Thursday, March 1, 2012

This is how I am

"Tell me I'm good" - Bart Simpson

I have never been drunk. I have never smoked a cigarette. And I have never taken an illegal drug. These things have passed me by. My addiction of choice is not to any substance. It is something else.

The reason I write and perform comedy is that I find the experience of getting a laugh the most wonderful thing in the world. The buzz derived from making someone laugh, or knowing that something you write has entertained people, is enormous. And it really is addictive. The trouble with it is that it's fleeting. You can't make people laugh for five minutes, then go home and live the rest of your life out feeling secure in your own abilities. If you want the feeling to continue, you have to keep writing, keep performing, keep getting the laughs. Because the buzz leaves your system so quickly, and it's so addictive, that the only way to keep yourself up is to keep doing it, again and again.

And that's not such a bad thing. That's probably why most entertainers keep doing it - the drive to keep getting that high is the drive to keep creating, the fuel for an artist to stick with their art. As far as my career goes, it's probably helpful that I'm addicted to the applause.


What happens if I'm not just like that when I'm working? What happens if that's what I'm like all the time?

Because my addiction isn't restricted to getting acclaim for my work. My real addiction is what you could call reassurance. Or affirmation. Or just "feeling good".

OK, so who isn't addicted to feeling good, right? But the difference here is like the difference between your body being able to make insulin, and having to inject it into yourself.

I can't of course know how other people feel - maybe everybody is exactly like me - but it has always seemed that most people are to some extent able to generate their own self-esteem. Or maybe it would be better to say, to hold on to their own self-esteem. That is, if they have reason to feel good about themselves, they'll know it, and they'll be capable of convincing themselves of it. If they have friends, they'll feel they have friends all the time. If they are loved, they will feel loved.

And importantly, they won't need reminding of all this every five seconds.

Like me.

Because self-esteem is a drug to me - it feels great when I get some, but it leaves my system fast, and then I need another hit. If you tell me you love me, I'll believe you, but a couple of days later I won't be able to convince myself it's still true, until you tell me again. I'll fear that you've stopped loving me. If I don't hear from you, I'll assume that you have. And I'll just curl up into a little ball of hurt. That good feeling just won't stay. I can't generate affirmation from inside myself - it has to be applied externally. I have lots of friends - but when I'm not actually with them it's pretty easy to convince myself they're probably not that into me anymore. If I haven't heard from a friend in a while, I have to assume they don't want to be my friend. And if I haven't recently been told I'm smart, or talented, or nice, or loveable, I have to assume nobody thinks I am.

And I know it's not true. But this addiction doesn't care what I "know".

If you are a friend of mine, a loved one, or even a family member, I guarantee that my thoughts about you are dominated by the terror that you've gone right off me. I promise that at some point, I've worried that I've upset you, or angered you, or - most of all - just plain bored you, and you're sick of me. I hate it, but I can't help it - unless I'm talking to you right now, I'm probably terrified that I've lost you. And one way or another, I'd bet about 80% of my waking hours are accompanied by that terror.

And the worst part is, I know how annoying it is to be needy. I don't want to reach out and beg for reassurance. I don't want to be the person who needs to be constantly told he's good. I don't want to be constantly craving this external validation. Because it's completely lame to be that person, and I know, most terrifyingly of all, that if I'm that person, I'm actually going to drive people away because I'll just be too aggravating to deal with. And so my paranoia will become self-fulfilling - by fearing that nobody loves me, I'll ensure that, in the end, nobody will. So no, I don't want people to be always reassuring me that I'm good.

But God, yes I do.

But I don't.


No. I don't. I don't want to be that guy. I don't want to be that sort of irritating burden on people I love. And I certainly don't want to make my own worst fears come true. Mostly, I want to to break this addiction, and learn how to hold on to the happiness I receive, learn how to make myself feel good, and learn how to actually feel what I already know to be true.

But I don't know if I can, or if I ever will. And it's hard sometimes. So right now I'm just saying, this is how I am. I am sorry if I'm too needy and too annoying at times. I don't mean to be. But there's a part of me that's broken, and I haven't figured out how to fix it yet. I don't want anyone to rush to my aid here, or to feel any responsibility to prop me up. But I hope it helps the people who know me to understand a bit what's going on in my head. And I hope it might help people who feel the same way to see this stuff written down and know they've got a little bit of company.

To everyone who does offer me that reassurance, to everyone who offers me friendship, thank you. I appreciate it more than I can say. I'll keep trying to hold on to it a bit longer, and more importantly, to be worthy of it.


Paul Christiansen said...

I here you, Ben. Self esteem - what even is it? It screws with our heads but we can't let go of the need.

Annieb25 said...

We all feel a bit of this. Sometimes more, sometimes less. There's a needy little part in all of us x
PS. I hope you like my comment ... because you know I worry every time I comment on someone's blog post that they might think I'm not worthy or something. True.

Anonymous said...

Have you tried keeping a notebook where you write all the nice things people say to you? Then you can look at it later to remind yourself?

KarinG said...

Ben, I too have an issue with self esteem and depression. I wish I had more confidence.

BartyLobethal said...

Don't worry Ben, after a while you just accept that you can never be loved enough. Then you just sort of die inside and commence the long wait for the real thing -it's not as bad as everyone makes out. There's always TV.

Anonymous said...

Ben what you talk about I belive is ego & not self esteem ... Ego comes from others & as you say is fleeting ... Self esteem is from within you.... I say this because I feel exactly the same rest assured you are not alone

shellity said...

"But there's a part of me that's human, and I haven't figured out how to fix it yet."


Doug Quixote said...

Pobjie, you are (mostly) a sensible and sensitive human being. I am sure I speak for your regular readers when I say that I look forward to your contributions.

Why is it that there is no conversation on this site? I have not seen any reply by you to any of the comments made, and only rarely does one commenter mention another's comment.

Can it be improved?

Bilby P. Dalgyte said...

I am not a family member, friend, co-worker or anything in any relation to you. There is no obligation for me to read your blog. I can unfollow any time I want. The sole incentive for me to keep coming back is what you've written, what you think. I do that because you are interesting. Because you are a talented writer (better than me by quite a bit). You as a person will not fundamentally change so instantly as to warrant me to lose interest like that. Even if I don't comment, expect me to keep reading in the future.

You are who you are and that is good.

Lexy said...

Let's all rejoice and wallow in our adorable neediness! I'm glad I am not alone with these feelings.

Ben Pobjie said...

Doug: The lack of conversation is something I've pondered on - I may make the effort to respond more if I see fit, and if the comment seems to call for a response. I might rejig things to put comments through moderation so that I can reply directly within the post, to keep things orderly, and see how people like that.

As to commenters talking to each other - well that's up to you guys!

Doug Quixote said...

Thanks, Ben. I like your work. Parody is what you seem to do best; it avoids the problem of the blank white page, one I seem to dread.

And when a parodist with your imagination is set loose, the very format of the parodied work is itself useful to keep structure in the work.

Anonymous said...

Given the topic of this bloggy, the compliments I sincerely, instinctively want to give seem pretty trite. At absolute best they'd be a drop of emotional methadone from a seedy random. But I'd still like to say that I wish you'd give yourself a break. A lot of your personal posts seem to have a theme of needing to try harder, or being a better man, or "worthiness". But you're already fucking awesome, and that's an inherent thing, regardless of the ephemera of kudos and applause. Your fans, acquaintances, friends and family all know that. Be less less harsh on yourself. Then you'll be like an Afghani Warlord, making merry in your very own poppy fields of sweet, milky self-regard.

Anna said...

I too often feel exactly the same. Thank you Ben for articulating this feeling so well. And even when I don't comment, know that I still think you are a fantastic writer, a talented comedian and someone who adds to this life, not subtracts from it. (And when you've figured out how to fix the problem, please let us all know too!)

li'l girl blue said...

I've recently been studying loneliness, in an academic way rather than my usual introspective rat-wheeling. Google scholar an' shit, y'know?

I get a tiny brief twinge of comforting insight when I conceive of insatiable social neediness as like pain, or hunger - it is a physical reaction which has a use, a purpose, and it drives us to pursue things that we need in order to survive in a hostile and confusing world. In some cases, what we need is reassurace that we are loved.

For roughly three seconds this understanding makes me feel better, and then I go back to ruminating on the fact that other people don't seem to find the world particularly troubling or deriving satisfaction from human interaction particularly troublesome...

Ah least I can add "someone as awesome as Ben Pobjie would totally get what I feel right now" to my bag of pick-me-up tricks for desperate days...

EDYet said...

When I was 15, my father told me that I was "an emotional black hole". He said, "you take all the love, all thr trust, all the acceptance, all the tolerance and goodwill, EVERYTHING we have to offer... but you still want more. We don't have any 'more'. That's it. The well is dry, and I have no idea how to fix you."

Mann11 said...

Every person have self issue. When you worry about your future just travel around sea beaches are in Australia.

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