It’s the one question that those with low esteem will obsess over, asking ourselves and sometimes others what is so wrong with us that we do not deserve whatever it is we think is eluding us – usually friendships, or a relationship or even the notion that anybody cares.
What is wrong with me?
Am I really that ugly?
Am I really that weird?
Am I really that useless?
Am I really that boring?
Why am I just not good enough?
These are all variations on the theme but all boil down to the same thing: I’m not worthy of X and I’d like to know why. Or more usually, we think we know what is wrong with us and want somebody else to say it:
- I am ugly
- I am too overweight to be attractive
- I am too quiet so people think I’m weird
- I try too hard to get people to like me and I scare them off
- I am a failure and do not deserve X
- Nobody is interested in me, I am not an interesting person
It is one of the most difficult things in self-esteem recovery to challenge that question. I still have problems with this from time to time, am I really good enough for my career choice? Is my failure to get graduate jobs simply because I’m not good enough? At times when I see how low my income is while I try to establish myself as a self-employed person, of course those thoughts do go through my head.
And the most tragic thing is that when we are that convinced there is something so wrong with us, nothing anybody else can say will ever sink in. Let me recall a conversation I had with my ex-wife about two years ago when she said she’d never been in love with me. This is more or less what was said:
Her: “If we split up, will you be ok?”
Me: “I don’t know. I can’t see I’ll ever get married again. Not, I suspect, anybody would want to.”
Her: “Why not?”
Me: “I just feel now that I’m supposed to be on my own. Nobody wanted me before I met you, you’ve just told me you’d never been in love with me and now I’ve no reason to believe anybody will if we do get divorced.”
Her: “I’m sorry, I wish we’d never come to this.”
Me: “Every time I see a couple in the street holding hands, kissing or otherwise looking madly in love I look away because I think ‘put that out of your mind – that’ll never be you’. I feel I’ve always know that.”
Her: “You’re wrong!”
Me: “No I’m not. For twelve years you made me think I was though. I’m not enough. I’m not good looking enough, not rich enough, not successful enough… not enough.”
Her: “I’m so sorry.”
Me: “Don’t apologise. It just seems in the end that you could see what everybody else could see – whatever it is that is so wrong with me.”
From the outside it might seem like wallowing and for some it probably is, specifically attention seekers and those who constantly seek approval from others, but for most it is a genuine and unshakeable belief because it is perceived not as a belief, but as a fact. I did not say what I said because I wanted her to tell me I was wrong, or even because I wanted her to agree, but because I knew it to be true and was just pointing out the obvious.
A little self-doubt is healthy, perhaps even necessary to keep our feet firmly on the ground otherwise we’d go through life moving from arrogance to narcissism.
I have no answer, no way of directly fighting the “what’s wrong with me?” feelings. It is not something I tackled or could tackle on its own, mostly because it is so general with nothing to anchor down and pinpoint a cause. Shedding this notion came as a result of tackling specific issues. For me, that was my experiences online dating.