It’s hard for me to take good news at face value. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only person to think this way – I lower my expectations about everything so much that I will refuse to believe that something amazing has happened to me until I have solid, tangible proof of it. Of course, that isn’t always possible. Not all good things are tangible.
That’s what makes self-esteem so difficult for people like me. We’re so overwhelmed with a sudden influx of achievement and excitement that it’s almost anxiety provoking. Compliments, too many in too short a time, become fodder for a panic attack; a string of good luck has to be followed by paranoia, an expectation that something bad has to happen to balance our own little universe and satiate the forces that dictate our existence. I’m not trying to glamorize this because it is difficult. It’s difficult to have to check and double check something in hopes that it isn’t a fluke. The world becomes a scary place in that moment, between your brain saying, “Yes, yes, this is real, you’re allowed to be happy about this!” and your heart saying, “Are you sure? Do you have proof? What if it’s a mistake? What if it’s some wild typo and your name was accidentally put on there! Don’t get your hopes up!” And so on and so forth, tangos of perverse nature, where the dancers seem blurred and meshed into one another.
The worst part is being so painfully aware of how ridiculous the whole thing is. Actually, no – the worst part is being afraid that other people think you’re fishing for compliments when you really just want validation, when you want to be assured that you’re allowed to be happy and that it won’t come back and bite you in the rear-end.
Regardless, then the accusations come flooding in as a deluge of self-loathing, a progression of self-hatred. Self-centered. Ungrateful. Unworthy. Venom and vitriol aimed at oneself. In that phase, you are your own worst critic and your humility – a former safety net – morphs into a gag, cutting into your lips and stifling reason.
That continues for a while but it, too, subsides, even if only to come back at certain points as a nagging voice in the back of your mind, a whisper in your ear audible only to yourself. But then comes the liberation. The cavalry arrives to rescue you from your own self-doubt that has kept you hostage for so long. It breaks your out of your stupor. A gust of fresh air blows your way, jarring at first, but then it peters down into a gentle breeze.
And then as your cheeks flush with the renewed vigor that is so often a by-product of petrichor and cool wind upon dry earth and barren trees, you allow yourself to believe. Often, this is accompanied with the aforementioned tangible proof, but do not kid yourself into thinking that that is the instrument of your realization. You must award yourself the power to accept good news. You make that happen. To disperse the responsibility is to not give yourself the credit you deserve.
Take it from me, someone that goes through the Phases of Acceptance on an almost-daily basis, it’s not humility that is stopping you from feeling this way, it’s your self-esteem. Don’t give into that. Don’t hurt yourself by denying what is the truth.
It’s hard. I know. But I promise you, when you allow yourself to feel that great, it’s worth the hardship and you won’t regret it. After all, who could hate the scent of petrichor?
I wrote this piece mostly for Phoebus Online but also as a tribute to myself and other people in my boat. It’s hard being your own worst enemy when it comes to things like this. But what yesterday’s CIE Award ceremony taught me – rather, what my amazing friends taught me by being so amazing and supportive and honest – is that allowing yourself the luxury of feeling good about yourself isn’t a flaw. It isn’t a crime. It isn’t a sin. It’s something deserved and something to relish.
This goes out to Andrew, Tannya, Rachel, Faiza, Utsa, Mehvash, Osama, Batul, Fern and Darren. I’m so, so freaking lucky to have you guys as friends. Thank you for everything – I’ll never be able to express how much it means to me to have had you guys during and after the ceremony, and in general too.
I know I’ve been writing a lot about my “battles” with self-esteem, but I’m in – from what I can tell, anyway – a phase of my life where I’m getting over it and becoming a stronger person. Good timing, too!