Monday, July 29, 2013

The Search for Self Worth

“Crazy people don’t sit around wondering if they’re nuts.”


It’s a line from Proof, the play I’m currently in where I play the older sister to a potentially crazy potential mathematical genius, and daughter to a mathematical genius who truly was crazy. It is my job – my character thinks – to gently or not so gently convince my sister to move to New York now that our father has died, so she can be near me, where I can watch her, take care of her and get her help…because I think she’s crazy.

“I think you have some of his talent…and some of his tendency toward…instability,” I tell her.

I am undermining, condescending and even somewhat manipulative. I talk down to her, tell her what’s best for her, try to interest her in the mundane and materialistic world that I want to pull her into, and I treat her like a child who cannot possibly know what is best for herself, even though she’s 25.

Call it what you want. As of last Friday, Mercury Retrograde ended, which is one of three periods a year of a three-week window where astrologically Mercury appears to be moving backward in the sky. According to astrologists, the ability to communicate effectively moves backwards with it.

Whether or not this is true, it’s been a hell of a couple weeks for me. Not only did I find myself misunderstanding and misunderstood, I found myself fumbling around in my head, trying to figure out what my actual perceptions were and what my ego was insisting was the truth – how I was protecting myself and whether I was simply refusing to take the blame for something – many things – that were or weren't my fault.

I know that seems vague, but really the issues at hand weren’t what was at the root of the problem, it was my feeling about them. Was there something wrong with me? Why was I finding it so hard to find my footing; to acknowledge my own role in these situations and yet still be able to recognize that despite my faults I was an ok human being; that these faults did not completely define me?

Let me be clear here: I am not hearing voices, I do not see people who are not there, and I have yet to have anyone tell me that I might actually be courting mental illness. Yet in my own head, I was the sister that I talk down to in Proof. I am Catherine, struggling to find footing, vacillating between truth and fiction, between fighting for normalcy and fighting against lunacy, and finding both sides to be a slippery slope. I found a part of me telling me that there was no way what I was saying or thinking or even feeling could be true; that I am incapable of anything; that I am, in fact, crazy for thinking that my life might work the way I’ve been living it: that it is crazy to believe that I can live a happy productive life in any way, shape or form that I choose.

In the last week, I’ve found myself stuck there: my brain insisting that I am wrong, worthless, while my heart screams that the world is what I make of it; that the world I want does exist, and even if it’s not coming about in the easiest and most comfortable way possible, it is coming about nevertheless.

The other day I went for a long walk that turned into a series of short jogs interspersed with walking. I’ve been wanting to run for awhile; run, or swim: some more active form of exercise than the long periods of walking I’ve been doing. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that my epiphany came about as the result of the release of some endorphins, and it reminded me that it’s my job to take care of myself and do the things that make me feel good, physically and mentally. I was fighting with these two sides of myself as I came back up a long hill, trying to figure out what the problem was, and finally, even though it’s been there all along, even though I had been staring at it in the face, alluded to it constantly and even acknowledged it to some extent, the answer finally showed itself in full glory: I think I’m crazy because I don’t think that I am believable: because I don’t believe me. And I don’t believe me because I am lacking the self worth to believe that I could possibly have anything good to say or offer, even to myself; because, unlike what I had previously believed, low self worth doesn’t mean only that I am lacking in the confidence to know that I are lovable regardless of what I am doing, it also means that I don’t think that my ideas, thoughts, feelings and intuition are worth as much as everyone else’s...not even to me.

(Writer's note: before you panic that I am losing all perspective, please read my last post, Writer's Tourette's, about how I write about my feelings as they happen as a way to release them.)

By realizing that self worth is at the root of the issue, I have finally realized that the answer is not in asking again and again if I am justified in feeling the way I do, but instead in taking the steps to develop the self worth that will help me know that at a deep visceral gut level, without having to ask.

I can now look back at a lot of my life and see it: see this lack of ability to trust myself in situations where I might have been right; perhaps not in how I handled it, but right at least in my feelings about the situation in the first place. I would cast about for the opinions of others and ask them if my view or feeling was worthwhile; made sense; didn’t seem crazy. Every time, they said yes: that I had a reason to feel as I did, that I was right to take the step I had taken, that I had a right to my own happiness. And yet, I still found it hard to believe.

This is not to be mistaken with an egotistical need to always be right. I think for most of my twenties I angrily insisted that I knew the right way that everyone should live and would tear someone down for disagreeing with me. I don’t think I’m there anymore…most of the time, anyway.

I would like to think that the phase I have been in -- where I am struggling to see where the bullshit lies and what I actually believe -- is a step between the angry, Always Right Morgan and the Confident Morgan who can fully accept responsibility for what she did wrong, but also know what she did right, and why neither of those things really matter in the long run of who she is, only how she acts and evolves.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I’m a work in progress. What I know today is that something set me free on that walk: it was knowing that the answer was no longer in asking if I am crazy, it is asking what I can do to improve my self worth to the point that I know when an idea I’m entertaining is the stupidest thing I could possibly act on, the best way I could handle the situation -- not for anyone else, but for me -- or somewhere in between. 

It is being able to trust the gut feeling and the logic, and knowing that it will work out for me if I follow it, because my ideas, my gut feelings, are worth just as much as everyone else’s, and because – ultimately – they need to be worth even more to me.

Love and self worthy kisses,
Morgan