“We have a right to treat ourselves as a gift- to ourselves, to others, and to the Universe. - Melody Beattie (from The Language of Letting Go)
Somewhere along the way, many of us succumb to the false belief that unlike the rest of the world, we are a burden. Perhaps this idea was passed down by Mom and Dad. Maybe the chaos of your large family gave you the sense that you were a strain, rather than a welcome addition. Teachers managing large, unruly classrooms have been known to suggest- sometimes unconsciously and other times, outright and maliciously- the challenge of governing children. How many times have you heard such things as “deal with” and “have to” concerning kids? It’s no wonder that many children come to the sad conclusion that their very existence causes others thankless responsibility and anxiety. In adulthood, some of us find ourselves locked into corporate jobs where we reinforce this idea of being a burden, only now we are told that we must produce and that we are replaceable. From precious moments of our youth to the corporate ladder and beyond, our identities become wrapped up in what we do, rather than who we are.
I didn’t realize I was one of these unfortunate cases until I got sober. With the weight of my past bearing down on me and the unforeseeable, uncertain future stretched out before me, the truth about my self esteem-or lack thereof- was gradually affecting my relationships and ambitions. Emerging from feelings of unworthiness, I hesitated to apply myself: she or he or you deserved that, but not me. When friends graduated from college or celebrated sober milestones, I celebrated them, but it didn’t seem so monumental when it happened to me. I even doubted the integrity of my relationships, because I just couldn’t believe that you’d want to be around me. For many years, I concealed these feelings and growing suspicions of others sincerity– for fear that exposure would make me appear paranoid or overly self-conscious. I just wanted to be normal, but normal seemed like a pleasant, genetic condition reserved for everyone else.
When the fear of going on this way surmounted the panic of being rejected, I finally admitted my deep, dark secret: that I had no self-esteem! The event that motivated my escape from self-loathing and deprivation was silly, really. Standing over the last helping of dinner beside my insatiated my cousin, I consented that I was still hungry. Letting go of my obligation to people-please or earn my keep, I accepted the final helping (begrudgingly, of course). In that kitchen, with the generous support of my cousin, I said those honest words for the first time: I feel like a burden.
And so I started telling on myself and asking the difficult questions, even if it made me appear weak. “Do you really want me to come, or do you feel obligated to ask?” “Will you be upset if I decline?” “I don’t feel welcome.” I stopped over-volunteering myself; focusing instead on my relationships rather than doing the dishes. I started to believe that my company was enough- appreciated even- dressed up or empty-handed.
A sponsee likes to share with me the freedom she experiences when she’s not putting on “The Amy Show.” This self-proclaimed show is her injurious, inauthentic performance of Amy, rather than the genuine, sometimes messy, original of Amy. Together, we celebrate the joy and credibility that comes from being loved as your authentic self, rather than as some version of you.
We are not inherently unlikeable. It’s quite the opposite, really. Just for today, I am willing to suspend any negative views of myself, and believe that I, like you, am a child-a gift of the great, magnificent Universe.