the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: self-esteem

Not Self-Esteem, But Arrogance

I’m the last person in the world to be giving anyone any self-help advice, and I don’t trust those who usually do in blog posts, but I’ve been feeling braver and confident in certain aspects of my life lately, which is surprising even me, and I think a large part of this is because I had one of those “a-ha!” moments recently that spur you on to change. I have no idea whether this paradigm shift in my head is real or delusional, but I thought I would share it with you and see if anyone can relate or add anything to it.

For the longest time, I have been operating under the assumption that I have low self-esteem. I’m not sure where it came from, probably my father, but it made sense to me. When I looked at those around me, I considered them “more important” than myself. If I was walking into my apartment building in Queens and saw someone carrying a few bundles, and he turned to me and asked, “Could you help me a second?” I would answer, “Sure.” That is being considerate.

But if I was struggling with packages, I would not ask some stranger, or even a neighbor, for help. While this seems like a minor reaction, the same attitude would exist if I was asking for a promotion from a boss or a dance from an attractive woman at a friend’s wedding. I don’t like “asking” others for anything because I am under the assumption that I am too weak to handle the rejection. Low self-esteem. I would be crushed. Others are more important than little ol’ me. This became a self-fulfilling prophecy. By constantly seeing myself as “smaller” than the next guy, my self-esteem weakened to the point where I didn’t want to bother a waiter to refill my coffee cup in a diner.

“I’m sure he is busy with other customers,” I might think. “He’ll get around to it eventually. I can be patient.”

I’ve thought about this self-esteem issue for a while, and I can never seem to get a handle on it. It slides through my fingers like sand. I understand my self-diagnosis intellectually, but I don’t feel it in my gut. After all, I don’t walk around seeing myself as a lesser person. Not at all. It’s not how I perceive myself, even when I don’t ask the neighbor for help or the boss for a promotion. If anything, at the moment of indecision, I probably see myself as BETTER than they are — more noble and considerate, as if niceness was a badge of honor.

And this was the a-ha moment. What is holding me back is not lack of self-esteem, seeing myself as smaller than others, but ARROGANCE, viewing myself as morally superior and kinder than the rest of humanity.

Why don’t I ask the guy to open the apartment door for me? Because I am acting under the assumption that this guy is, at heart, a self-absorbed twit who will say no. The boss is not going to give me the promotion because he is an incompetent businessman waiting to give the promotion to his nephew. The woman at the wedding won’t want to dance with me because she just wants a one-night stand with the drunken married guy at the next table.

What a horrible way to view other people!

Now, before you dispute my theory, let me say that I understand that this is about issues of self-esteem. I’m just saying that constantly thinking of myself as having low self esteem is counter-productive. What if I viewed it the other way, where I AM THE ASSHOLE?

In this new scenario, the neighbor, the waiter, the boss, and the woman at the wedding are all lovely, wonderful people. They want to help me, give me a promotion, and dance with me. Why wouldn’t they? They are nice people. Why assume that these individuals are lesser than I am, wanting to reject me for their evil pleasure? Why do I see myself as super nice and others as complete idiots? I’m the IDIOT.

Why wouldn’t the guy hold the door for me? Why wouldn’t the woman dance with me? And they wouldn’t be doing it FOR ME. They would be doing it for themselves. I know I get a kick when I hold the door open for someone. Why not give someone else the opportunity to feel good?

Because I’ve been a arrogant jerk more interesting in feeling morally superior than dealing with real people. I WANT you to say no, so then I can say to myself, “I wouldn’t say no. Look how much better I am than those people!”

That’s been the problem all along.

Please hold the door for me as you leave. Thank you.

Self-Help Books


Today, Sophia and I sat in Borders for half the day, reading self-help books. I was determined to find a book that described me and my “problems” in psychological terms. After my two months of therapy, I’m fully convinced I need this help, and I want to understand myself better. I almost feel as if I’ve been blind to parts of my own personality. I am neurotic, but just saying “neurotic” is too vague for me. I want a stronger sense of the problem. I’m envious of you bloggers who have something specific, like ADHD. That is a “sturdy” psychological problem. If I met you for the first time, I could shake your hand and you could look me in the eye and say, “My name is Jack and I have ADHD.” It’s just not the same to answer, “Hi, I’m Neil. I’m neurotic, but I’m not exactly sure what that means or what exactly I’m neurotic about.”

The first book I read at Borders was on procrastination. I certainly procrastinate on my writing, but not with everything. Other times, I am very much on the ball. (Editor’s note: I’d like to see that ball — Sophia) I can’t honestly say that I’m NOT a pure-blooded procrastinator. (Editor’s note: I can.)

I was excited about finding a book on anxiety, especially one that screamed “Millions sold” on the cover. Anxiety is nothing new to me. I HATE making cold calls. I freeze in fear. That is anxiety. In my single days, I could never get enough nerve to talk to women in bars. I was too anxious.

The trouble is that “anxiety” is a term too broad for my taste. I don’t feel anxiety in typical social situations. I love to speak in public. I would have no problem running naked in the woods. I’ve met many who are plenty more anxious than me. Maybe I’m not really “anxious.” (Editor’s note: Yes, you are.)

The book that affected me the most was one about self-esteem. There was much in the book that made sense in the way it related to me– from the way I speak about my own accomplishments to my inability to say “no” to someone — fearing that they wouldn’t like me.

After our visit to Borders, we went to a Bistro-type restaurant for a late brunch. I brought along a 2-1 coupon that I had found in the mail. As some long-time readers of this blog know, giving coupons to waiters is one of these events that makes me ANXIOUS. I need to talk to my therapist about this. I know this makes little sense to you, but it almost feels as if I’m asking the waiter for a favor and imposing on him. I know, it sounds crazy, especially since I always leave a good tip on the full check amount.

As the waiter came over to our table, Sophia nudged me to give him the coupon before we order, as it is stated to do.

“Excuse me, ” I said to the waiter, as I fumbled with the folded coupon. “I have this thing… some sort of a certificate… um… but I’m not even sure if you even take it on weekends…uh?” (Editor’s note: On the coupon, it said, “Use any day.”)

“Oh yeah”, the waiter said, matter-of-factly. “Great. I’ll take it.”

And that was that. Sophia looked at me, laughing at how the episode made me into an incoherent wreck.

I thought to myself, “Think about what you just said to the waiter, and WHY — and you’ll understand YOURSELF a lot more than reading self-help books.”

A Year Ago on Citizen of the Month: Make Me Insecure Friday

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