Self-recrimination

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One last time, I suggest before you read this post that you zip through the first post this week (kindly linked for you), so you are prepared for the self-indulgent drivel below. On the plus side, this is the last time you will see this type of warning.

There are many things which you will be good at in your life and, if fortunate, one thing you will be great at.

I must be special, because I am unluckily fortunate in that my one thing I’m great at is self-recrimination. Granted, it’s not as bad as serial killing or armed robbery, but it’s effectively a criminal offense.

It’s odd, in that I’m absolutely content with the whole “don’t fret over what you cannot control” thing. It’s the things I can (or should) control that get to me.

I’m not so self-absorbed that I don’t realize this affects others around me, but clearly the most victimized person is me.

My working theory on how this got started was a combination of perfectionism and insecurity, two diseases that feed each other. Since the former is impossible to achieve, it increases the latter making the former even less likely and so on.

(Digression: I’m actually convinced that it would be utterly undesirable to be perfect; in fact, the idea terrifies me more than my imperfections)

The insidious manner in which those two ailments have infected my psyche over the years is an over-indulgence in self-criticism and an inability to graciously accept praise. This has the unfortunate effect of making me appear sullen or boorish.

I have been accused of over-thinking and being too analytical. I plead guilty to both, by virtue of my infliction. While others have been grazed by this aberrant behavior, it is most perniciously used on myself.

For every error I make, every poorly spoken word, every real and imagined slight I’ve made, every choice or action that could have been better, I painfully deconstruct each situation and see so many ways I could have been a better person.

And, of course, get upset with myself for not being that better person.

Saying something wrong and then “fixing” it doesn’t rewrite history. The bad use of sarcasm or the gesture not made or the hurt not recognized; these don’t disappear with the words “I’m sorry” (assuming I’ve been brave enough to utter those words).

So I stew and castigate myself for not being better…add to the world rather than leave scuff marks.

As anyone can see, this is self-destructive and non-productive. Even I can see that, but I’ve never heard a more useless statement than “recognizing the problem is halfway to solving it”. Duh. But I never get the other half!

There have been people in my life that have quieted that raging maniac. For a long time, I had a very close friend who somehow managed to slow down my thoughts and make me appreciate the gifts I do have (though, in that time, the greatest gift was her friendship).

That relationship has slipped away and my increased social inactivity has only encouraged the hungry self-recrimination beast to return. The recent ending of a relationship still haunts me and provides ample opportunity for that evil to visit me in new and creative ways.

Intellectually, I can see how I should be (mostly) at peace. I’ve accomplished a great deal in my life and have both friends and family who care about me. Through the grace of my lineage, I’ve been given great gifts: I can draw, I can write and I can laugh. I have health and home and live in a tropical paradise.

But it’s those same friends and family who also haunt me. No matter what they say, I tell myself, I could be so much a better son, brother, uncle, friend than I am.

And each time I’m not, even it’s only my fevered imagination, I find room for more self-recrimination. Indeed, I’ll likely get on myself later for publishing this post.

Meh. Why couldn’t my one great thing have been ironing…that’s something I could really use!

Ah. Splendid. A nice mental colonic to end the year. I feel all cleaned out and refreshed. You have my condolences if you actually read all of these; I just needed some venting and I don’t like to trouble my family (remember, none of them read my writing).

I look forward to a bright year ahead and at least a couple of hundred blog posts, none of which will be self-indulgent explorations of my inner psyche. I’m not saying they’ll be any more entertaining, they just won’t be morose.

Of course, they’ll still all likely be about me. But you already knew that, didn’t you?

Happy New Year, all!

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