Is self-esteem the common denominator?

22 Apr

11:26 am

First, thanks for all the comments to my last post. I want to and will get back to all of you in the comments soon–great discussion, eh? BUT…I didn’t mean to write something polarizing, but that seems to be how many interpreted it. I think I was getting at something more basic: I don’t need or want to be “telling on myself” all the time. I don’t believe I am particularly “fucked up,” and I do believe that poor coping mechanisms besiege every single person on this planet. All that being said, I think there are particular commonalities among people with substance use problems and/or disorders, and those might actually be best ironed out in both individual and group (AA, other recovery groups) settings!


I was in the shower the other day–seems to be where most of my ideas pop up–and I thought, man, I have such low self-esteem. It was in reaction to something someone posted on Facebook, a picture of him hugging someone else. I noticed how happy he was, and how loving; but also, how “out there” his happiness and love were. Like, there doesn’t seem to be a hesitant bone in his body.

Whoa. That’s weird. I just segregate those “kind” of people into an entirely separate folder, because I don’t get them. I wish I was like them, but I don’t get them. And, maybe they, too, have had self-esteem issues–doubts, ruminations–but they’ve simply worked (are working) through them.

This person doesn’t seem to approach the day with thoughts like: I wonder what he is thinking of me; I bet she doesn’t like me; he is probably thinking badly of me; she is ahead of me; I don’t deserve to be here; I don’t deserve to be able to stand tall and look her in the eye; is my looking him in the eye going to be perceived as passive or aggressive? It must sound crazy to more outgoing people, or people who don’t think this way; but these are thoughts that I am almost embarrassed to say run through my mind on autopilot, like a subconscious soundtrack. They are literally so embedded in how I see the world that I don’t even hear them anymore.

It seems that there are people who seem to have self-confidence to the point where they almost lack any and all self-consciousness. They don’t wake up dreading the day, deep down. They wake up ready to embrace the day, because they are convinced that they deserve this. They don’t think they’re “better” than others by expecting love and reciprocity from people. They don’t think about this at all, that’s how ingrained it is.

I think this is called self-esteem, and from what I’ve seen, “addicts” and “alcoholics” (myself included) seem to lack this (to varying extent).

There could be so many genetic and environmental reasons why “we” are this way, but what I’m trying to do now is recognize this in myself–down to even the subconscious level–and reverse it. I have no idea sometimes if I’m doing it right, and maybe I can come across as bitchy, or self-righteous. I don’t mean to.

I realize that part of the problem with being so obsessed with seeing my brother’s girlfriend at the wedding in May (she hates me, and when I say hate, I mean hate) is that I feel SO uncomfortable with someone not liking me. It’s going to be a GREAT lesson for me, and I just hope I can distract myself enough while leading up to May and while actually there that I successfully get past it. I will, I’m just not sure how I will feel, and what will transpire between us–and that scares me, and periodically really upsets my inner zen.

However, the bottom line is, it’s not her, it’s me. I feel insecure with someone hating me, and I shouldn’t. I need to be able to love myself no matter what anyone else says, does, thinks, or feels about me. And, that hits hard at the core of my self-esteem “problem.” I’m glad it hits hard, because maybe I would miss the connection–and the possibility of some serious resolution–if it was more subtle.

Anyway, food for thought.

5 Responses to “Is self-esteem the common denominator?”

  1. furtheron April 22, 2014 at 2:47 pm #

    Over the years I’d agree I hear from a lot of alcoholics that they have crushing low self-esteem – actually I dislike the esteem word, it seems to imply that you have to compare to others – like you mention here. I prefer self-worth – just worth of me, I am worthy etc.

    One thing though – I like others in recovery – also notice this huge hidden ego. I apply for the job, they don’t interview me – How could they?! I mean I’m clearly the best. Say they do interview me, then the doubts are there but also the feeling that clearly they must give me the job but then they do and it’s like “Obviously I’m the best in the world” coupled instantly with “I’ll be a massive failure. I’m no good. I’m a fraud” etc. Odd isn’t it.

    I still work hard at it. I’ve a music thing to play at next week – there’s been precious little (i.e. virtually none!) practice it is more a turn up and play. We’re doing a Jeff Beck number… I’m no Jeff Beck but I’ve practised what I can play of it for hours today whilst I bet others turn up and virtually sight-read it at the rehearsal”

  2. swimsonemile April 22, 2014 at 5:06 pm #

    Everyone has insecurities. Honest they do – some are just are better at hiding it. And if someone is so egotistical they claim she doesn’t have any insecurities she probably has psychological problems. Something is missing in that person and it’s usually a conscience.

    Now as far as your brother’s girlfriend is concerned just give her permission to hate you. Not everyone is going like you and I suppose she has that right. Why on God’s green earth your brother is still with her is quite a mystery. She can’t love him enough if she can’t be gracious towards you for his sake. Believe me I know how this works. I loathe my mother-in-law but I’m kind towards her for my husband and family’s sake.

    Pictures are deceiving especially on Facebook. No one puts a bad picture of themselves up. Sure he was happy in that moment – we all have them but we all have bad times too. I’ve hugged old friends that I was ecstatic to see but moments before they arrived I was miserable with some horrible problem.

    What I’m getting here is no one is immune. Whether you are sober or not!!

  3. Zentient April 23, 2014 at 7:50 am #

    Low self esteem or high self esteem, it is the mindset that everything is about me, has to be about me and only me. It’s a habitual reactivity to the ups and downs, the comings and goings of life. It is the constant self referencing and refusal to get the bigger picture on life. Of course individuals don’t get all they want and get what they don’t want, it’s simply life, but we addicts make it the “reason” we drink. Getting over ourselves is important in recovery.

  4. Lee Davy April 25, 2014 at 1:18 pm #


    Thanks for letting us see this part of you.

    I would call myself a very self confident person, but I still have all those conversations in my head all of the time. I also care what people say about me and hate it when I am disliked. As a writer this is a problem that I have to deal with on a daily basis.

    So my assumption is everyone is the same. So don’t fret.

    Regarding the wedding, have you ever heard of Byron Katie and ‘The Work.’ I think it could really help you work through the issues you have with your soon to be sister-in-law.


  5. A April 27, 2014 at 1:26 am #

    Are you still seeing a therapist? If not, read some more about generalized anxiety disorder. Your thought patterns sound like you are reading my mind! When I read about anxiety it makes so much sense and it has helped me move from self loathing to self ambivalence and now on to self compassion and care.

    I alsoind that although I don’t dislike AA, the black and white doctrine actually feeds my controlling tendencies. I am still exploring options and trying to keep an open mind.
    Your blog is wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing your journey.

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