I've always had very low self-esteem. Like incredibly low. I think that pretty much everything I do is shit. Even if other people tells me something is great, I won't acknowledge it. All my writing? Shit. All the pictures I've taken? Terrible. The work I'm currently doing for Liquid? Super afraid that it's gonna fail because of my ineptitude. I've always seen that as one of my strengths, actually. By believing that I'm completely unoriginal and bad at everything I do, I've worked my ass off to make it suck as little as possible. There have been periods of my life where I've worked 80+ hours a week just because I was so afraid of failing. In some instances it's a good thing. But in most it's shit, tbh.
My response to this lack of self-esteem has always been to tackle it with self-deprecating humor. Anyone who has met me has probably seen this: I'm the first person to point out my flaws. Whether they're actual flaws or things I come up with doesn't matter. In retrospect it's because of the friendships I had growing up. I won't go into details, as this isn't therapy, but they weren't healthy friendships and very guy-ish. Never any real conversation and feelings was definitely off-topic. I never had the opportunity to tackle issues and it turned me into a very jaded person. And I wouldn't say that's who I am. I'm emotional. I'm vulnerable. Neither of those were acceptable in my circle of friends.
And that's how I went through life. As I never learned how to share my emotions, I never felt comfortable doing it. So when the opportunity arose I just couldn't share. And I thought that wasn't a fixable problem. I had people say "just trust someone", as if it's that easy, but that doesn't work when your entire being is screaming at you not to. When I tried to sharing I actually end up feeling worse. So I pretty much accepted that I wasn't comfortable in sharing. But it turns out that there is a way of "fixing" me. And it's with healthy relationships and someone who understands how to approach a person with low self-esteem.
A while after I moved to Liquid's NL office, we got a visitor. This person works full time for the org but is usually remote. She came over here for three months and it has honestly been a life-changing experience for me. We have the same style of "raw" humor but hers was never self-deprecating. And, once we'd gotten to know each other, she started calling me out on my humor. Whenever I'd say something demeaning about myself she'd give me this look and just go "don't do that" or simply kill a joke. One example of her killing a joke was when I said something about how ugly I am and she just looks at me, stone cold, and goes "don't say that about yourself, you're beautiful". She realized what no one else did. She realized I made the joke because I thought that's what everyone else was thinking and if I got ahead of it, it wouldn't hurt as much. She realized how harmful that was to me.
Things like this continued to happen time and time again for the last three months. And it's built me up to levels you can't imagine. I can't remember the last time I felt this good about myself. I feel confident for the first time in my life and it shows. Both in my personal and professional life. Even though I sometimes fall back into old habits, cause they're hella hard to kick, I do it a lot less now. She still gives me the evil-eye when I do it and we both know what that means. Unfortunately her time here in NL is almost over and I am unable to communicate to her how thankful I am for all that she's done. I've tried telling her but my sentences just became a mess and I got really frustrated because I want to thank her for everything. But how the hell do you do that? I don't know. I have a long ass email draft in my inbox that I'm sending after she's left. Not because I'm too scared to express it verbally, I'm not anymore, but because I can't fully express myself through speech. The email isn't perfect but it's the closest I'll ever come. She leaves tomorrow morning and I'm expecting that I'll cry a lot. We're not best friends. We're not in love. But what she gave me is something I've never experienced before. A healthy friendship and support. And not having that an arms length away sucks.
What I'm trying to say here is that if have someone in your life that makes you more confident, please tell them. Let them know what they've meant to you. And please, don't become another jaded asshat. There's nothing I want more than to kick that attitude.