This self-protection works for as long as no one dares to challenge your basic premise that you are awful. Placing yourself in a submissive position in every aspect of life, from social situations to professional goals, means you can never be a threat to anyone, least of all to yourself. If you don’t stand tall, no one can ever cut you down. If you don’t have faith in your own ideas, no one can ever wound it.
Pushing past the compulsive anxiety, this starting value of self-loathing, is a lifelong pursuit; we wake up every morning searching for new ways to believe in ourselves, not least of all because doing so gives us the bravery and generosity we need to believe in and trust each other. This work can seem daunting. It seems daunting because it is. But we can also reroute our thoughts, and allow ourselves to reach previously unimaginable heights of bravery and self-acceptance, simply by allowing ourselves to become conscious of this ambient self-deprecation, and realizing that it isn’t the only way to live.
Starting is easy. It’s also maddening: You must hear how often you’ve been insulting yourself, even when your only audience is you. When you make a wrong turn, don’t chastise yourself for being a terrible driver. When you get confused as someone tries to explain a complicated concept to you, don’t explain your confusion by describing your stupidity. When you’re working on something you care about, don’t reassure people that it will all probably come to nothing, anyway. Open yourself to the momentary vulnerability that comes when you don’t shield yourself with the direst possible self-assessment. See if you can stand it. You can.