Self-discovery is a lifelong journey. We may never fully understand ourselves. We may expand knowledge acquisition which may enhance our skills in assessing our life experiences more effectively, and provide perceptive insights into our life and behaviors; we may never completely comprehend the full aspects of life because being the ‘being’ is an evolutionary motion. We change from time to time, rather, we evolve.
Evolution and Self-Esteem
Speaking from experience, low self-esteem has to be one of the toughest qualities to alter. Fortunately, as a ‘being’, we evolve, so perhaps that is the tiny window that we can pin our hope on. There is always a chance to grow the low self-esteem, I didn’t say it’s easy, but it is possible.
Right Company and Support
Our self-esteem stems from the positive/negative reinforcements received from people around us. It is important to note that the formative years of a child starts from birth to 5 years old, and if the child is able to complete each stage (based on Erikson’s developmental stages theory which is built upon Freud’s psychosexual stages) successfully to achieve the desired positive outcomes, the positive impacts can influence the child’s self-esteem and confidence throughout the lifespan development. Similarly, the negative impacts can follow the child throughout his lifetime too.
Lifespan development is a continuous flow of stages. I have this theory about ‘past’. People keep saying that you should forget about the past and move forward, the past is what leads us to the present. It’s a continuous path. Many times, our behaviors and choices of responses towards people and situations stem right back to the past! The only probable way I see the ‘closing the door to the past’ technique may work is through amnesia. Sorry, I am not being pessimistic, I am just being realistic.
This is a simple mathematics of logic really. If we are able to complete the formative years successfully, we are equipped with more tools and gadgets (if I may) to help us to achieve positive outcomes in the following stages. But of course, we are still subject to life crisis and critical events that may turn the table around, but even for that, if you have better ‘tools’, you have a better chance to overcome the crisis more effectively.
Hope for Self-Esteem Growth
Despair not, if you suffer from poor self-esteem and low self-confidence – I am a good example – there is hope to start growing the self-esteem. It’s not easy, as theorized and researched, once the formative years have passed, the outcomes obtained during those years can stick with you forever. It’s a very trying process; firstly, you have to develop self-awareness; secondly, be relentless and tireless. I am actively altering my choices of assumptions. It is harder when you have asperger’s, because I can’t tell if people liked me or disliked me (you may never understand unless you have what I have, and I have decided not to take the lonely journey to attempt to edify people that it is not a lifestyle choice – I choose to learn social skills, it’s just a skill that I can’t learn effectively). With a low self-esteem, it is almost automatic for me to assume that people don’t like me.
Why would anyone like me? It sounded sad, but it’s just a factual statement. I don’t know when people liked me, especially if they have a funny way of showing that.
We Behave According to What We Think of Ourselves
Of late, through reconnecting with old friends from teenage and teen years, I came to know that back in the days, some boys had crush on me for years; and pursued me romantically. The first reactions I had in my head were, ‘When did that happen? I was there, wasn’t I? Are you sure we are talking about the same girl?”. I felt exceptionally flattered, but at the same time, I made a new discovery about myself.
In my teenage years, a boy liked me, I liked him as a friend, nothing more and I made it clear to him. Things ended badly, he hated me for years. I was mostly confused and sad.
Into my teen and early adulthood years, because of that experience, I told boys right in the faces that I didn’t like them romantically, and warned them not to like me – to avoid similar bad outcome; alas, most ended badly still. For boys whom I took a liking, I asked outright if they liked me. They were normally taken aback by my candidness – seriously, I was mostly frustrated of being blamed for what I didn’t mean to do, and felt that it’s best that I just ask and clarify, we should ask when we are unsure, no?
The Renewed Insightful Information
I realized that I was (still am!) completely retarded by obliviousness towards others’ feelings for me. That is not so much of the discovery, the new discovery is that I have always chosen the unfavorable option – this is noteworthy, it can change everything for me if I build up my mindfulness around this point. Boys do have a funny way of showing their affection towards girls. Boys tend to pay more attention to the small things about me, and at that age, they don’t express admiration appropriately in terms of praises. Instead, they may choose to criticize, as a form of message that says ‘I am noticing you’.
It’s confusing for the regular girls, it’s mega confusing for aspie girls. Trust me on that. What I did, was to consult with my besties. I have an extremely low self-esteem (too many traumatic dramas, I can publish a book on that alone!), I would automatically assume that people dislike me, and that I might be an eyesore. My choice of responses is to make things easy for everyone, I walk away. I use the term ‘automatically’, it doesn’t mean that I don’t feel hurt or sad. I do, perhaps more than you could imagine, but I am very resilient and my coping mechanism is suffer in silence and endure (I am working on that, believe me, but it’s like a deep imprint that I find great difficulties in sanding off). That is a classical example of the outcome that sticks with me since my formative years.
I rarely contest to the negative opinions of me. I depended on best friends to help me understand things, especially with social interactions. There was this boy (I am beginning to believe that I might really have elephant memory, because I really remember things from too long ago!) who was super smart and quite cute, I dare say. He was however, quite abrasive when he conversed with me. He might have difficulty in giving compliments, or perhaps the way of complimenting someone was through reverse reinforcements? I grew conscious about myself when he was around. I was mostly fearful of him. I felt hurt by his words, but I didn’t show, I didn’t retaliate either. I asked the bestie why the boy disliked me so much as he picked on me all the time. She kind of ‘affirmed’ that the boy was too smart, and only liked smart people. That explained everything, I thought! I grew up being convinced that I was stupid and unattractive. Of course he would hate stupid and unattractive girl like me! I made myself scarce whenever he came by.
I know it’s ridiculous to think this way, but I truly believed he was repulsed by my presence. I hardly spoke to him and made a poof as soon as he joined us in conversation.
The funny thing is. I was told that he liked me back then, but he thought I was being snobbish.
I May Never Know
I get hated so many times for what I didn’t do, my best friend got frustrated on my behalf. She was also frustrated (still is) that I didn’t know how to stand up for myself.
See, we only stand up for what we firmly believe in. I didn’t (possibly still don’t) believe in myself as much as others do in me. How can I defend what I don’t value – myself and self-worth. It’s a sad thing, really. This happens to many people, I am not unique in this sense.
Everything is designed in such a way that the ‘epiphany’ is affirmed. Day after I reconnected with this classmate – which I am very thankful for his disclosure, because it provided us with an opportunity to clear up the misunderstandings – I met with a new friend, and with a very observant and perceptive mind, he threw a question at me: “Do you think people see you as who you really are? Or do they see you as someone with Asperger’s?”
I took a moment to ponder. That statement is oxymoronic, but very meaningful at the same time. Being an Aspie really mean that I don’t know how people see, and think of me; and feel about me. This is a lifelong struggle, possibly the most painful one. Unless they are explicit, I will assume things as literally as it could be.
From history (mine!), I don’t guess well. I study patterns and subtle behavioral shifts in people, then I group them accordingly and make impeccable conclusions. That is all I see, but I am incapable of guessing intentions correctly, especially when it comes to friendships and relationships. That is my number one vulnerability. I don’t know if people are using me as a tool to spike someone else; for the intelligence (that I didn’t believe existed); for my appearance (that I think very lowly of); or any other reasons.
I have a feeling that I am being made used of on too many occasions that only I didn’t notice. Friends kept cautioning me to be more careful not to be made use of. The thing is, I will always choose to trust. It is nearly impossible for me to guess correctly, so the easier thing to do is to trust. It’s not up to me if they choose to use me; it’s however up to me to be genuine.
I didn’t think much of myself, why would anyone want to use me for anything? See, when low self-esteem is at play, we ‘allow’ people to take advantage of us because we convince ourselves that it cannot be possible because there is nothing valuable in ourselves that people could use. Now you know why Aspies run a super high risk in slipping into depression.
Yes, I am always the sidekick of the popular girls in school or work. I like that position. It feels like the right spot for me. I am perfectly fine to dim into the background. I don’t mind being unnoticed.
Boys are weird. Sometimes, they choose to get pass the shiny pretty thing and take a liking on me. I guess I do get more sympathy votes than I knew. I like the supporting role, and feel contented with the role. Even that, cannot help me keep friends. Relationships are just very complicated, some boys like the unsightly plant over the gorgeous rose (I really don’t like flowers, it’s just metaphor!); friendships then become very challenging too – with jealousy, funny guesses, doubts and all things outrageous.
I should stop trying to do the right thing, because the definition of ‘right’ is ever-changing. I should try to do nothing at all. 😛
This entry serves as a warm up to my exam revision for Human Development from a Psychologist’s Perspectives module – which the lifespan developmental stages are the key highlights in this module. Have a great week ahead, folks!