From my earliest years I frequently heard people tell me I was so talented and so capable, and wondering why I didn’t do more with it. It was true, I did have a lot of talents and abilities – but I had a hesitance to truly commit to any of them beyond the “hobby” level, and would even use one to distract myself from feelings of inadequacy in the others. Meanwhile, my actual work was always mostly just about paying the rent. Though I always managed to bring more creativity into my jobs when I had the chance, many of them were what a friend characterized as “air-conditioned hell.” My needs were met, there was some security, but I wasn’t ever really diving into the things that made me the happiest. I learned to “settle for less” in so many ways, and always had some outside circumstance to rationalize it with.
I also had problems with relationships. Although I knew I was gay when I was 13, I never thought there was anything “wrong” with me in that regard. I just felt like I was unequal or lacking; even at around three or four years old, I had a view of myself as “undeserving” or “unjustly excluded.” When I started entering the world of romantic relationships, the same thing played out – a desire to be accepted and loved, coupled with the conviction that I could not be, and didn’t even deserve to be. So I couldn’t really be myself; every new friendship/relationship felt like the countdown to the eventual abandonment and disappointment.
So when I looked back at my life, I saw many impressive achievements against a backdrop of pessimism and failure to follow through, and a conviction that I didn’t really deserve success or love or acceptance.
Several years ago, I felt exhausted. I felt utterly disappointed with myself, looking back at all the abandoned endeavors. It felt like life was one big imposter syndrome… “If I really get close to someone who’s stable and successful, they’ll realize what a loser I am, so better just stay away.” I also realized that I’d started judging people who looked successful. In good shape? They must be a shallow gym bunny. Wealthy? They must be a drone interested only in money. Popular? They must be all about pleasing others. Of course this was another way of avoiding facing my own thoughts.
I realized that I was struggling with anxiety and even some fear. So I got onto Google and looked up fear and anxiety, and Dr. Schaub’s videos came up. I went through lots of them, did some of the guided meditations, and I felt like I was getting some real keys to what was going on. I ordered “The Fear and Anxiety Solution,” and started keeping track of my self-talk. It was the first time I’d every really paid attention to what I was thinking about myself and questioning whether it was really true.
I decided to work with Dr. Friedemann one-on-one. It was worth every cent. I also appreciated the fact that although there weren’t weekly sessions (It was clear that I was the one really doing the work and he was there to guide that) he was also present in between sessions to clarify things and help me when I came up against any stumbling blocks.
Dr. Friedemann and I talked specifically about the profession issue, and through his questions, he guided me to the “edge” of my story – where I could look at it from a more objective standpoint, but also look outward, beyond it. Almost immediately I realized that I’d been looking at others and condemning myself because I couldn’t do it their way – but upon dropping the self-judgment, I could also see that one of the reasons I respected them all was that they had found ways, all unique, of living different, divergent parts of their lives, combining stability and adventure and travel. That was the beginning of envy/self-condemnation shifting to inspiration and new ideas about my own prospects.
This is one of the most valuable take-aways from our work – the ability and willingness to recognize these “stories” for what they are – not only in retrospect to see my present situation more clearly, but also to catch them as soon as they start suggesting themselves.
This has got to be the most valuable approach that I learned: To value that voice that doesn’t speak in logic and words, but through emotions, to learn to hear it; be grateful for what it does, but also speak back to it in the language it can understand. If a kid gets frightened by a spider in a garden, we can teach him to respect and appreciate spiders, not be afraid of gardens because they might have a spider in them.
I used to see life as a series of interesting roads that all ended up at locked gates. Now I see it as an endless array of choices. Procrastination used to be a major issue for me, even on inconsequential things, but I’m getting a lot better at seeing it for what it is and moving ahead. This spring, for the first time, I got my taxes in ahead of the deadline. I’m not afraid about finances as I used to be. I used to always let my room turn into a complete mess for long periods of time, and then go through and organize everything. It looked great, but within a week it was a mess again. Now it’s organized and it stays that way; it seems almost intolerable to just throw something on the floor. I haven’t left without making my bed in months. These things might seem a little trivial but it’s a reflection of the changing outlook on life. I’m also much more thorough with my plants, some of which take a lot of care.
A few years ago I couldn’t have imagined being so thorough and consistent in their care. Whether it entails deeper involvement in things or a higher level of responsibility, I feel like I’m moving forward in life again.
Dr. Friedemann and I aren’t having regular sessions now, but I look forward to checking in now and then in the future. Working with him has been a wonderful, if sometimes painful, journey, but I can also say that the most painful realizations also came together with the greatest gains. I wish I’d done it a long time ago.