December 14, 2005

A Confession of Adequacy

I’ve been shamed into sanity. Not shamed in the toxic, soul-pervading sense, but in the healthy, adaptive sense of having my misbehavior pointed out to me -- by circumstances and by my own better judgment. It’s as simple as this: over the past week or so, through a conjunction of events, I’ve had so many people express respect and affection for me that I can no longer justify going around feeling undeserving and unsuccessful. I can no longer lean on my early upbringing in order to have the pleasure of feeling bad; I have to face the face that I’ve overcome all that, and that I now have an exceptionally fortunate, productive life and quite a stable, constructive personality. In every important sphere of my life -- in blogging, in writing for my living, in my tai chi practice, in interactions and conversations with my wife and children and friends on a variety of subjects -- I’ve been overwhelmed this past week by validations of my worth from every corner, unexpectedly and without my prompting.

I’m going to have to change my tune to adjust to this undeniable reality. I have to acknowledge that what people have been telling me is true. Not to accept their valuation of me would be ungrateful, and I hate ingratitude. And to keep fishing for compliments, which I know is a flaw of mine, would be a disservice to the people who have already, so often, complimented me. (And I can’t even tell myself anymore that people say those things to everybody, that they probably don’t mean it. I can’t believe that so many good people would be insincere just for my sake.)

It’s as if I were missing a limb and had been fitted with a perfectly good prosthetic, but spent years and years whining about how the prosthetic didn’t fit right and how it itched and I could still feel the phantom limb. It’s time to admit that the prosthetic works fine: I’ve got enough self-esteem.

This attitude shift is going to require some work, and my first task will be to believe that I can do it. But that may not be as hard as it sounds. Truth to tell, I’ve come to this peak after many years’ long climb.