Monday, 6 September 2010

Self - Esteem or lack there of.

**Self-indulgent whinge and pit of sorrow alert**

Instructions for reading this blog are as follows:
1. Fetch sick bucket
2. Don big boots for the arse kicking that may be required
3. Acquire a wet kipper, effective for cheek slapping when you are done reading
4. Adopt a sympathetic counsellor's sideways head tilt and non-commital facial expression - self pitying rants always look better from this angle!

I am having doubts. Bit fat hairy insidious creeping doubts that tell me I can't do this. I can't write, think or even read adequately enough to complete a Ph.D. I mean who do I think I am?

These doubts manifest themselves as an overwhelming panicky sensation- you know the sort of feeling you get when you dream you are in front of your entire old school naked and there they are, jeering at you. You feel all sweaty and flushed and your hands are a blur trying to cover bits that should never legitimately be out on public display. And all the time you think 'this is never going to end is it' ... and then with a bit of luck, before your sense of failure and shame can reach its nadir, you wake up flooded with relief.

Well what do you do with that feeling when you are awake, and it is a reality that makes you feel so exposed, so vulnerable, so flawed? What 'wakes you up' so to speak? What stops you spiralling uncontrollably down into a pit of despair?

Half of the problem is I am one of those women who was married to one of those men! You know the sort, on the surface and to all the external world they are Dr Jekyll, decent, law abiding, a good provider, a considerate and patient father, quite good looking, to all intents and purposes he would be considered ' a catch'. But behind closed doors they are Mr Hyde treating you like an imbecile, making you feel inadequate as  a mother, a wife, a women and sometimes even as a person. You know that sort of man. The sort who, after you've taken an hour to get ready for a night out, looks you up and down and says, 'Are you wearing that?' in a slightly contemptuous tone? Who walks in from work and hoovers before taking their coat off because they way you have done it doesn't come up to scratch! Or looks at you like you disdainfully when you suggest having a joint bank account because he thinks you just want to spend all his money?
It leaves its mark.
 I am sad to say after years of marriage (and even after years of being divorced) that sense of never being quite good enough has stayed with me. I don't hold my ex responsible for the way I am now, but he didn't help.

 Low self esteem is like a worm, that eats its way from the inside out. Slowly devouring all of your securities and assurances and shitting them out as insecurities and doubts. A bad marriage is fodder for the worm. But even once you rid yourself of the bad marriage, you still have a fat well fed arthropod to deal with. You can try starving it out, but it takes a long time before it shrivels sufficiently to disappear, if it ever does.
Even though  I found a man who adores me and makes me feel as though I am capable of conquering the world (I think he just fantasises about thigh high leather boots and being dominated!) I still carry this sense that I just don't cut it.

In fact I am getting worse. Despite having a reasonably successful career (so far) as a scholar I still feel as though one day soon, someone is going to whip back the curtain, a la the Wizard of Oz, and find out I am a sham, a fraud. The proud and glittering edifice will crumble leaving me exposed, naked and once more at the mercy of those jeering taunts.

I read prolifically in order to get the ideas to write, and every time I open the covers of yet another scholarly tome I find myself sinking deeper and deeper into my pit of self-doubt. How do they find the words to express themselves so clearly, so succinctly, so perfectly??? Where does this inspiration come from, and why, in comparison, does my prose squelch like a stale cow-pat under a sandal?

Now this swirling vortex of emotion has been triggered by the simple task of filling in my forms to return to University this October. Two little forms saying 'yes I am signing up' and 'yes I am doing my Ph.D' - it has set me off! Friends of mine, who have been through this journey with me, will read it and nod, thinking 'Uh-huh, it's that time of year again - here she goes'. Normally I am quite self- confident, out-going and assured. I genuinely believe I am more than capable of tackling most things that life throws at me and have done so in the past - so why does this happen every year??

Answers on a postcard please.

In two days time this post will embarrass me. I will sit and re-read it and wonder what the fuck possessed me to put myself out there, to basically strip off my own outer clothing/shell and sit naked and vulnerable in front of the eternal gaze of the interweb ... I may even delete it (unlikely as I hate deleting anything) so for blackmailing purposes I suggest you c&p it now whilst you still can! 


  1. Okaaaayyy... That really requires a personal response, but I can't do that cos you're there and I'm here, so this will have to do, however inadequate it is bound to turn out to be...

    First: it sounds like you need a hug. A real hug being impractical, you will have to make do with a virtual hug. Consider yourself hugged.

    Second: I didn't know about the marriage and I'm sorry to hear about it. For what it's worth, I have also been in an "unfortunate" relationship which was not entirely unlike the one you describe (with genders swapped). That came to an end many, many years ago, but aspects of it it still come back to bite me now and again. So, for what it's worth, your situation is not unusual and you are not alone.

    Third: I did 3 years of a PhD, so I know what it's like. (OK, I didn't finish it, but that had nothing to do with my confidence or my abilities, as perceived by me or by anyone else.) I knew lots of people with PhDs and I'm sure you do too. To be blunt, if they could do it, so could I and so can you.

    Fourth: It's much more difficult to get a First than to get a PhD. You've already done the hard part.

    Fifth: You write well. Very well.

    I wish I could talk to you in person, and I apologise for the inadequacy of this. I hope it helps just a little bit. If it doesn't, feel free to tell me to fuck off!


  2. I'm not going to slap you with a wet fish, too yukky and I hate the smell of fish! Low self esteem seems to be part of the baggage, male & female mature students carry around with them. My brother: now doing a PhD still feels he is an imposter. I get an essay back marked with a distinction and look for all the things I did wrong rather than all the things I did right. There is no answer, I really wish there was, just keep on going, fill out the form and make a restorative cup/jug of good coffee. Sorry, not very inspiring I'm afraid.

  3. Yep. Most of the time, I really question whether or not I'll be able to pull it off. From what I see here, your writing rocks. So my money is on you to go the distance!


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