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stargazer

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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?
 

Halo

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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
 
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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.
 

stargazer

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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.
 

David Baxter

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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)"...
 

stargazer

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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.
 

stargazer

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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.
 

just mary

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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
 

stargazer

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Thanks, Just Mary, I appreciate hearing that. And I think you're wise to gravitate to those who accept you. Too many of us have spent too much time trying to correct the opinions of those who don't.
 

yellodolphin

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Hey there,

Im really sorry to hear about your self image problems. I really feel for myself my personal self esteem and related issues have caused many problems for me.

I think the bottom line is that any negative thoughts about the self are really a cognitive problem. This is a little obvious but start with the basics. So they are caused by negative thoughts, Ask yourself Why? What causes you to think of your self in a negative way?

For example personally I never felt accepted by people because i constantly had depression/anxiety and no one i knew had it. This caused me to feel like i was a loser and crazy and jus overall give myself a bad self image.

Another thing is with negative thoughts they are usually caused by emotions not rationality u kno? If u see urself in all these negative ways that deep inside you know are innacurate you are listening to your emotions get the better of you. So when you have negative thought, actively use your rationality to correct them. Hope this helps.


Thomas
 

stargazer

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Yes, Thomas, this does help, and thank you for responding.

I think the bottom line is that any negative thoughts about the self are really a cognitive problem. This is a little obvious but start with the basics. So they are caused by negative thoughts, Ask yourself Why? What causes you to think of your self in a negative way?

I think a large part of my problem is that I'm having negative thoughts about myself based on things that other people are saying about me, and evidently perceiving in me. I feel unaccepted. Yesterday I lost my job, for example, and I am having a hard time thinking well of myself. The loss of the job means that they did not like me, and that I was somehow unacceptable. And so it affects my self-image. What other people think of me is affecting me self-image, even though I know it shouldn't.

For example personally I never felt accepted by people because i constantly had depression/anxiety and no one i knew had it. This caused me to feel like i was a loser and crazy and jus overall give myself a bad self image.

That's kind of how I feel. I feel as though I have to totally limit my interactions with people in order to avoid getting the feeling they think I'm a loser and crazy. I think if these people hadn't have been exposed to me four days a week, they wouldn't have eventually started to think I was in some way unacceptable. It is also hard for me to have lost two jobs in a row now, for seemingly similar reasons. Everything seemed to be going great, and then in the last week it was as though everybody just ganged up on me all of a sudden, and I couldn't take it. Same thing happened on my last job down in San Jose, and then I had to go through all that hell, and staying in the homeless shelter, and the whole thing.

Another thing is with negative thoughts they are usually caused by emotions not rationality u kno?

I'm not sure that's true, Thomas. I'm told in CBT that the thoughts come first, then the emotions. That's what I've been working with anyway, that idea. But I agree that it's best to seek rationality, though it's difficult when the path is cluttered by overwhelming negative emotions.

If u see urself in all these negative ways that deep inside you know are innacurate you are listening to your emotions get the better of you. So when you have negative thought, actively use your rationality to correct them. Hope this helps.

Yes, that helps, and is also similar to what I have learned through Buddhism and meditation. We're talking about all that in therapy, and I've been trying to meditate regularly, although I don't do it too consistently. I do run long distances regularly, which also helps in a similar way.

In this morning's case, I can't run till the sky gets light. I lost my job yesterday. I put in an e-mail to my therapist who hasn't yet replied, and I can't get her voice mail till after eight in the morning, or over four hours from now. I woke up angry at three in the morning. I'm going to call the Crisis line now, because often in the middle of the night they have time to talk to me.

I wish my disability check would just arrive. I can't just keep making lengthy trips on the bus down to the nearest large town to find low-paying work that I wind up losing anyway. I need the breathing room of a little added income, and I'm tired of hitting up my brother and sister for money every month, just to try and get by.
 

ThatLady

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I think a large part of my problem is that I'm having negative thoughts about myself based on things that other people are saying about me, and evidently perceiving in me. I feel unaccepted. Yesterday I lost my job, for example, and I am having a hard time thinking well of myself. The loss of the job means that they did not like me, and that I was somehow unacceptable. And so it affects my self-image. What other people think of me is affecting me self-image, even though I know it shouldn't.

Having had to let people go from jobs, I find that I'm not letting them go because people don't like them, and it certainly isn't because they're unaccepatable as a person. The job in question might not be a good match for them. That doesn't mean there's something inherently wrong with the person. It just means that person doesn't fit that job. In other words, it's not a personal judgement. If you can look at it like that, it might help, SG.

If you don't mind my asking, what actually led to the loss of your job? Did you fail to make a deadline on a project, or break some company rule, or something? There are laws to prevent people from being released unfairly.
 
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stargazer

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Hi TL. First, I want to express that I am feeling much better today, and I'm becoming aware that it wasn't that they disliked me as a person, but that, as you say, they had become concerned that I wasn't the right person for the job. Also, the availability of someone else arose, and so they seized the opportunity. The school principal did say that my music transcription was great, and that she would continue to send work my way; but that I seemed to be in a different space than the other teachers in terms of what is involved working at a pre-school; and in particular, their specific school.

On my end, I was a little frustrated that these expectations had not been made clear to me in the first place. It seemed that all the other teachers had been there for a long time and knew each other pretty well and how to work with each other. I guess, basically, I just wasn't flowing with the scene there, so to speak.

I'd be interested in knowing about the laws you're referring to; however, in this case, the work was strictly under the table and unreported--the principal wrote me monthly checks from a business account, but they bore no appearance of paycheck, and I doubt they'll even 1099 me. I didn't even sign a contract.

Also, I want to remain on good terms with them, since she'll be sending me transcription jobs. Even in the process of firing me, she gave me three such jobs, and I've finished one of them already. So, now that I've slept on it, no bad feelings. I just wasn't the right person for the job.
 

ThatLady

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I'd be interested in knowing about the laws you're referring to; however, in this case, the work was strictly under the table and unreported--the principal wrote me monthly checks from a business account, but they bore no appearance of paycheck, and I doubt they'll even 1099 me. I didn't even sign a contract.

Also, I want to remain on good terms with them, since she'll be sending me transcription jobs. Even in the process of firing me, she gave me three such jobs, and I've finished one of them already. So, now that I've slept on it, no bad feelings. I just wasn't the right person for the job.


Ah. If you were working "under the table", all bets are off. I will say, however, that in order to fire a person there has to be a legitimate reason (if the person is working legally - as a member of staff and receiving a paycheck). One can't just fire someone because one doesn't like that person. The person must have violated policy in some way - like consistent tardiness after warnings, consistent unexcused absense, using foul language on company grounds, endangering other employees - that sort of thing. One can't be fired just because the boss doesn't think your tie is the right colour combination. ;)

If she's willing to give you transcription jobs, it's a good idea to stay in her good auspices as much as possible. It's work you can do, and enjoy doing. :)
 

stargazer

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Just sent you an e-mail with attachment. (Actually two, as I attached the wrong file to the first e-mail.) The attachment is more-or-less irrelevant, but it is something that went past my employer. It sort of substantiates how we were in two different universes.
 

ThatLady

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Yeah, I can see what you're saying. A preschool in Lodi isn't going to identify with the kinds of things you've done to date. ;)

I can understand how it might be very difficult to react to amorphous cues; especially, when you're facing away from the center of action, so to speak. If they've all worked together for awhile, they sorta know what to expect. Someone new would have a clue!
 

stargazer

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Yeah, I can see what you're saying. A preschool in Lodi isn't going to identify with the kinds of things you've done to date. ;)

Maybe I should think big. Why don't I approach Parks & Rec to see if we can re-establish the long-defunct Lodi Theatre for Youth. If my eyes don't deceive me, there's an 800-seat theatre just sitting there, except when it books outside tours for high prices.
 
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