'm a bit of a late bloomer who is so introverted, I make actual recluses look social. This means that my span of experience with other people was relatively limited for most of my life. Therefore, if I grew up around it, it seemed normal to me until I had one of the many "oh shit" light bulb moments that have characterized my 30's so far.

I've always been a pretty staunch champion of honesty and openness for the most part. Yes, I can be very private. However, I will almost always simply decline to expound upon parts of my life I don't care to have people knowing about. I won't lie or make up stories instead. I won't "technically" tell the truth, but knowingly try to give someone the impression that I'm someone I'm not or that my life is something that it isn't either. If other people don't like something about my personality or my choices in life, then I consider that to be their problem, not mine. If I myself am ashamed of something about myself or my life, then I change it... so I can look my own self in the eye every day, not because I want other people to like me more or something.

If someone gives me credit for something I didn't do, I correct them and tell them who they should be giving credit to. If someone has what I consider to be an unrealistically grandiose impression of what I do for a living or of something specific about my life, I put things in perspective for them. If someone takes one look at my baby face and assumes I'm still 25 or something, I tell them my real age.. or at least mention that I'm a lot older than I look if I don't feel like giving a number. It makes me really uncomfortable not to for whatever reason. If there's one thing that life has taught me though, it's that this is not something enough people I know actually do. I don't know if it's just too difficult for them or what, but they just let people think they're younger than they are... or more successful than they really are. In some cases, they allow people to go on for years with a completely false impression of who they are as people.

They also often tell outright lies about certain things. In a relationship they're not proud of? They just keep it a total secret from the rest of the world and deny that it exists when asked about it outright. Job title not as impressive as you'd like? Just get creative with the wording you use to describe it to make it sound like you're ten levels ahead of where you are. It's like these people can't be bothered to actually make changes when it comes to things about their lives that bother them, so they simply say things are otherwise when talking to others. It's as if other people thinking it about them is all it takes to make it true in their own minds or something. I personally get nothing out of basking in praise I don't deserve or accepting rewards I didn't earn, so this is not something I understand at all.

I'm not even trying to sit here saying that I've spent my whole life feeling ridiculously proud of who I am. Trust me, I know a thing or two about what shame feels like to varying degrees. I've been in relationships with people I didn't even want to be seen with before. I had an unhappy marriage to someone I didn't love just like half of the other human beings on this planet and I stayed in it way too long. I've made a living a million different ways over the years, but I've never been truly satisfied with any of them or considered them brag-worthy to any extent.  (This includes the great majority of the freelance writing I'm doing these days.) I also know what it's like to be the person other people are ashamed of.

Even now when I'm doing much better at life than I was for a long time, I feel like I have a long way to go before I will feel comfortable thinking of myself as a successful person who has anything of substance to brag about. However, I'm also honest about all of those things. If something is a really sore subject (like my marriage was back when I was still in it), I just decline to talk about it at all. I don't spew out a pack of lies instead. Now... if I start feeling like I'd need to in order to come off the way I want to to other people, then that's my cue to start thinking about making a change. It's a pretty good system that's served me well over the years.

I've had haters say in the past that they're not really sure why I seem to get so much respect from other people in general, because I'm "not that great" (usually behind my back, because that's how haters roll). Yeah... duh! And I'd be the first person to tell you so, too... but perhaps those people should consider something. Maybe it's not that I'm "that great". Maybe it's that I'm that honest. People know what they're getting with me and that's probably a relief in a world that seems too full of deception and dishonesty to me. More people should try it sometime. They'd probably be shocked at how much more readily they're accepted by others in exactly the way they want to be.