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  1. #1
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    Conflicting Self-Images

    I've been wanting to post here for a while, but I couldn't quite locate the appropriate thread for what has been on my mind.

    It seems to me that throughout my life, a lot of my lack-of-progress has been related to my self-esteem, and in particular to conflicting self images that I have been unable to reconcile within myself. I have also had a difficult time expressing this conflict to friends and counselors, which has on occasion led me to feel misunderstood.

    On the one hand, I have an image of myself as a talented musician and a kind teacher, sometimes even inspired perhaps, generally well-liked, clean-cut, a nice guy, able to make a contribution to the community, and so forth.

    On the other hand, I see myself as completely messed up in the head, borderline-insane, distemperate & grouchy, frustrated, irritable, impulsive, scattered, unfocused, and unstable.

    Somehow my students and their parents almost *never* see the darker side of me. People who do see that side, on the other hand, have a hard time believing that I can fairly calmly do the things I claim I can do professionally, in the good-natured way that I claim I can do them. But I know it's true, and it's true basically because that's what I enjoy doing. So I'm generally in a good mood while doing it (teaching, playing the piano, etc.) It's almost an escape--but for 16 years, it was an escape that made me money. In the past 2 1/2 years, it has not.

    I think part of the problem is that I tend to view myself in the manner that others see me, and I form my self-definition based on their perceptions. How can I resolve this conflict?

  2. #2
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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    SG

    You ask how you can resolve this conflict and the first thing that comes to mind is to talk to your therapist. Maybe this is an area that the two of you can work on together. I know for myself that this is also an area that I need to work on with my therapist especially the negative distorted self image that I have. It definitely is a hard topic to talk about with a therapist but one that probably needs to be addressed.

    Take care

  3. #3
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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    i would say, sg, that there is some truth in both views.. sometimes you are that easy going guy and sometimes you are the moody guy. in fact, we all have these sides to us. it may be emphasized to you because of your being bi-polar - when you feel good it's extremely good and when you feel lousy you feel very lousy.

    i think nancy's suggestion to work this out in therapy is a good one. hope this helps.
    ~ our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising each time we fall - confucius
    ~ it is the journey, not the destination, that matters
    ~ keep hanging on, the sun will come shining through for you again

  4. #4
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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    I did begin to talk with the therapist about this during the last session, but only in terms of some examples, not really pointing to the root cause or even the general case.

    I think what ladybug is saying is true, and that also I have a tendency to gravitate toward environments which will promote one self-image or the other according to my mood swing, or according to the way I'm feeling about myself. And also, the environments themselves influence my self-image, so each feeds upon the other.

    Not sure if I mentioned what happened Tuesday before last, when my favorite piano student blurted out: "The whole town thinks you're homeless and crazy." She seemed to see the reaction on my face, then said: "Well, we know you're not."

    Because this depressed me--or I should say, it "discouraged" me--I brought it up in therapy. The only thing that emerged was around how much weight should I place on the perception of a 16-year-old.

    In my internal world, however, I often think as I walk around town that I "appear" to be "homeless and crazy." I don't have a car, I'm often at the library where the homeless people hang out, and I talk to myself sometimes while I'm walking down the road. (I do that unconsciously, then catch myself, and wonder if someone saw.) Also, I wear a backpack, carrying my laptop. And I need a new pair of shoes. Perhaps if I diminish some of these appearances, it will diminish the extent to which I'm damaged by this kind of self-image. I don't know.

  5. #5
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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    how much weight should I place on the perception of a 16-year-old
    That's a very good point. In my experience, teens are prone to hyperbole and exaggeration and drama about things like this -- "everybody hates me", "I have no friends", "the whole town thinks I'm crazy" -- then when you ask a few questions, it often boils down to, "well, my sister said she hates me and when I called my friend this morning she didn't call back (yet)"...

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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    Right. The therapist & I speculated that perhaps one or two of her friends in high school had said: "Oh, I see that guy walking around all the time--is he homeless or something?" And in her mind, at a certain moment, this became: "The whole town thinks you're homeless and crazy."

    Also, at the moment she might have felt dis-inclined to defend my sanity to her peers, but inclined to say a word or two about it to me. I saw her at rehearsal the next Friday, and again for her lesson on Tuesday, and nothing was said about it. It's as if it had never happened.

    So if, in her own mind, it doesn't have much weight, it certainly ought not to have much weight in mine.

    I think what happened was that it triggered my own feelings about the town possibly perceiving me as "crazy." Otherwise, I probably wouldn't have internalized it so much.

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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    Well, I went back today for the lesson, and this time I took a different route, along a side street, and I didn't carry my backpack. At one point, the doorbell rang, and I had to answer it. It turned out to be one of her sisters, followed by a whole troop of high school kids. At first, I thought they were all laughing at me, because they were looking at me weird. Then one of them spoke up, and said: "We hear you're an awesome piano player!"

    I was surprised, because I had thought she was going to make some crack. I told her I was out of practice, though. Then they all went out back and started jumping up and down on the trampoline.

  8. #8
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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    That's part of the reason I love kids...

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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    Yuppers.

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    Re: Conflicting Self-Images

    Then they all went out back and started jumping up and down on the trampoline.
    Kids, life, they're funny that way. We can never know what to expect. I'm glad this happened SG, it seems to have made you feel a bit better?

    As for dealing with other people's perceptions of yourself, I think I can empathize. Probably not to the extent that you do but I do feel this way around my husband's family. I'm not at the point that I try to change to improve their perception of me, but I do want to shake them sometimes and tell them there is more to me than what they assume.

    I truly wish I could be completely oblivious to other people's perceptions/judgements but it's difficult. That's why I try to surround myself with people who don't judge me or at least with people who I don't think are judging me.

    For what it's worth, we all like you here SG, we don't think you're odd. You seem intelligent, interesting and kinda cool.

    Take care,

    jm

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