This article was first published on tinybuddha.com. You can view it here as well.
My thoughts lately have been so hurtful.
Things like: I’m not a good writer. I’m ugly. I’m stupid.
I’m not funny. I can’t carry a meaningful conversation. I’ll never be special.
The world is out to get me. People take advantage of me. I’m boring and don’t matter.
Like I said, hurtful. Crippling, demoralizing thoughts. One not-so-nice thing after another, and it makes me want to cry.
Why the pain? Why the negative thoughts? Well, recently I spent two weeks playing a video game. From the time I walked through the door at work till the time I left to go home at the end of the day I played.
It was my escape. Finally, just recently, I put the game away. I took the toy away from the little boy.
What I’m left with is that which I try to escape from—my negative thoughts and feelings.
Whether it’s through video games, women, Instagram, Facebook, or food, to name a few distractions, I’ll use just about anything to check out from me. To not be present with my feelings of low self-worth and low self-esteem.
That’s what I did with the video game for two weeks. I opted to numb out rather than sit with my thoughts and feelings and the struggles I’ve been facing with writing my first book. The video game was easier than dealing with the pain.
Funny thing is, the pain from two straight weeks of video games and the inability to put them down became much worse than the pain of sitting still with my thoughts and feelings.
Each day my eyes would hurt and my contacts would blur so much I couldn’t focus. Each day every muscle in my body would tense up as I followed around a little man on a dirt bike racing around on a tiny computer screen.
No wonder I’ve had a stiff neck the past few days. No wonder my head feels like it’s in a vice. I’ve been hurting myself.
We do that, don’t we? Run from our thoughts and feelings, that is. We run from anger, pain, shame, guilt, and fear.
We run from thoughts that tell us horrible things. Things like we wont amount to anything, that we are not likable, not lovable, and don’t matter. We run and actually think that we’re helping ourselves.
News flash: Running, checking out, numbing yourself, or whatever you want to call it isn’t helping. It’s hurting. It’s taking you away from the gift of being fully present with yourself. Yes, I just called it a gift. So then why run?
For me it’s because I was never taught how to like and love myself. I was never taught how to deal with my emotions nor a head full of negative thoughts. Self-esteem? I had none.
See, my mother died when I was three-and-a-half years old, and I grew up alone with my rageaholic father. Through him, I learned to believe that everything was my fault, that the world was out to get me, and that I didn’t matter. No wonder I want to escape.
Feel feelings of low self-worth? No, thank you. I think I’ll check out with a video game.
Don’t know how to esteem myself? Let’s find a woman. She can esteem me and solve all my problems.
Yet in the end, don’t we always come right back to where we started? Doesn’t checking out from ourselves and our feelings only offer a temporary solution? It sure did, and still does, for me.
For years I thought a woman was the answer to all my problems. A woman to complete me and make me whole. Yeah, not so much.
My problems were right there waiting for me when it didn’t work out with the girl. Hi, ugly! So, I’d try again with a different girl thinking I’d get a different result. Nope. Same result. My pain and low-self worth were still right there waiting for me.
I repeated this pattern for the better part of my adult life, until one day I realized that it wasn’t about finding something or someone to make me feel better about myself; it was about me. I realized that it was about me and my inability to esteem myself. My inability to like and love myself.
So I did something I had never done before, ever: I turned inward and chose the path labeled self-discovery rather than continue down the one labeled self-pain. Most of us have or we wouldn’t be here on this beautiful site. Be proud of that; love yourself for that.
Turning inward for me looks like learning how to love the side of myself that’s in so much pain.
It looks like putting down the video game, wrapping my arms around that side of myself, and remembering that I’m okay and that I always have been. It also looks like me getting honest and sharing what I’ve shared with you here today.
The path to freedom is learning to sit still with my thoughts and feelings, not a video game. In return, I get better at esteeming myself and recognizing the true authentic me, the beautiful man that I was born to be.