I have a problem. I can't feel good about myself if I'm not good at everything I try. This doesn't mean I'm good at everything. In fact, I'm middling to bad at most things - studying, work, dancing, but OK at writing.
Therefore, I feel pretty bad about myself mostly. When I come across people who are so obviously more informed, more aware, more skilled than me, who pick up things so quickly, so easily, I feel really bad about myself.
I feel that I AM bad - a bad person, for not being as good as others. I will say to my credit though - that I don't behave like a bi*ch and put people down to feel better about myself. I don't take it out on them - I just fold in on myself and crumble.
The reason I don't do the above (as I know many people do) is because I am aware that my attitude is not right. I know that 'being good at things' is totally relative, and that God is not a referee in a race, judging people as first, second or third. Somewhere inside me, I know that comparing is no way to feel good or bad about oneself.
But I can't make this realization pervade my being, so to speak. I know it, but can't apply it. The minute I'm out in the world, I am comparing myself and finding myself wanting.
A lot of this comes from my parents who were proxy-competitive through their kids, in their race with other parents. But I think a lot of it comes from me thinking that EVERYONE is like that. That EVERYONE compares and slots and judges people. So even though I know that god doesn't do that, I am convinced that people do, and since I'm living on earth, not in heaven, I feel judged and found wanting all the time. I can't form close relationships because I feel ashamed of myself most of the time, and want to hide from people. Even if they like me, I feel 'when they find out' that I'm not good at anything, they will leave, so might as well leave now.
How can I change my way of thinking so that even if I'm not good at things, I feel like a good person, worthy of love and friendship, and so that even if others are judging me, or I think they are, I don't let it bother me. I don't want to feel angry or anxious about how *other* people think. I want to enjoy doing things not to be good at them, but just because I like doing them and learning. I would really like to know the secret of thinking in the above ways, because right now I *can't*. Almost physically can't.
Tracy (30 year-old woman)
You have the same hang-up that made my life a misery for many years. I feel I am free of it now. If I could beat it, so can you.
What you need is Cognitive Therapy.
This will suit you. Clearly, you are intelligent, have thought about this issue a lot, and have already done much of the work for yourself. You are now at the stage I like to bring a client to within two or three sessions.
You have already identified the cause. Without casting blame on your parents (who no doubt did their best to do the right thing for you, as they saw it), you may have come to feel as a little child that they only loved you when you excelled, did better than others. And it is almost certain that this was not true.
OK, I don't know your parents at all. But suppose you'd suffered a head injury and became mentally slow, unable to do many of the physical tasks you now take for granted, perhaps partially paralyzed. Would they have stopped loving you? I doubt it. Most parents give all the necessary love when a child becomes more dependent.
Or suppose you were born with a mental deficiency, say with Downs Syndrome. Would you have been found wanting and discarded?
Even if you judge the answer to this question to be a probable yes (who can say for sure?), that would say something about your parents, nothing bad about you.
When we are little, all of us make sense of our world by forming suitable beliefs. These are essential to survival at the time. Many such necessarily childish beliefs become modified over time. Some don't, but stay unchanged.
We all have them. Being childish overgeneralizations, they are inaccurate and distorted. But they govern our behavior.
This is your problem. With your fine adult mind, you know that your reactions are irrational, but you have them anyway, because the little girl within reacts like that.
Tracy, find someone competent who practices Cognitive Therapy, and allow your inner beliefs to grow up too.
It's a pity you didn't leave an email address, even web mail. If you do read my answer, please email me.
I know you can beat this problem,