I'm not really a non-fiction type of person per se, but I love learning about myself (HAHA! Irony!) and other people, so the psychology of the book sounded interesting. I don't know if I'll be able to finish the book, but it's making me think and I'm only about 20 pages in.
So I was reading the book and they were going into the idea of narcissism in the US and how it's becoming an epidemic. One thing that I am not, is narcissistic.
I have actually come to terms with the fact that a lot of the time I hate myself. It's not that I don't recognize any good qualities that I possess, it's just that I struggle with the idea that I am worthy to exist in the first place.
When I was in middle school I was treated like crap and basically considered a non-normal, non-worthy person. So things were crappy, but changed more for the better when I went to high school. I was a bit more adjusted, but internally I still felt like the same not-worthy person, thus creating a deep sense of shame.
One thing my Mom and I have talked about, in relation to my issues in high school (the whole almost not graduating thing and barely finishing school), is the fact that the school district I went to gave you (in essence) three choices. You could choose your career/future like you choose cafeteria food; meal A, B, or C.
Being a person who doesn't fit into those three categories, I had a bit of a shit fit emotionally. Not to mention the fact that my entire time at Hilliard City Schools they were always pressuring us to do better and work harder, our lives were basically riding on which college we got into and how well we did academically. Combine that with the whole categorical imperative and you get a very very very bad situation for someone who doesn't fit in.
When I look back on high school and how I hardly went and didn't enjoy it as well as how I didn't have any friends, I realize it's not because I didn't want to learn or socialize, but because I didn't want the life that the school was forcing me into living. I didn't want to live life A, B, or C.
So after all of the badness of school, and finally graduating, I decided to go to college and thus decided to go to Wright State. I went there for a quarter because I thought I was supposed to and I wanted to become a different person. I wanted to have friends and be anyone I wanted to be, not just some yuppie Abercrombie and Fitch clone who was meant to have life A, B, or C.
When I went to Wright State though, I realized just how many people were there that I knew in high school, and how by starting at a different time than everyone else, and living the same type of life I did when I was in H.S. (Never really leaving my room, going from class to home to cafeteria to class to home) that I was just doing the same things over again.
My emotional state at this point was a little better. I was happy to be more in control, but I was just as friendless and purposeless (no really purpose in life/no real calling) as I had always been.
So I went home after one quarter, figuring out that more of the same, (trying to eat Meal B), was not right for me.
After I went home I felt in some terms like a failure, this idea was also helped along by the fact that the easiest school (besides Community College) in the state rejected me. I recognize now (and even though at the time my Mom was telling me this exact same thing) that they didn't except me because I had left Wright State after only one quarter. Emotionally this fucked me up a bit more though.
After nearly a year of waiting around, trying to figure out what to do, being lazy and getting heavily into LJ and fandom I had another breakdown. I realized that this dark time in my life was only a transition period and that all I had to do was keep moving on. I realized that I was so heavily depressed and emotionally fragile that I couldn't do it anymore. I realized that I had no hope for my life.
Needless to say, my emotions changed like the wind a few weeks later and one day I literally just woke up and decided to go to college. I did some research and found that the closest, and best looking school for the major I wished to pursue (Video Production) was the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
I'm not going to get into how or why I went there or why or how I switched majors into Graphic Design, I feel like I've already thought/talked about that a lot. If you really want to know just let me know.
Anyway so I go to this school and I meet some people.
At this point in my life I am emotionally thrilled. I am ready to take on a new challenge, hopeful as all get out, and really wanting to succeed in being happy. I was really ready to be the person I wanted to become, I didn't know ANYONE and I was doing work that I LOVED.
After a few days I met the best friends I've ever had. It wasn't only that they were receptive to other people, but that they were a lot like me in that they had been considered slackers or losers or out-casts and we all had this sort of idea that the world had screwed us over and just fuck it.
Everyone wants to fit in, but it's really hard to be true to yourself and fit in when you see the world in a different way. (We were at art school, in some part we all saw the world differently than most). The greatest thing that I learned from these people was to be myself, because I'm awesome. I people who were unique and crazy and awesome and fun to be around whom not only valued originality as much as I didn't know I did, but they respected you for being yourself.
Growing up in an upper middle class, clone-like, Abercrombie and Fitch, suburban hell, you are told to fit in. It's like a bee hive, you have a place/role, now do your job and fit in, no exceptions, social suicide for anything else, the atmosphere I experienced at AIP was extremely beneficial and emotionally healing in a lot of ways.
So I started at this school where people not only were the complete opposite of those I was used to, but they liked and respected me in the same way (something no one I had really grown up with had done) as they respect each other. I felt like an equal for the first time in my entire life.
For months after becoming friends with these people I was inherently paranoid. I was sure that they all secretly hated me and that I was just some person that existed on the fringes of their group, someone they tolerated because they wanted other people in their lives, or someone that they wanted to use. (I think a lot of the being-used mentality came from my best friend growing up, who literally said to me multiple times 'if you don't do what I want to do I'm going home' and later on in life only decided to be my friend when it was convenient and there was no one else around [these actions helped instill in me the obsessive need to be useful to people aka perfectionism])
So along with the fact that I had friends who liked me for me, there was also this huge ass thing that happened where I found out that I was actually good at something. Not just good, great.
When I got into graphic design I did it for my love of being creative, I went through my first quarter of school doing my homework because I liked the projects I was given, not because I had to. I was putting in the same (okay maybe slightly more) amount of work that I had in high school. Where as in high school I was doing homework I didn't give two shits about, in college I was creating things that were fun (thus I didn't get as tired or sick or annoyed with my assignments as fast, hence the comment about doing slightly more work.) On the whole, I really didn't change my work ethic monumentally when I started college.
So then this thing happened where I got straight A's for the first time in my entire life. ENTIRE life.
Needless to say I flipped out. I was SO happy that I was doing something right for once. I had gone 15 years being mediocre to bad at everything, to have the slightest bit of success was monumentally life altering.
Where I had worked hard, but was emotionally drained in high school, I was thriving in college. Now when I look at it, it's pretty fucked up that I put in the same amount of effort in college and got straight A's, yet in high school I was lucky if my GPA was above 2.5.
So now not only did I have people who liked and respected me, but I had a recipe for success. I started to work harder than I ever had in my entire life. Staying up all night, redoing bad work, creating more options and just generally trying to be as good as I could be.
After reading the narcissism book a bit and just thinking about myself and my goals I realize that for a long time, and still somewhat to this day, I have this deep seated need to be perfect because if I'm not perfect I feel like I'm failing. Also I realize that my need for people is turned into this dark monster in my subconscious saying that if I'm not the best at what I do why would anyone want me.
Real narcissistic people don't hate themselves deep down, they believe they are like the greatest thing to walk the planet, the whole 'he's an asshole because he hates himself' idea is myth number three covered in the book. So this made me realize, that I am NOT a narcissist, which I kind of already new, but it also helped me understand something else about what happened when I lost my job in the fall.
So okay, I went through school and I had friends and I worked hard, and now when I look back, some of the angsty emotions I felt in my last two years were stress related due to the fact that I was working harder than ever but I felt less fulfilled. Being a complete and utter people-person, I realize that I genuinely missed those relationships that I had in my first year, and although I was working harder than ever to fulfill the traditional model of success, I wasn't feeling as good because the positive outcome (other people in my life) wasn't there.
So I graduated school, and although it was a good day it wasn't as good, emotionally, as I expected it to be. It felt a bit anti-climactic, I realize now that I was also exhausted; running on four hours of sleep after spending all day packing, three hours of portfolio display set up, standing on my feet at portfolio review for four hours, followed by graduation, dinner with mom and friends, final partying with class mates, AND moving the next day, I was WIPED. But as a whole, I expected to feel more satisfied. I realize now that while it was a huge accomplishment and I did/do feel like I achieved something amazing, I am forever motivated by people, and thus I understand the slight disappointment.
Okay. So after graduation I was still really helpful about the future, I had a couple of interviews and I was prepared to take on the world and start my life.
The thing I wasn't prepared for was the part where all of my friends, classmates, and acquaintances dried up like the Sahara. Everyone I had ever been friends with/was friends with were in other cities or states.
I got a good month of feeling okay and hopeful after graduation before I started to realize how lonely I was. I had been sending out resumes nearly every day and after only a few nibbles my self-esteem was plummeting. No one in my life was around to help me feel inspired or motivated or happy, plus all of my attempts at finding a job were not even being acknowledged. (The non-acknowledgement from employers is I think worse than them telling you they hired someone else. At least then you have closure.) Anyway the non-acknowledgement made me feel worthless and stupid, there were no people responding to my genuine attempts to reach out and meet/learn/work for other people.
Around mid-summer, after feeling sick of having no purpose and no motivation, I decided that I really needed some income and so I got a job at Blockbuster. The job was okay, I enjoyed having something to do again. Although I was exhausted a lot of the time, I was making money and I had part of my social needs met.
I was still looking for a graphic design job while I was working for Blockbuster, and eventually I got an interview for a company up near Cleveland.
The interview went well and they decided to hire me for six months of temporary work. At the time I was just happy to be getting money/purpose/responsibility. Now I realize that the company was really not right for me and I should never have taken the job. Hindsight is always 20-20 though right?
I relocated to Cleveland, started work and did stuff. I'm not going to get into why I think I was let go, but needless to say it was badness in the end.
So while I was up in Cleveland, I kept my job at Blockbuster because I was too afraid to let other people down. I felt as if my getting a new job or leaving or something would be the worst thing ever because people would be mad/angry/upset at me for letting them down or whatever.
I kept my job at Blockbuster one weekend a month and continued on like normal.
Cleveland was lonely for me. I had my own apartment and I saw one of my best friends from college ever so often, but in general I would go home after work and do nothing, watch TV and feel completely alone. On top of that the work I was doing was okay, but DEFINITELY not ideal. I was also jerked around internally in the company I was at and moved around so that my job changed three times in the span of a month. Then, when things were kind of getting back to normal they let me go.
This was devastation for me. Completely and utterly. I was broken. Broken.
I went to work every day, genuine and helpful, I was the same hard-worker and friendly person I had been in college. I was willing to work hard and do what was needed to get the job done with my same perfectionistic nature and then they, the people that I had started to form connections with, dropped me like a sack of shit.
As a temp, you are expendable. What was done to me, the WAY it was done to me, was a psychological trigger that I as a human being was expendable.
For the time I was there I was working hard just like the others around me, but the company jerking me around to different departments caused me to get behind the other people I was working with and I wasn't on the same page as everyone else. Instead of letting me get caught up or explaining that I needed to improve I went home on a Friday night and on my drive home got call saying it wasn't working out and I couldn't come back. They didn't even tell me in person that I was let go.
The last thing I said to the last co-worker I talked to was, 'Hey, we made it through another week!'
The way they treated me was so far beyond wrong that I can't even express it.
I had a meltdown that weekend and in three days with the help of my mom and my best friend I packed up my apartment, moved home, and broke my six-month apartment lease.
I went back to Blockbuster but it wasn't the same. Where I had enjoyed my job before I dreaded it now. I was always exhausted and emotionally and personally unfulfilled.
Eventually the emotional stress of Cleveland, the physical stress of Blockbuster, and my not wanting to let anyone down led me to quitting my job at Blockbuster.
The way I quit at Blockbuster was awful. I was unable to call my work to say that I quit and so for like four days I just didn't go to work. My Mom didn't understand why I was doing the things I was and was pushing me into being more stressed out about my decisions. Her constant pressure to get me to tell my bosses that I wasn't coming in drove me to a three-day meltdown in which I was a complete and utter wreck.
I was unable to admit that I had failed at the simplest of jobs, and I became afraid of what would happen when I ultimately stood up and made the choice that I had.
I hate confrontation and at the time I was so emotionally overwrought that I couldn't do the right thing anymore.
My entire life I have struggled with the concept of doing what's right versus what's easy. I am a whole hearted believer in doing what's right while people around me, hell the entire country, do what is easy.
At the time, quitting Blockbuster and admitting defeat was right, but I was too emotionally fucked up to make anymore hard choices.
That was a bad point in my life. I shut down for about four days because I couldn't put myself through anymore emotional stress and the anxiety was overwhelming any bit of logical reasoning I had.
For the past six months I haven't been doing a whole lot. I've been creating minor art things and I spend about a month getting my website and blog up and running. Currently I am applying for jobs and I even have an interview tomorrow.
When I look back on these times in my life I understand emotionally where I was at and where I may be going.
I was emotionally stunted and effed up in high school and at h.s. graduation. I spent roughly two years in transition trying to figure out what I wanted to do, and undo the programming 13 years of schooling had instilled in me. Eventually I go to this place, where I came into my own. I had friends and a goal/purpose. I was happy, completely happy, for the first time in a really long time.
I graduated and suffered a minor emotional relapse due to my lack of people, but nothing that could completely undue the person I had become. Then I get a job. A JOB! It was the start of the rest of my life! I was going to earn money and get a good starting point in life! The job was only temporary, but six months of solid work experience and entry-level pay was great!
Then I was fired/let go. All the highs and confidence I had built up throughout school, the worthiness I felt at being a worthwhile person, actually BEING a person and not just a thing were wiped away.
In the span of about two months my life went from being on top of the world to being an emotional mindfuck. My job had treated me like less than a person, they didn't give dignity, respect, or the chance to prove my worth. It was a sadistic thing what they did to me.
I realize now that they didn't know what they were doing. They were stupid people who overestimated the amount of money/people/time for a project and I was caught in their web or retardedness.
It's now taken six months after this to even begin to get back to a stable place. For a long time, and still even perhaps now, I wasn't/am not sure I can fully trust a corporation. I went to work every day for a month, talking to those people, interacting and having fun with them, only to have them figuratively punch me in the face.
I could dwell on this for decades, but I'm moving on.
Why I am talking about this is because I finally understand where I am at and one of the bigger crapfests in my life seems to be over.
I've felt hopeful again and I want to keep going in a positive life. I don't want to keep getting emotionally derailed and so I'm learning, the hard way, to find place in the world.
The narcissism book really makes me understand that I did/do think of myself as a tool or a lesser person for a long time. I still will probably be weary of other people and how they can hurt me so deeply, but I think the fact that I can logically understand that about myself is growth.
I really just want to get to a place in my life where I am happy. Whether that's tomorrow or a year from now or ten years from now, that is what I want more than anything.
Sometimes I feel guilty that I'm not more humble and happy with what I have. Because I'm emotional I find it hard to look logically at situations and think before I feel. I am terrified that the situation that happened in Cleveland will happen again but I think that maybe if I try and stay optimistic and think that I can avoid future pain.
I don't know why I decided to post/write all this down, but I wanted to lay out my thoughts about what I have gone through in the hopes that it will help me grow.
I want to be a better person in that I am happier, less reliant, and more independent on my own emotional needs. I will forever be a people-person but I really want to get to the point where I can't be hurt like I was again. It's going to be hard for me to trust in someone/something like I did, but I think now maybe at least when I do trust, it will be worthy and right.
The world is a cruel place if you walk around exposed and with your eyes closed. You can get hurt so badly that it's hard to recover, but there is always hope and I think that is the most important thing I will ever learn.
I pray that I am able to stay hopeful in whatever hand I am dealt and that my future is good and happy. I can only do what I am able and what is in my nature. The Narcissism book has in some small way made me understand that I am not better than other people and, most importantly, that I am not worse. I am who I am and I just need to believe that. I just need to keep believing.