Yesterday, I wrote about the urge to please other people and how taking a possibly confrontational position towards them makes me fear punishment and getting abandoned. I wanted to take up this thought again, because that’s not the full scope of my realizations yet: in addition, my sense of self-worth is dependent on the approval through other people. Especially people I am close to or people I experience as my superiors, but not exclusively.
It explains so much about me: why I tend to avoid confrontations, why I have a hard time recovering from setbacks, why I think that my results always have to be perfect. The most insignificant short-coming can destroy the very foundations on which I build my sense of self-worth.
Back during the earlier days of the friendship with the man who would later become my boyfriend, I secretly feared that his interest in me would cool off as soon as he figured out what a boring, bland person I really am. I didn’t think I had anything to offer to anyone that was of any interest whatsoever. Every other person appeared to be so much more colourful, intelligent, beautiful, and fun to be with.
I rely on feedback from others to feel more or less good about myself, with negative feedback instantly eclipsing any positive reassurances. Even when I try to think rationally about it and list points that others might possibly regard as good qualities in me, I am very likely to invalidate all those points if confronted by a negative response to something I said or did. The deeper the depression, the less innate self-worth I have.
For example, during my most recent relapse, I had started feeling that I didn’t deserve to be in therapy, that I was just wasting both financial and human resources, stole my therapist’s time and was taking up someone else’s place. It got so bad that I felt like I had to punish myself for being in therapy; I spoke to my boyfriend about it and he kept me from going over the edge by reminding me how absurd these thoughts really were. I didn’t act on any of the negative impulses because somehow, the intellectual part of me still managed to be heard, even if I didn’t believe it anymore: I knew that there would come a time when I would regret anything I did that endangered my health or physical well-being or social contacts. Or compromise my therapy, because strangely enough I did not entertain any ideas of giving it up, despite feeling guilty and undeserving.
Now that the relapse is over, I can argue rationally again. My therapist is a busy man – if he thought I would not qualify for treatment, he would hardly see me. I have not taken away anyone else’s therapy place. Helping other people is why the hospital exists and why all the people working there get paid; that includes helping me.