I’ve managed to make a lot of progress over the years, working on myself. Figuring out ways to bring out my natural strengths. And at the same time, improving or at least compensating for my weaknesses.
But the truth is that I’m still struggling. And I think it’s always going to be that way.
The difference is what I’m struggling with.
If I go back and read essays I wrote a decade ago, I recognize the voice as my own, but the problems I’m having are old problems, ones I now feel quite comfortable managing.
And I see other problems, too, ones I don’t yet realize that I have. That I will go on to tackle later and make progress on.
And perhaps most tellingly, I see the problems I’m currently struggling with. The ones I don’t have quite nailed down yet.
At the moment, the MVP (i.e., most vexing problem) is self-sabotage.
Self-Sabotage Onset When I First Became Self-Conscious
I am constantly fighting against self-sabotage. Right now, yes. But also pretty much constantly for the last few decades. Self-sabotage set in about the time I first became self-conscious — which for me happened around age 11.
Like a lot of people, once I hit middle school, I became completely consumed by my identity. I compared myself to others over and over again. And I often found that I came up short in those comparisons. Whether this was because I truly was inferior or because I simply thought I was didn’t really matter at the time. What mattered was that I believed it.
And I desperately wanted it simultaneously not to be true. I didn’t want to be so much worse than other people.
And as this happened, self-sabotage crept in. I would undermine myself — find ways to fail at certain tasks. Sometimes this would be not applying myself to assignments, so when I got a grade that wasn’t perfect, I could tell myself, “Well, I only got that grade because I didn’t really try. It’s not a reflection of my true capabilities.”
Or I might wear clothing that was unflattering, so I could tell myself that my love life was crap because I didn’t really put any effort into my appearance.
These are only a few examples. It’s manifested in so many little ways that when I look back on it, I’m struck by how little insight I had into it at the time, in spite of the fact that I had those mental conversations with myself about not trying.
Self-Sabotage Is Still With Me
I did learn to put in a good effort when I wanted to. I was nominated for valedictorian of my graduating class in college. My love life is excellent, and I have no problem making friends.
A few years back, I even managed to make the transition into writing full time and put out three books (with a fourth on the way soon, my first fictional offering, Psychic City, a slipstream mystery that features a FFF triad of polyamorous detectives).
But in spite of all of these developments, self-sabotage is still with me. I am still constantly fighting the urge to undermine my efforts — whether by inactivity/neglect or via self-destructive actions.
However, I feel like the general trend over time is upward.
And you know, I think that’s the best anyone can do.
I do spend a lot of time wondering what it’d be like to be the kind of person who just does things and isn’t always fighting against treacherous emotional patterns deep inside themselves that make it harder.
I wonder what it feels like to be unburdened. Sure of oneself.
What does that life feel like? Would I rather have it?
It doesn’t ultimately matter. Because I get to be me. And so my task is figuring out how to work with the brain I have.