Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The "Worthless" Syndrome

There are those who devote far too much time reflecting on their weaknesses and shortcomings, examining each through a magnifying glass as though they were so many insects-on-pins in a display case. Alas, I am one of them. And while, way down deep, I know I am not being fair to myself, and that I’m not really all that bad, it doesn’t change the fact that I’ve always measured myself against others and inevitably come up short. And I’m talking about it here because, once again, I think I am not totally alone in these negative assumptions.

Though I cannot be absolutely sure from whence my lifelong, deep-rooted sense of inferiority and unworthiness come from, other than my tendency toward melodrama, I think I have put something of a handle on it.

It most certainly was not the result of my parents’ actions. They loved me unconditionally and never criticized me any more than I’m sure any parent criticizes a child. But I think it largely stems from the fact that I have always lived in a world of dreams. I don’t think I ever fully was able to separate fairy tales and Santa Claus and all the wondrous things that I found in books from real life. I expected myself to have all the sterling qualities, all the marvelous talents and abilities that the heroes in books and movies had.

I was, I felt, a great disappointment to my father because of my total inability to grasp the concept of organized sports, which he loved. The fact that I was also what I’ve always unkindly referred to as a “motor moron”—totally lacking in the hand-eye coordination which leads to physical grace—created a very real sense of self-loathing, echoes of which remain with me to this day.

I looked around me and saw how easily other people seemed to be able to interrelate, how effortlessly they understood what was expected of them by life and society, did wonderful things with astonishing grace, and comparing myself to them, how could I not have felt less than they. I could not understand why I could not be what everyone else seemed to be. So many of the things I ached to be, even as a child…graceful, talented, handsome, at ease in any situation, able to fit in anywhere…I knew I was not and never could be. Therefore, obviously, I was inferior and unworthy.

And of course growing up in a world in which the thought of a boy knowing he truly, purely loved other boys was inconceivably disgusting and perverted and disgusting and sick certainly didn’t help. (One of the reasons I had abandoned organized religion by the time I was twelve was because it was constantly drummed into my head that people like me were doomed to the fires of hell for all eternity for my sins. If God considered me to be an abomination, then by what logic should I believe in God?)

I suspect one of the reasons I concentrate so strongly on my own flaws is because I do not feel qualified to comment on the flaws of others. And besides, I know my own so very much better. And I truly do realize that I am not nearly as bad as I insist upon making myself out to be. It’s just that I expect so very much more out of life…and myself…than it is realistic to expect.

Which brings us back to the vast gap between the mind and the body. The mind can do anything. The body has to rely on muscles and nerves and joints and the infinite complexities of the connections between them all. Some bodies are better able to do things than others. And while mine has always been very good to me, and I am infinitely grateful to it, it is simply not able to meet the physical demands my mind makes upon it. And in the end…literally…it is the body which has the final say.

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