Posts Tagged ‘labels

16
May
17

My Response to “Self-Esteem Issues in Ohio” (Dear Abby)

*****
[Letter titled “Being Lifelong Target of Ridicule Eats at Self-Esteem.]

“Self-Esteem…in Ohio” is in their 30s and coming to terms with social/dating difficulties stemming from a lifetime of ridicule and, quite likely, manipulation, claiming to be more comfortable putting him/her self down than doing what makes him/her happy.

I’d say he/she is in an emotional rut, passing through a sad storm.  Sometimes we write things in the moment we are most emotional and it passes.  Sometimes the problem/feeling lingers.

Dear Abby suggests professional therapy.  I feel this is too easy to recommend without a sound system of assuring the doctor-patient relationship will work.  In a way, finding a good therapist is like dating except more expensive.  Heck, even online dating sites charge less per month to gamble with them.   So, isn’t a therapist asking more than a hundred bucks an hour for you to repeat your life history, before they remotely understand your problems, compounding the problem?

*****

Well, before I get started, I had a flashback to a time not too long ago when I found and visited the Dear Abby archives/website. I found the digital copy of the letter and a loooooooooooooooong line of responses from other people, reminding me of the old chatroom and message board days. There are many who have the same responses and a handful claiming to be in similar shoes. So, anything I could say wouldn’t be much different. And, I am not sure the “discussion” is any better than comments on YouTube, as they may be hard to read/filter.

On that note, I WILL still offer some thoughts and personal experience. After all, I am not a man of few words, usually. And, if I get carried away, it might be too much for the comment trail space. I might get more attention at the source. Yet, this is just as good, writing out my thoughts, self therapy, if nothing else.

If you can handle it, please take the time to read my “radically reduced” response (which, after two drafts, is still quite long). [I am slowly learning to curb myself and save some information for more appropriate, more fruitful settings. The general public viewing space is not the same as controlled group therapy.]

But, if you reader(s) care to sift through the website comments, go HERE.

*****

First off, I was surprised I didn’t think to ask it myself. Are you a man or woman suffering from this? I presumed you were a man like me which prompted me to respond. Some of what you said struck such a resounding tone with my own troubles.

Secondly, as I know I can say more than can fit in a few lines, if you read what I have to say and want to discuss these matters (perhaps more privately), my mailbox is open.

I’ll try to group my thoughts to address various topics…and keep the details brief.

LABELS

I don’t like to say I have a condition or disease as this only makes matters worse than if I simply think of my troubles as clouds overhead which can be diminished or replaced with sun, now and then. Better to think of the bad times as foul weather that will pass, I say.

ESTEEM AND/OR ANXIETY

I don’t consider what I suffer from as low self-esteem but, rather, social anxiety, a fear to engage people beyond a certain trust level. It’s not as bad as a gal I know who freaks out if a guy approaches her to be more than a friend. I can mingle with certain people if the “water” is inviting enough. I typically have little to no trouble talking to people who I don’t consider relationship prospects, but I cannot seem to approach any woman I find attractive. And, if I do begin talking with one who then turns out to be more than I can handle (or fear she will find fault with me), it becomes a real dire situation to get out of the mess. So, I tend to run through the scenario beforehand and avoid even a kind greeting or more than “Hi.” [I set myself up to fail before trying.]

I’ve tried various methods of countering my anxieties. One, which has yet to work well though I love the idea, is delivering thoughts on paper. Rather than speaking with the person directly or trying to get an email address/phone number (as some seem to make appear so easy), I would write my thoughts in a note and pass it to the person or get someone to pass it to the person. I never passed notes in school, ironically. But, I’ve done it on the job (hoping to avoid a boss telling me not to socialize on the job by inviting the person I wanted to speak with to find me after work).

You’ve probably heard the bits about loving yourself before you love another and being comfortable alone, too. I don’t know what to think of these philosophies, but they give me a headache.

I was a kid who spend adequate time alone because Mom and Dad were not available or interested in what I liked to do, other than art, and I couldn’t do art all of the time. [That’s a whole other ball of wax, source of childhood trauma.] I could occupy myself and say I was okay. But, as I matured, I needed some social connection. I had heard “no man is an island” and took it to heart. I just wasn’t very good at getting off my island and joining the natives of another. And, no one was going to show me the ropes without sounding suspicious.

We’ve likely both been “okay” on our own long enough. How long do we have to go alone before we connect with someone? Right? And, how do we define loving ourselves? How do we know we pass the test and can move on to the next step, loving someone else? Who verifies our abilities?

TALKING DOWN ABOUT ONESELF

I don’t recall doing this in my youth. What I do recall wasn’t so much me talking about myself as it was conveying what others had said/done about me. I guess it was my way of taking a punch instead of fighting back. I’m not exactly a fighter, but as the saying goes, “corner a cat and get scratched.” [I’ve had my moments when I lashed back at those who went too far.]

However, as I entered my teens, I started to seriously wonder what was wrong with me. I can relate to what you say about not making yourself happy. For the longest time, I have put up with crap, figuring I could do no better. I would not say I have low standards by any stretch, but I have taken chances without making sure the decision was right in my gut. And, usually, when I don’t follow my desires, I run into trouble. Yet, if I only listened to my inner voice, I’d probably be more anti-social than I already am, because, I suspect, some of the voices inside me have been shoved in there by my family and peers. And, why do I want to listen to them?

THERAPY AND SELF-HELP BOOKS/EXPERTS

Whenever someone has no better advice or assistance to offer, I see this often. “Get professional help.” As if it were so simple. If you’re lucky, insurance may cover some or all of it. But, I doubt it. And, from my experience, it was more harm than help, especially when my family did whatever the professionals prescribed without considering its impact on me. As a minor, I was not to be trusted; I might as well have had rabies or be told I was due to be “put down.” In short, my trust in therapy ended when the last pill I was convinced to take nearly ended my life. When professional help goes that far the wrong way, you either get mad or you die obeying strangers.

I’ve encountered many “self-help” books, too, by self-proclaimed life-experts. I would snort at these quite hastily, wondering what makes anyone an expert on life when they are still living and learning as I am. Especially, if that life expert is younger than me. After all, what is the sense of life experience if someone can live it all before another? Just because one tree figures out how to produce apples faster than another does not make it wiser or all-knowing about fruit production. [This logic might also be applied to the medicine field and how pill manufacturers fail to grasp the concept of every body being potentially different; we can’t all be lab rats just to satisfy someone’s curiosity.]

Maybe I am not being fair. Maybe there are still good therapists in this world. But, I have yet to meet one. And, after my horrible experience, I am inclined to reject the idea.

If you DO consider professional help (in other words, advice and/or assistance from someone outside the circle that knows you already), I hope you can do as much research as possible and defer the expense.

I think therapy works when we accept someone’s way of thinking into our own. I’ve read some self-help books that have fairly good ideas. I just have a hard time trusting my soul to a book instead of someone I can see with my own eyes and hold with my hands. [I suppose this could have people questioning my ability to believe in a god, my religion. After all, what is faith in a god other than trusting stories passed down about someone I cannot see or hold?] So, if you tell yourself to have faith in the words of another, it’s likely you’ll adapt and do your best to make that work.

I guess, because I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s hard for me to trust, again.

Suggestions for countering these problems:

1) Well, I already gave one about labeling conditions/difficulties.

2) As for the lack of confidence to engage others or feel better about ourselves, I wish I could find a good therapy group, if I cannot do better at making friends on my own. I’m not likely to seek such a group out, sadly. I have doubts about therapy and professionals but DO think a group is better than one-on-one.

I had brief experience with group therapy and campfire discussions. But, I could feel, rather quickly, a sense of community. When everyone in the group contributes, there is less likelihood of distrust. You slowly let your guard down and accept not being alone with the problem. I had a good time with my senior (high school) retreat when the group was able to divulge personal trials. Suddenly, those who appeared flawless were just as fragile as I, and I wanted to reach out to them, to hug them. [Sadly, the trip did not end as well as it started.]

HOWEVER, be sure you are in the right group and gauge your experience day-by-day. Because, I was placed with one group who had different problems than my own, and it made no sense for me to spill my emotions to people who could barely speak for themselves and/or comprehend my woes.

3) I have repeatedly tried something over my lifetime which doesn’t exactly accomplish much other than shaking an emotional load off my shoulders. Whenever someone made me feel “less than” or hounded me (like a bully), I would concoct a tall tale. [This probably contributed to some calling me a liar at the wrong time, like the “boy who cried wolf.”] It’s sort of like the advice some give about wild animal encounters; you make yourself look big. That’s what I did without attempting to be cooler or dress differently (as many would do). I talked big and fabricated details, hoping to steer away whatever was looming over me like a plague. It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better about myself, but it helps to steer the threats away.

Consider this a last resort strategy. Some days, I’d just want to get home and unwind. And, I’d tell myself this strategy accomplished the bottom line. It got me out of the line of fire. But, if the problem didn’t stop

4) I like how people describe Conan O’Brien as having “self-deprecating humor.” People like him are able to stay modest and have a sense of humor about themselves, so it’s less likely to get or feel hurt. In some foreign films, you might hear “fight fire with fire” or “counter poison with poison.” Even in common medicine, a vaccine is often a re-built virus used to counter another.

So, rather than simply shoot yourself down, have a sense of humor about your shortcomings. Find a way to turn a negative into a joke. So, at least, if you DO find yourself in an awkward situation, you can make light of it. And, try not to let yourself wonder if your date thinks you suffer from anything just because you make jokes or put yourself down. Don’t double the weight already on your mind.

5) Think outside the dating box. If you view a date in any particular way and figure it’s a hopeless case, try designing a different date (like drawing a new map for how to walk through a park or a new menu for your favorite restaurant). [IE Some expect sex on a third date. I don’t care for this “rule.” I must assure myself I don’t have to follow it and set my own rules. And, if my date doesn’t agree, I don’t have to continue dating that person.  Of course, I may be good at designing, but I lack the drive or self-assurance to put my designs into reality/action.  Which is why I see myself as a good interior decorator.  hehe  I design the room but don’t necessarily have to do all the remodeling.]

I’ll take a chance in saying something about my dating history.  I’ve probably gone on a handful of dates, altogether.  My first date was as much a disaster as it was a relief.  I was once accused of standing someone up and ran into an emotional dispute IN PUBLIC (which I dread) as a result of me pursuing the relationship that, apparently, wasn’t to be.

I do better befriending a person and then trying to arrange times we can hang out together casually, instead of trying to follow some schedule every few days, weeks or months.  [And, the people I usually befriend come from my workplace.  I don’t go to “normal” hangouts to meet people because I don’t have a group of friends to join me.]  I’ve “dated” people through emails and chat rooms before meeting them in person.  I can’t say I’ve had much success, but it certainly feels better getting what you can for free or little money than paying some agency of faceless strangers to hopefully find you a match.  My methods are not conventional.  But, I’m not sending disturbing nude images to people just to get a rise out of them, either (like some who deter people from trying anything online).

6) Exercise is good. I agree with those who recommend exercise for improving psychology and the mood. [Posture and what we do with our hands also play a part.]  I didn’t get it until my twenties. In school, I wasn’t exactly lazy, but I didn’t do anything to “work out” other than play video games and the occasional sport practice by my own rules. I never lifted a weight or ran a mile (which proved to be a cause of great distress and embarrassment). But, once I started walking to get groceries, etc., I found myself melting pounds and stress away. I recommend bringing a headset radio/MP3 player to give yourself something to “suck” on and tune out the traffic. But, if you like walking among nature and listening to every little sound, have at it. I tend to dwell on negative thoughts without my music.

7) Diet may be a factor.  Consider what you eat regularly but don’t guilt yourself for enjoying the occasional comfort food.  A few tips in this area:

a) Moderation is a very important word.  If you find yourself eating a whole bag of chips or candy, stop.  Nor do you need to eat a whole head of lettuce in a day to say you’ve had your veggies.  Have a little of every food group or flavor type, and your taste buds will feel fuller sooner.

b) There are self-help books that talk about how what we eat impacts both physical and mental health.  Look into Ayurvedic medicine, the use of herbs and various food groups to address internal issues like nerves.  I’ve heard pumpkin seeds and shrimp are good for countering nerves, but I’ve seen minor results, at best.

c) Know your body type.  Some people are just genetically built to change weight/shape as the seasons shift.  Some, like me, don’t gain weight much because of a hyper metabolism.  Others are designed to be stout.  Once you know your type, accept it.  [I would presume this is a step to that “self love” requirement, but it’s not often someone will address it this way.]

8) If you haven’t already, consider looking into astrology and figuring out who to avoid, who to approach and what you can do to appeal to those you do approach.  You might be surprised by what clicks with another person, finding new connections/commonalities.  I personally find the subject full of possibilities and creatively inspiring.  But, that may just be because of my “sign.” 🙂

9) When all else fails or seems too complicated, don’t forget to take deep breaths and blow the negative thoughts and clutter from your mind.  I’ve had many bouts with panic attacks.  [Another topic for another time.]  Some nights, I’d go to bed worried I’ll forget something important that just crossed my mind.  I need to have faith and tell myself what matters will be there when I wake.

10) Art is often my therapy.  I can craft in many forms.  There is no specific yoga pose or martial art I have to follow.  I just have to pray for creative inspiration and appreciate it when it comes.  There’s a whole study on the use of mandalas and adult coloring books you might investigate.  Or, try what my family call “doodle challenges” in which one person draws a line or shape, and another (or yourself if you really must do this alone) turns that shape or line into something.  It’s sort of like finding shapes in the clouds.  [This is not directly helpful to dating, but it may be good for clearing the distressful clutter from your mind/heart.]

[I’m sure I’ll think of more and reconsider some of my verbiage in good time.  🙂  Again, if interested, I’m willing to compare notes via email and, eventually, other means.]

 

I normally copy this to a special blog page I created as an archive.  But, it doesn’t seem to be working, today, in case anyone wonders why the response isn’t there (or the link here).]

28
Feb
17

My Response to “An Ace in a Hole” (Dear Abby)

*****

You can find my response to this and other letters on the designated page. But, while you’re here, have a read.

Ace is a… Well, let’s be clear about this. Ace doesn’t exactly say if they are a boy/man or girl/woman. So, the mere fact that Abby decides to address the person as a young woman may be in error. While some details might suggest Ace is female, it is not certain from my perspective.

Ace is struggling with an “asexual” identity. He/She is being pestered by friend and family alike to do what is “normal,” including sex and having kids while Ace shows no interest. As with others who feel abnormal or exceptionally unique, he/she is distraught and seeking a means of maintaining friendship with those who bother him/her.

I myself never questioned my sexuality other than how I appear to others (which has been a source of concern and annoying conflict). I have been labeled and scrutinized most of my life and had to accept some battles as defeats or stalemates, which ultimately weakened or even tore ties to certain people. Thus, I will speak from experience.

————-

Ace, you might help me out by making your gender clear. What I have to say might slip into applying to one gender or another. But, I will do by best to keep this asexual.

One quick question: Why do you call yourself “an ace in a hole?” The term “ace in the hole” is defined as an advantage waiting to be revealed. I’d say being openly asexual while enduring punishment from those closest to you does not match that definition.

[If you have no interest in my personal experience/opinion outside the realm of advice geared specifically to your problem, you can skip the following portion and start with the separate question.]

———–

While a mother pushing the idea of marrying a gay man at you tells Abby you are a woman turned off by sexual intercourse, I am wondering if your mother didn’t have another motive, if you are an asexual man, and she thought a gay man would eventually awaken the gay manhood in you or make you comfortable with someone who didn’t look at sex the same way heterosexual couples do. I could be way off base here. But, hopefully, you can see how/why I’d make such a statement.

Some might bring up the matter of having children. Well, would you really be more likely to have children as an asexual woman with a gay man than with a straight one? No. You’d likely adopt or be in a situation like James Corden who is apparently married to a heterosexual woman AND gay (or bisexual) with kids.

At an early age, I was “informed” having children was “normal” and to be expected. And, as early as maybe twelve, I thought about having two kids of m own. But, once I learned about sexual intercourse and all that came with it, over many years and from meeting many people, I kinda lost interest in bringing kids into this world. [I’m not ruling kids out completely; but they seem unlikely in my future. Still, I might help others with their kids and consider that my “parenting time.”]

No discomfort intended, but I am surprised you have ANY supportive friends (unless the friendships are very “cool” and “casual,” not people you spend extensive time with outside of work and/or have heavily personal talks with, for example). Being as you are cannot be common in your area. Can it? If your supportive circle consists of other asexual individuals, well, aren’t you lucky. I’m more likely to believe the people you know are quite comfortable discussing and seeking sexual intercourse while just patting you on the back as they bite their tongues in your presence (if they are that respectful).

From as far back as the age of five, I can recall kids being quite mean to me. I’ve had my share of bullies picking on me for everything from the shape of my head to how I walk or dress. I could have curled up in a closet and decided years later I was gay because I couldn’t connect with girls the way other boys did. But, that’s just not me. I knew early on I liked girls; I just didn’t know how to convey my feelings without embarrassment or social conflict. And, as I learned about sexual intercourse, I was turned off, much like you. The new knowledge only made socializing more difficult.

There was one girl in particular I befriended for whom I had strong feelings. And, as these feelings became apparent to our peers, we were harassed until we–or she–made a decision to separate. It was painful to lose touch with her. Meanwhile, a few of the hecklers were having their first sexual experiences with foreign exchange students; and I don’t recall them being harassed for attempting this.

There was also one boy who I’d call asexual because he never expressed any interest in a boy or girl other than as an ally or enemy. Everything seemed to be about war with him. You were either his “right-hand man” or on a list of people he had no problem talking about wiping off the planet (though he never followed through with his threats). I thought he was a Nazi leader. It was hard for even me to understand how he could be so robotic and, in his own way, juvenile.

In my late teens, I was viewed by some of my peers as the equivalent of a “gay priest.” I was, like you, repulsed by the realities of sexual intercourse, especially the common practice of “casual sex” (including “oral” which I refuse to try or accept others doing). I was also serious about respecting religion which seemed to be a foreign concept to my peers though we were attending a Catholic school. [Had I not been given such a steady diet of religion growing up, I might have had no qualms about casual sex.]

I could admit to liking or even lusting for a girl. But, the truth came out under pressure and, usually, with unpleasant results. I consistently hoped I’d have a quiet moment alone with whoever interested me so I could express my feelings without heckling or judgment and cope with the rejection I might yet receive if the feelings were not mutual. I was a passer of notes who had little to no luck doing so. My unique mindset made me an outcast. And, a few bold souls pressured me to try things with which I was not only uncomfortable but also opposed.

On occasion, the suggestions/dares were made in jest, just to see how badly I’d make a fool of myself following orders. Suffice to say, high school put a big dent in my ability to socialize. I went from a “plus one” (in terms of social aptitude, on a scale of 1 to 10) to somewhere in the negative digits. I might as well have been dead. That would have made everything easier. But, in my heart, I still longed for companionship and hid those strong sexual feelings most of my peers had and discussed freely.

Ultimately, I had to accept being an outcast and cutting ties with people who seemed unable to respect my choices. [And, though I didn’t always see it at that age, I was not the most respectful of choices made by my peers, either. If I didn’t like something they did, I’d complain when they were in my company. But, I didn’t nag, tease or challenge anyone. I just bluntly said, “I don’t like ___.” Or, “___ are stupid.” And, often enough, I’d give reasons no one really wanted to hear. I thought I was being social and honest, having an opinion.]

————

How do you maintain contact with these people who are becoming increasingly bothersome/suffocating?

Right off the top of my head, I’d say you don’t (maintain contact). You set yourself apart from them and regroup. Why continue to stand in their line of fire and take that “abuse?”

Give yourself a place and time to shake their pressured intentions from your mind (and soul) like a plane shaking the fire from one of its engines. Maybe there’s a coffee shop or fast food restaurant/cafe you can visit to unwind and entertain yourself with some tabletop hobby (IE reading, crossword puzzles or doodling). And, if they continue to seek you out and push their views, you give them one last warning before cutting ties completely. If they ignore your warning, there’s your answer; they are not going to change.

It may hurt to lose a friend or warm relationship with a parent, but crap happens. If your mother won’t accept you as a person and family member because you don’t get married and/or have kids, you tell her she has only so much time to change her way of thinking because you are going to be who you choose to be until that changes, if it changes, which will not happen because of her pressuring you.

Abby says this is an opportunity to educate. Well, who says you have to be the spokesperson for “asexual America” and go on talk shows to start a movement for supporting people like you? If that sounds good to you, go for it. If not, defend yourself. At the very least, you tell these nags that you will consider other options when and if your feelings change. And, if that’s not enough to shut them up, again, set boundaries, make ultimatums and follow through. Accept the fact that you may not always have the best of relations with your parents and/or that one person you call a friend.

But, let’s do our best to be polite about these matters. Right? Because it wouldn’t be “prudent” to lose our tempers. No. It would just be natural. If you value yourself and what you believe/feel, you do what is necessary and may not be able to sort out–at the time–what is excessively hostile. Still, there are things we can say and/or do via impulse that might be worse than necessary. And, we should avoid doing more harm than good.




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