Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Do You Like Yourself?


Me with my parents - 1976 - body language says it all

This post is inspired by a recent post of a fellow blogger, the Travel Penguin.

The question "do you like yourself" is a question most of us have faced at one time in our life. Now I'm not a psychologist or a learned scholar but I do know who I am.  

Early in my life I was brought up with little sense of self worth.  I didn't know the difference because that was the only reality I only knew.

Later on in life I realized that my father didn't want children. We were a bother to him. He left the rearing of me and my two younger brothers to my Mother. Thankfully my Mother cared for us but she was not a demonstrative Mother who hugged us or told us she loved us. But she did. I attribute that to her awful childhood where she lost her Mother before she was two years old.  But she did take care of us.

I've written about this subject before so pardon me regular followers of my blog if I repeat myself.  

About ten years ago I came across some of my grade school report cards. My grades were mostly B's with a scattering of A's and an occasional C. On the back, where my characteristics were listed as either Acceptable or Unacceptable, I noted with some surprise the one area which was always Unacceptable - Self Confidence. Gee, no wonder. After being constantly mocked by my father as having a big nose, being stupid, and an embarrassment to him, no wonder I lacked self-confidence. But understand I didn't know the difference at that time, I thought all that was true. It was the only reality I knew. Thank goodness he didn't physically or sexually abuse me but mentally? Big time. Being constantly put down from my earliest memory how could I not have a low self-esteem? But at least I had a father. Bill lost his father to a drunk driving accident when he was ten years old. Pat's father died (alcoholic) when Pat was ten years old. I had a father, even if he was indifferent at best to me and psychologically abusive to me at worst. 

Not until I left home when I joined the Army at eighteen years old did I begin to realize that I wasn't a total loser. This realization didn't happen overnight but eventually I came to realize I had some worth, something to offer to our communal society. Of course there were times during my journey into adulthood and self awareness that some people tried to belittle me and put me down. The reasons varied from jealousy to just plain ignorance, cruelty and bullying. Who of us hasn't been subjected to the same?

A few years ago I was watching one of those old VHS videos of me having dinner with a friend of mine.  I was secretly videotaping him as a joke to be shown to him later.  We were both very relaxed and just being ourselves.  Watching that video I discovered a few things that surprised me. One sort of shocked me.  That was the realization that I had many of my father's physical mannerisms. Oh God!  That was a surprise. I was turning into my father. The other thing that I noticed while looking at myself interacting with my friend Ed, was that I seemed like a nice guy. Someone I would want to know and feel comfortable with if I was someone else. That was also a surprise.  Then I thought back of all those years which I hated the body I was in.  I hated the sound of my voice. I hated my big nose and small chin. I hated being tall.  I hated that I wasn't an athlete. There was so much I hated about myself.  I felt sad thinking about this because I couldn't think of anything I liked about my self. That is what happens when a constant mental abuse is heaped on a child.  What a shame, all those years wasted. I've often wondered what my life would have been liked if I grew up with a sense of self-worth. And I can't blame my Mother because she didn't have a sense of self-worth either so that's why she couldn't pass it on to her sons. But she did protect us and made sure we were cared for.

These days, now that I am older and wiser, I like who I am.  In fact, I wouldn't trade myself for anyone else on this planet. I like myself just the way I am. Imperfections and all.

Oh sure, I still encounter people who don't like me. I know it is a cliche to say this but that is their problem because I'm a pretty nice guy. I don't waste my precious time concerning myself about why those people don't like me. 

One of the many benefits of old age, things I used to think were important I find aren't important. What is important is that I like myself and that I have true friends and they like me. 

That's my sermon for the day folks!

13 comments:

Jon said...

I can fully relate to this post, Ron (but you already knew that). I endured constant physical and mental abuse from my father. The physical wounds eventually heal - but the psychological ones never fully go away.
Being constantly called a "stupid jackass" and a "crazy son of a bitch" by your own father has dire mental consequences (and they were some of the NICEST things he called me). My Mom and I both endured a lifetime of his shit and neither of us had any confidence whatsoever.

I hated everything about myself most of my life and embarked on a fierce journey of self-destruction. My extreme promiscuity was a desperate attempt to validate my desirability. I was shocked (not to mention pleased) when people told me I was handsome.

Strangely enough, in my youth I always seemed to be searching for a father figure. When I was 23 I was having an affair with an ex-model who was in his 50's. I was always attracted to men older than myself (but they're getting more and more difficult to find....)

Ron said...

Jon,
I cannot imagine the life that you had to endure when you were a young man. Thankfully my father never physically or mentally abused my Mother. I never heard him even raise his voice to her. Nor her to him. Of course there were times he did something wrong and she was angry at him. She would give him the cold shoulder. Early on, before my memory, he was involved with other women. My Mother brought him back and kept out family together. Reading about your experiences I could myself very lucky that my father wasn't like yours. But you do know what a constant barrage of mockery growing up does to one's self esteem. It's a wonder I survived. Joining the Army was the best choice I evert made in my life. After I got out after three years I was a different person. The author of "Hillbilly Elegy" had a similar experience when he joined the Marines and escaped his pre-ordained life as meth addicted loser from his awful family. I never felt a self-destruction but I was and still am to some extent feel that I'm not good enough (less so now). Like you I have always been attracted to older men. Bill is thirteen years older than me. Pat is an "older" man now. He'll be seventy years old at the end of this month. He's seven years younger than me so I guess he's a "kid." I find him extremely attractive. And he has the best personality. We are one when we'r together. Something I was looking for all my life.
I hope you and others find the happiness that I have found at this time of my life. I've often wondered what my life would have been like if I was raised with a sense of self-esteem Maybe the way I was raised made me a stronger person. Thats what I would like to think anyway!
Ron

"Tommy" said...

Your blog is truly an inspiration for many........self reflection...!!!

Jon said...

Ron, I'm sure that all the bad things we went through in life made us better people (not to mention more sensitive and understanding of others). My father had a tough life and harbored many unresolved issues. He inflicted his violence and hostility on my Mom and I simply because we were the only ones around. It wasn't really personal. He would have been that way with anybody. I didn't realize a lot of things until after he died. I'm not discounting his abuse, but I now see things differently than when I was young.

Anyway, I think that joining the army was the best thing you could have done. I'm sure the experience gave you a different perspective on life, and inspired confidence in yourself. I'm glad that you now have peace and happiness - with Bill and, of course, with Pat. At this point in my life, I feel more peaceful too.

Sorry for my endlessly long comments - but your post struck a chord!

Sooo-this-is-me said...

This was an interesting post, I had a lot of the same feelings growing up. I realize now that I'm not going to change much but I try to improve, people tell me that I'm a nice guy, I'm good with that. How interesting that you filmed yourself, I was thinking yesterday I wish I had done the same when younger. What would I see in myself ten years, twenty years later.

Anonymous said...

Ron,
What a past. Who knows how many years we all have ahead of us. Live for today,
look forward to tomorrow and celebrate that you have moved on.

Dwelling on a past you can not change can't be uplifting. Life is
too short to waste thinking about things you can not change.

Pat

Ron said...

Sppp-this-is-me,
Videotaping myself wasn't my intention but I'm glad I did. Watching myself gave me a different perspective on myself which I found very interesting and helped me to understand myself better.
Pat,
I often reach back into my past to try and understand myself better and how I interact with people and the world around me. This is always a work in progress.
Jon,
Your comments are never too long. Always appreciated!
Ron

pat888 said...

Hey Rev Ron - another doozy! I'm almost certain that each of us for some reason or other feel they don't measure up to something or other and live with some insecurity and questionable self worth. I'm certainly not a scholar but this is something I've read often in biographies and self help books. The thing is - depending on one's early environment the consequences differ greatly. I have to place myself, more or less, with you in your experience. My family structure was close to yours. My mother similar to how you describe yours. Two boys in our family - an older brother. And my dad had a severe alcohol problem. Not only was he indifferent but terribly uncomfortable to be around. He was drunk so much. I never knew what to expect when I came home. Other dads were not like that. And with my sexual orientation, which I knew from the get go, I could never fully relate to family or friends. I'm not playing the violin here but I really felt like an orphan in the world - in my very own family. I think a lot of my being a nice guy was trying to hide my lack of self esteem and hoping to be accepted. But it was never real as I was always hiding who I was - never fully relating to anyone. It took years and different stages of my life to come to grips with who I am and what I think about myself. And I'm at the best level I've ever been at presently. But I still know I've got a ways to go. But I figure that's what a lot of life is about. I have seen little kids from despicable circumstances and compared with other kids from a more loving and secure environment - they are way behind in emotional development. And that, I believe, also greatly affects their cognitive abilities. Anyways - I'm just going on too long. But a very good blog. Always enjoy your posts.

Pat

Pat said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
pat888 said...

Hey Rev Ron - another doozy! I'm almost certain that each of us for some reason or other feel they don't measure up to something or other and live with some insecurity and questionable self worth. I'm certainly not a scholar but this is something I've read often in biographies and self help books. The thing is - depending on one's early environment the consequences differ greatly. I have to place myself, more or less, with you in your experience. My family structure was close to yours. My mother similar to how you describe yours. Two boys in our family - an older brother. And my dad had a severe alcohol problem. Not only was he indifferent but terribly uncomfortable to be around. He was drunk so much. I never knew what to expect when I came home. Other dads were not like that. And with my sexual orientation, which I knew from the get go, I could never fully relate to family or friends. I'm not playing the violin here but I really felt like an orphan in the world - in my very own family. I think a lot of my being a nice guy was trying to hide my lack of self esteem and hoping to be accepted. But it was never real as I was always hiding who I was - never fully relating to anyone. It took years and different stages of my life to come to grips with who I am and what I think about myself. And I'm at the best level I've ever been at presently. But I still know I've got a ways to go. But I figure that's what a lot of life is about. I have seen little kids from despicable circumstances and compared with other kids from a more loving and secure environment - they are way behind in emotional development. And that, I believe, also greatly affects their cognitive abilities. Anyways - I'm just going on too long. But a very good blog. Always enjoy your posts.

Pat

Travel said...

Origin is not destiny, we can be, what we make ourselves to be,

Ron said...

David,
Tru dat!
Ron

Ur-spo said...

and a very good one it was. Far better than the dreary homilies at St. Joan .