I’ve decided that I’m hot.
More accurately, I’ve decided to stop the self-bashing that’s become habitual over a lifetime of insecurity.
I’ve had a terrible self-esteem, and I worry about everything. I think these traits are the reasons why I started overeating from a very young age and ended up abusing drugs and alcohol for the better part of my early life.
The interesting thing is that I didn’t realize I hated myself so much until I began looking back as an adult with many years of recovery behind me. I thought I just had poor willpower when it came to food. I didn’t know that I had eaten myself into a compulsion beyond my control and drank and smoked myself into the realm of no return because I hated being in my own skin.
My insecurity masqueraded as bravado—even to myself—and I set out to be famous in the big city as an outrageous clubkid. And I when I got there, I thought I was fierce. Really fierce.
I was very overweight. I was a chain-smoker. I frequently wore black eye makeup, vinyl pants with foot-high platform shoes and an undersized baby-doll t-shirt while dancing on the stages at the local clubs. Designer drugs like ecstasy and Special K became part of my costume, and when the music was pumping and I was rolling, I reveled in the drug euphoria and attention from the wide-eyed clubkids dancing beneath me. I didn’t care if the attention was good or bad. I saw all attention as good. My motto was: ‘Any press is good press—as long as they’re talking about you, Michael.’
I didn’t realize that while I was entertaining the club goers—even if they did actually enjoy the character I portrayed—to them I was merely a party favour that enhanced their highs. While I was on that stage, high as a kite and thinking I was fierce, I didn’t understand I was completely alone. I had placed myself in a position above them (though I truly felt below them) and even though I was receiving a form of adoration from the crowd, I was alone. I wasn’t going home with a boyfriend. I didn’t have close friendships. I would just try to keep the high going and the makeup thick to mask the reality that I was, in fact, miserable and alone.
When my excesses culminated and landed me on a street corner after having been robbed by the boys I was ‘partying’ with, I had to begin the long journey of recovery and introspective inventory of my grosser handicaps.
After a few years of sobriety, I began to understand that all of my pursuits of fame and recognition were fuelled by my deep insecurity. I saw myself as less-than everyone else, so I projected an image of ‘better-than’ to protect myself from falling apart and to provide myself with a false sense of security. Within all of this, I was never on level with anyone and kept myself isolated. I was never myself because I didn’t know who I was—and the little bit I did know, I strongly disliked.
Over the years of work on building my character and ego-puncturing by my spiritual guides, I recognized–but just couldn’t shake away—my insecurity. I became obsessed with fitness and completely transformed my body. I dropped nearly 100 lbs and replaced my fat with muscle. Yet I still was alone and projected a fitness and recovery persona. I still couldn’t just be myself, because I couldn’t overcome my insecurity no matter how much I tried.
It didn’t matter how many people told me I was hot, or complimented my body, my eyes, my personality. I would get a momentary hit of mild confidence, and I would crash again.
Many times I’ve heard in my recovery program that it doesn’t matter so much the reasons we have our illness or addictions, but rather what we can do about them.
And when I look back at my journey, I can see I never sobered up until I made the decision to do so. I had made many resolutions for many years before that I would stop and change my life around. But I never stayed sober until I made a firm decision to do so.
When I parallel this with my insecurity, no matter how much I wanted to be confident, I just wasn’t able to will my fears and worries out of me. And my muscular body didn’t do it. And popularity didn’t do it.
What could I do?
About a week ago, after an empowering chat with my psychotherapist, I decided to dress a little more in a manner I thought was sexy. I had a couple of pics taken of me in my new outfits and one without a shirt. I posted them online, and of course I kept checking repeatedly to see how many likes and comments they received.
A few days ago, when I was washing dishes and listening to some of my favourite music, I stopped to look at the attention on my most recently posted pic, and something profound happened.
I looked at the pic—at me—and listened to the melody of the music. And I saw myself as handsome. And I had compassion for myself. And I began to realize that I had made a decision to start ‘being’ more confident. And suddenly, I knew—with conviction—it was time to make a firm decision to let go of the self-bashing and self-critical thinking, and allow myself to be whoever I might be. This meant that no matter what, no matter how strong the pull of negative thinking could be, I was no longer allowing myself to engage—just like when I had decided I had had my last drink—my last high.
It may be a bit early to determine whether this decision has catapulted my character into the realm of confidence and healthy self-love, but based on my past experience with giving up addictive behaviour, I’m hopeful it has.