Saturday, July 13, 2013

Self-deprecation Vs. Self-Doubt

A thread on my artists' board brought up this topic yesterday and I've got to admit the question hit home as a writer and caregiver.  I have to say I view both terms equally because they torment me daily.

Self-deprecation can be, and often times, reveals itself as an counter-offensive for owning one's perceived weaknesses and deflecting others' criticisms.  "Please, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to be the first one to tell you this isn't worth the time of day.  I know my [insert whatever you're up to at the moment] is sub par, so I'll do you the favor of trashing my work now.  Where's my sword so I can fall upon it now, saving you the time of doing it yourself?"   It's that loud, ignorant voice in my head that says, "Ha!  What am I thinking?  This isn't worth the [insert whatever medium you used to create such dreaded work] my time.  There are people far better than me who could turn out a better polished product."  So, to me, intense self-deprecation defeats all hope.  All confidence.  There's a difference between branding one's work as bad vs. calling one's work humble.

Humility removes the "self" from one's work.  To present one's work absent ego in a pure and noble sense instills confidence.  Humility wears the uniform of a servant when it says, "Here, I humbly offer this work to you as my gift."  Humility says, "I've done the work to the best of my ability."   If someone pans it, oh well, I'll do better next time.  Thank them for their input and move on to live another day.  [This works well when receiving unwanted gifts, as well.]

Self-doubt is the cornerstone of the artistic temperament.  As I write this I say to myself, "Are folks going to connect with this...understand my meaning?  I don't think I can do this?  Should I delete it now?"  Doubting oneself doesn't mean the individual doesn't have the capability.  It means the individual doesn't believe in their capabilities or fails to recognize that which lies within themselves.  [Stay with me here.  It gets rocky/]

The stakes are as high when one's a caregiver.  Every caregiver tells themselves twenty times a day, "I can't do this."  Even though they've been caring for their loved one for months.  Some caregivers repeat the phrase silently; others blast it to the universe in frustration and, well, doubt.  In the days leading up to my mother's coming home, that chatterbox of doubt poured over me like a stopped up toilet.  [Oops, inserted a little self-deprecation crept in there.]   The self-doubt spilling over the sides of my confidence and, quite frankly doing my head in.

As for being a self-deprecating caregiver, I'll be the first to say since this phase of my life kicked in, the oft-employed sentence in my life has been, and continues to be, "I'm sorry."  Sorry for what I don't know, but I'm sorry anyway.  Sorry for my lack of knowledge.  Sorry for not having the house up to par.  Sorry for not having the bed pads out of the dryer in time.  Sorry for being born.  It's a preemptive strike against myself before anyone else does it.  There do I feel better now?   Was that sadistic enough for me?    Has that left jab to the cerebral chin helped me to offer better care?

Now, here's where it gets tricky.  Are both self-deprecation and self-doubt bad things?  Maybe not.  Here's why.  As with salt and pepper to enhance a dish, both doubting oneself a smidgen and evaluating a job not well done are necessary to making me a better caregiver, writer, artist, a better me.  Too much of both spoils the dish, not enough equals blandness in the form of inactivity. Believing that I suck and going forward to live into that belief sucks the life out of the me.  A small measure of honest self-deprecation drives me to do a job better building on knowledge and skill leading to confidence resulting in a less self-doubt.  Again, it needs the ego to push me forward.

Another perspective (and one I prefer) focuses on Honesty and Humility by asking the following questions:

1.)  Am I being honest when I say I can't do everything perfectly?
2.)  Am I honestly caring for my loved one with grace and humility?
3.)  Am I so humble that I admit I screwed [enter name of task] up royally and am willing to learn a better way.
4.)  Do I honestly believe what that loud, arrogant self-doubting monster says to me?
5.)  Do I humbly admit that due to my nature as a human being I'm going to feel anger, frustration, and myriad emotions and that I'm going to recognize them for what they are and not believe in them?

Questions 4 is a trick question.  If I believe I am not worthy, I set myself up to live under the cloud of unworthiness.  Is that where I want to live my life?  I doubt it.

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