Scraping around in another depression triggered by my ongoing lack of a boyfriend, I saw my therapist earlier this week. We realized halfway through my session, that as depressed as I get about not being in a relationship, deep down, I don't really want to be in a relationship. I felt startled by the realization, but I had to admit that it felt right. I don't want to be in a relationship. So if I don't want to be in a relationship, what is all this angst I constantly spew about wanting to be in a relationship? I've tried so hard, sunk so much money into it, spent so much time and energy trying to find a boyfriend. What has this all been about then?
Well, big surprise: my therapist and I came back to the familiar conclusion that I have low self-esteem and believe that being in a relationship will validate me as a human being. What I've been desperately chasing for years hasn't been a relationship with a man so much as a feeling of worthiness, importance and lovability. From my early 30's until now, I've been increasingly desperate for a sense of my own self-worth.
I know this is not a big news flash and it's certainly not original or interesting, but it leads me to wonder about the difference between self-esteem and confidence. I have lots of confidence. Confidence is what gets me onstage, singing my original songs, all by myself. Confidence is what gets me on all those dates with men who usually want to see me again. Confidence is what I have as I walk down the street, head high and hips swaying, knowing I look good. Confidence doesn't go deep. I've got lots of confidence.
What I don't have is self-esteem. Low self-esteem knows that none of these dates will ever work out because I'm really not good enough for a relationship. Low self-esteem stops me from fully promoting my music because I'm not really entitled to artistic recognition, support or success. Low self-esteem knows I'll always be unhappy because that's all I know, it's what I've inherited and it's all I deserve. Low self-esteem also knows that over the last 15 years I have spent huge amounts of money, time and effort on improving my self-esteem. I've done every kind of therapy, self-help book, workshop, etc. in a relentless attempt to Believe I'm Worthy. My low self esteem tell me that if I haven't improved my self-esteem by now, I'm not going to.
I'm beginning to suspect that although I've been able to build my confidence, there's nothing I can do to change my self-esteem. I suspect self-esteem is developed in the early stages of life and you just have to live with what you have. Since the age of 23 I couldn't possibly have worked harder on improving my self-esteem, so if I still have low self-esteem (which I obviously do), I can only conclude that there's nothing I can do about it. I don't want to accept that I'm just supposed to scrape through life like this, denying myself everything I want because I don't believe I deserve it, but I don't know what else to do.