Insecurities

It seems that quite a few people today, with apparent insecurities about themselves, act as though they have a very high sense of self-esteem. I first noticed this through the arrogant and often outlandish behaviors some of the teenagers I worked with displayed. Although it is, of course, understandable for young people to act in such ways due to insecurities, seeing older people behave like that made me wonder if they really had a true sense of self-worth. I was actually able to talk to my teenagers about their behaviors and my own as a young man, and while many of them admitted to feeling insecure, only a few said they had low self-esteem. This wasn’t much of a surprise, as it was hard to get them to admit certain things about themselves sometimes. After pressing them a bit more, I’d end with the question, “Can you look in a mirror and say ‘I love you’ to yourself and mean it?” This usually made them laugh, but almost all of them would say they could. I would rarely challenge them any further on the issue. I knew time would tell if they were being honest, not just with me, but with themselves. But since then, I’ve talked to people of all ages about the type of behaviors I see today, and I’ve figured out something very important.

Starting in the eighties, changes began taking place in many of our movies, TV shows, magazines, songs, and commercials, and over time, as these changes kept becoming more extreme, they caused two generations of people to display a sense of vanity and self-importance that belies their true insecurity.

First, look at how our movies and TV shows became more extreme. Not only has there been a continual increase in the amount of crime, violence, sex, and drug use shown, but in some cases, these things have actually been made to look glamorous. Also, think about how music has changed. Little by little, more songs came out with lyrics that basically glorified sex and violence and made the pursuit of money and fame seem like the all-important goal that everyone should have. Then there are the TV commercials that few could argue haven’t become more extreme. Although they’ve always been a way for businesses to advertise in clever ways and thus increase sales, they have used a lot more science and psychology over the past several years. Studies show they have the ability to affect people of all ages, making them think they won’t stack up unless they use, wear, or own a certain product. Don’t believe me? Take a look around the next time you’re out and about.

Unfortunately, these extreme (and, I must add, often negative) changes don’t stop there. Our video games have become increasingly more violent and now project a level of realism that can’t be psychologically good for anyone who plays them all the time. Then, of course, there’s the Internet. Although many good things can be found when browsing the World Wide Web, it’s certainly an outlet for extremes of all kinds. From pornography and violence to really outlandish behavior, the Internet became a way for people to watch almost anything they want and express themselves any way they want. Again, there are many good things on it—positive videos to help others and even instructional videos to help people learn how to do a number of different things. But we rarely hear about the good things found on the web. The bad things, sadly, often include the erratic, attention-seeking behavior of people who want (and sometimes need) to feel like someone special. It seems that the bar has been raised to encourage us to be something we’re not. And it has been lowered for academic achievement and family values. Add in the news media and its persistent bombardment of us with awful events, and perhaps you can better understand why we have, in effect, become a desensitized nation and why some people act the way they do.

Although everything I’ve talked about can and does have an adverse effect on us as a society, our youth seem to be affected the most. Young people have become more desensitized due to these extreme changes, and while many show good manners, do well in school, and have career goals they’re willing to work toward, some display behaviors that at one time simply weren’t acceptable. Sadly, still others act out in bizarre ways in hopes of reaching some form of perceived stardom. And while I’m sure the attention they get makes them feel good about themselves, this feeling can be fleeting, and I have yet to see proof that these types of behavior build a true sense of confidence and self-esteem in anyone. I have, however, seen proof that trying to be a better person than before can open up the door to the type of self-love we need to be happy with who we are.

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I Hope This Helps

“When we talk about our recovery, we should also speak of the two H’s, essential for promoting emotional wellness and greater happiness.  One is hope, and the other is help. It doesn’t matter what order they come in. We just need to know that hope can lead to help, and that help can lead to hope. And together they can bring us the desired outcome.”

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Love Is All Inside Us

“I’m not sure if love is all around me all the time. But I know when I look for it within myself—love is there. It may not be realistic to believe we can love everyone. But I know that as long as I maintain the self-love that I worked so hard to find. The love I try to show others will always materialize and be there for anyone who needs it.”

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I’m Not Sick Anymore

Some people don’t like using the word “sick” when describing someone with an addiction. I get it. Just like the words alcoholic and addict, saying someone is sick can add to the shame and stigma associated with addiction, and prevent a person from getting the help they need.

But was I sick? Yes.

Although I didn’t drink every day and I seemed to be doing well in life, I wasn’t. I had fears and insecurities, not of the normal variety, that made me emotionally sick.

As a result, I was overly jealous of people and an extremely jealous husband. I felt like I needed to prove myself at almost every turn—believing deep down that I didn’t stack up to others. And I tried to be something I wasn’t, often acting out in arrogant and egotistical ways, in an attempt to feel better about myself.

I was also spiritually sick.

I should have been a better person than I was. A better friend. A more loving husband. And certainly a more loving and caring father.

Not that I was a bad person. I tried not to do things that I knew I shouldn’t, and I actually did some good things in my drinking days. But I just couldn’t sustain a better way of living. Sooner or later my fears would overwhelm me. My insecurities would become too great. And I would turn to the only thing that I thought could help me with how I was feeling.  Even when riddled with guilt, I could not stop drinking for a long period of time, and I would return to the behaviors that actually made me feel worse about myself.

Eventually I got help and began living a different way, but I was still emotionally and spiritually sick in the beginning. But as I remained sober, my brain healed. And as I kept trying to be a better person than I was before, I was no longer sick.

I had changed the things about myself that needed to be changed. The thoughts and behaviors that didn’t make me a bad person, but along with my drinking, kept me emotionally and spiritually “sick” and prevented me from becoming the person I always wanted to be.

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Finding Strength Within And Without

There were times early in my sobriety when it felt like I was barely holding onto my sanity and I wasn’t sure what to do. I was never very good at facing emotional pain or figuring out why I had it. But thankfully I did hold on.

I needed help from others with these struggles. And it was hard for me to believe in more than just this world on some days. But the result was worth the effort.

I learned that part of becoming a stronger person is to never be afraid to ask for help. And I eventually saw that it was better to try to believe in something than it was to believe in nothing. I also found an inner strength that I didn’t know I had, and peace of mind that I didn’t think possible.

Today I know everything’s going to be all right, even when it’s not. Because I know that I can be all right even when I’m not.

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We Are No Longer Alone

“The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to.”

The above quote is from this article written a few years ago about a Ted Talk author who, while also trying to sell a book at the time, was professing that the likely cause of addiction has been discovered, and it’s just simply loneliness and an unhappy environment.

I disagree in calling someone a “street-addict, or addict really. But I do agree that loneliness and an unhappy environment can contribute to drug use. It’s true that people can feel isolated and alone from their childhood into their adult life, I know I certainly did, but that doesn’t mean everyone who develops an addiction feels that way.

Many people who develop a substance use disorder have friends. Successful business men and women, school teachers or other professional types, and loving parents come to mind. People who also seem happy in their surroundings or living conditions, but sadly, may not be happy with themselves.

They appear to be all right to others, but fears and insecurities, ones they’ve denied and kept hidden from the outside world continue to reside inside them. They often don’t feel good about themselves despite any successes they have in life, and although they go about acting as if they’re happy, most know different. The same drug that made them feel better about themselves fails them, and this is when they can began feeling isolated and alone.

After I stopped drinking I found friends in Alcoholics Anonymous, but other than having occasional lunches with some of them, I didn’t hang around with anyone long enough to form a true friendship.

I’ve now been sober for over 21 years and I stopped going to meetings several years ago. I’m also a self-professed loner, (although being married and having a best friend in my wife isn’t really being alone) who admittedly does have a few close friends, but I don’t really do much with any of them.

My point is that I drank and hung around with more people than I call a friend today and had some type of connection with them, yet I have no desire to start drinking again.

Personal growth, self-confidence, and self-love are all factors in being happy with who we are, and it doesn’t matter if we have a lot of friends or not.

These things allow us to love and help others, and that along with an environment that we have improved on can be enough to help us remain sober.

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