Hello. My name is James, and I am extremely insecure.
(*in your most convincing monotone, uninterested voice*: “Hi, James…”)
I feel like I used to have a really good handle on all of this. I felt most confident about myself my senior year of college. I was blogging every day about things that made me happy. I was spending a lot of time with people who really cared deeply for me. I was getting a lot of positive feedback on my blog. I felt like I was helping people; I felt like I was serving a purpose larger than myself. When I finished my Happiness Project 365, I felt happy, content, grateful. It made me teary-eyed how joyful I was. So that ended September 2011.
Flash forward to now. March 2013. One-and-a-half years later. I’m standing on the subway platform covering my face with my scarf, talking aloud to myself: “There’s nothing wrong with you. There’s nothing wrong with me. I’m perfectly fine the way I am. I’m beautiful. I’m sexy. I’m talented. I’m kind. I’m important. (*Repeat from the beginning with increasing speed, making me look like someone literally trying to fight off the Devil)”
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. Well… “fallen” sounds too graceful. How bout “Oh, how the mighty have flown from their bikes and landed on the ground with a broken collarbone, a body full of abrasions, stained with black road rash and embedded all over with dirty rocks from the pavement.” Yes, that sounds more accurate.
I feel myself becoming someone I’m not. Someone who I don’t want to be. And it literally feels like the war of my life. Dramatic, I know. The last time I felt this bad was the beginning of my senior year where I literally felt like I was gripping to my sanity by my fingertips, reeling from the worst break-up of my life. And it wasn’t all in my head. I was remembering it aloud once with Jian Li and I said, “I literally felt like I was losing my mind.” And she said, “I know. I was there.” And I’ll never forget that conversation with her, that feeling of validation, that feeling of Wow, that was real… that was close.
And here I am again, but this time I’m not recovering from a break-up. It caught me by surprise. It’s not fun looking up from the bottom of this stupid well, mentally feeling as busted as Samara (yes, that little demon girl from The Ring). And I’m not sure how I got here. And I’m not sure how it snuck up on me so quietly. But the other day it hit me like a ton of bricks. And I realized… I feel so inadequate. Like I’m not enough. Or I’m just not right.
My chest isn’t big enough.
My arms aren’t big enough.
My abs aren’t defined enough.
My ass isn’t big enough.
I’m not masculine enough.
I’m too tall.
My feet are too big.
I’m not rich enough.
My hair isn’t thick enough.
I’m not talented enough.
I’m not brave enough.
I’m not sexy enough.
I had just read Brene Brown’s book Daring Greatly and it really woke me up. I’m waiting until I have more money, a better body and constant theater work to love myself. Subconsciously, I told myself, “James, I will love you when you complete this list. I will love you then.”
When I realized that, I felt like a dementor had put their “lips” to mine and sucked all the air out of my lungs. And immediately after that feeling, I felt that sudden sink of dread in my stomach. It felt like I had eaten a bowling ball and it was starting to rot in my stomach. Because at the moment I realized: “James. We have a problem. And now you have realized it. You have addressed it. Now here is the moment where you decide: Am I going to do something about this? Or will I be content with feeling incomplete?”
It took me a while to do something about it. I didn’t want to admit that I was struggling. I’m a 23 year-old gay man who is struggling with masculinity, trying to bulk up to look more like a “man” while constantly missing my family so much it makes me cry… I wasn’t about to further undermine my masculinity by saying aloud, “I feel unpretty. *cue the Lucille Ball wail* WAAAAAAAHHHHHH!”
But I hit my lowest point two nights ago. I cracked. And it really starting eating away at me. I felt the beautiful parts of me corroding while the ugly insecurity took over. It started to interfere with my personal relationships. And I realized it had been eating away at me for a while. It had been fucking up my relationships for a while. I had been waiting for someone else to make me feel complete. I was waiting for someone else to make me like myself. I think part of me knew that this insecurity was there all along. But I wasn’t facing it head-on. I let it throw wrenches in the gears of my friendships and I didn’t hold my insecurity accountable. I let myself take the blame. Because I was too ashamed to talk about my insecurity. I felt like, “Oh, how cliche. An insecure, gay actor. Why don’t you just go cry about your pirouettes and really seal the deal.”
But I’ve had it. In the words of the drag queen Detox: ” I’VE HAD IT. OFFICIALLY.”
Lately, I’ve felt myself unraveling. And it’s fucking terrifying. It feels like I dropped a spool of thread and it’s falling out of my heads faster than I can gather it all. But I’m not gonna sit here and take it anymore. And I have a few strategies.
STRATEGIES FOR COMBATING THAT ASSHOLE VOICE IN MY HEAD
1) Journaling. Whenever I feel myself really struggling with something, something that I really want to get to the bottom of and understand more clearly, I pull out my journal. On the subway mostly. But sometimes I can’t take it anymore. I can’t stand knowing something is deeply bothering me and not understand the root of it. This really helps me discover the little hole into which insecurity is sneaking. It helps me truly feel like I’m getting a handle of the situation.
2) Talking aloud to myself. This is maybe the most successful. It helps me shut up that asshole voice really quickly. Whenever I start to feel like I’m not good enough, I just starting talking aloud. I don’t say the awful things aloud. I only say the kind things aloud. Because those things are true. “I am important. I’m perfectly fine the way I am. I matter. I’m beautiful. There’s nothing wrong with me.”
3) Self-help books. They really help me change my perspective. They help me see myself in a different light and I start to really believe myself. I plan on getting back into this this week.
I refuse to wait for other people to make me feel good enough. On the same hand, I refuse to let other people determine my self-worth. I am good enough because I say so, god damnit.
This war starts today. I won’t win every battle, but I won’t give up.
Bring your A-Game, Asshole-Voice. Cuz I’m coming for you guns-a’blazin.
I’ll need y’all more than ever:
I love you.