Feeling stupid

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    I’m hoping for some advice both for myself and my husband “Tom.” For myself I struggle with accepting Tom as he is versus wanting him to have more happiness and less negative self-esteem. I know, he has to want to help himself but he doesn’t know where to start and I haven’t found anything that resonates with him. I’ll share a little background and some of the things he “thinks” about himself and maybe someone can offer some advice.

    Tom’s parents divorced when he was a pre-teen and his dad was only present in his life when he was physically present (like weekends they did see each other). His dad is very emotional in person and expresses his love and makes lots of statements about future get togethers and then doesn’t stay in touch. Tom says this doesn’t bother him, its his dad, he long ago accepted that’s just the dad he got, but he also says how he will never be that kind of dad. It bothers him that his dad can’t remember his grandson’s names or birthdays. He loves his mother deeply and has the highest respect for her, and they talk at least once a week on the phone. She is a very kind and loving person.

    Before we met, Tom went through two failed marriages. In the first, at about 18yrs old, he became a stepdad (his wife was pregnant at the time of their marriage). Then they later conceived a child who was born with medical conditions and lived in and out of the hospital for 9 months before passing away. He also lost his stepdaughter when the marriage fell apart. In his second marriage, he again became a stepdad and went on to have two sons. His second wife was unfaithful and took the children and moved in with another man. She also took the one vehicle he ever owned that was what he wanted in a vehicle, not just what he could afford. Tom’s a soldier and his job requires him to be gone for long periods of time, so there was little he could do about this other than be grateful for the times he was home and could have his sons and stepdaughter visit with him.

    Tom tells me that underneath everything he always feels he is stupid. He doesn’t talk/interact much because he says he feels his stupidity shows in his choice of words or topics and that he really doesn’t know much about anything worth talking about. This is the same man that co-workers continually seek out for advice on a variety of personal/life topics (financial matters, career choices, relationships, fixing mistakes). He was never criticized or made to feel stupid by a parent or teacher or adult growing up. Tom sometimes (very rarely though) lashes out at those he loves and labels his behavior “childish” and then can’t forgive himself for acting this way. He thinks it happens when he feels he is put in a position where his stupidity can be witnessed (instead of hidden).

    Tom tells me he believes he is a good person, a good man and father, and that he loves unconditionally. He also says he believes he is stupid and knows his opinion of himself is very low, and that he is not a happy or unhappy person – he recognizes because of these feelings he doesn’t really participate in life, friendships, etc. He said somewhere along life’s road he accepted that this was his lot in life, that he would never be smart and would most likely have anything he really cared about taken away. He hates his job but bears it because it allows him to provide a large amount of child support and he feels this is necessary until his kids are grown, then he can think about finding another career, but he has no clue what he would want to do or what he’d be good at. He has no clue what makes him happy. He says the only thing that gives him any joy or meaning is the love of his family yet he isn’t very interactive, just more or less there with love and goes along with what we want whether he enjoys the activity or not, just happy to be with us (but doesn’t show outward signs of happiness). As a husband, Tom is supportive, trusting, nonjudgmental, and wants to do anything he can to take care of me.

    I wonder how thinking so low of himself can be healthy and if anything should be done to try to change that. I see beauty in small things which bring me joy and he says through me he can see it, but only with me present as his “lens” to magnify and point it out, but being the only “lens” for two can be draining. I often struggle with maintaining my level of happy energy when his level is low and blah and I find myself needing alone time to protect that balance, but I also know it makes him sad when I spend time alone instead of sitting beside him watching TV.


    I feel your pain of having a partner who does not think well of himself. I can somewhat identify with Tom on not really knowing how to enjoy myself on my own or thinking well of myself despite my multiple graduate degrees. I have told people that I had 3 strikes against me from being in touch with my feelings and emotions: being a guy in a family of 2 brothers, being an engineer with all males of my family who were also engineers, and being in a Japanese American family, a culture not known for being in touch with our emotions.

    I woke up to myself when it got to a point of desperation in my life where I signed up for a personal growth seminar at Wings (www.wings-seminars.com). I never laughed so much, cried so much or hugged so many people in my entire life until then. I realized that I really wanted this for myself. This was my “ah ha” moment, a turning point.

    Ever since then (15 years ago) I have strived to be in touch with how I feel, to engage in life as much as I can, to be present and mindful, and to live consciously. It still is a struggle to know how I am feeling. Through all this I have learned acceptance and love for myself. This leap of faith in being more of me has attracted loving people in my life.

    I tried to be happy with my wife after I woke up to myself. I could not go back. She did not want to support me and liked the “old” me. As much as I wanted to make my marriage work, I finally realized that in order to continue to grow to be me, I could not be married to her. I believe we cannot give up who we are in order to support the people in our life. It was amazing how I opened up since my divorce.

    I believe that Tom can make changes in his life too only if he wants to. That is the nub isn’t it?

    Does that make sense?


    Annie P

    Well said, Mark. I think sometimes it takes something outside your day to day life to inspire a change. Your husband will have to find that – and hopefully he will make an effort to do so. I do believe that you should make it very clear to him that you are not happy with the situation and that it is causing pain for YOU too. He might not fully understand the impact his emotions are having on you and your marriage. And that might just be the motivation he needs to start helping himself. Daily express your love and loyalty to him so that he feels your constant support. I wish you and your husband peace and happiness. I know you will have it!

    Warm Regards,


    Hi I can also identify with the issue. I have very low self esteem and have read so many books on getting better. I like the whole mindfulness idea; living in the moment and accepting rather than judging. The problem I have, and not sure if it is the same for your husband is that when I start to just let things be, there is a part of me saying “don’t be stupid, why should you let that person get away with X, you don’t deserve to relax and enjoy yourself etc etc “- basically a negative voice from childhood.

    I think its two issues – dealing with the past and resolving the negative thoughts that colour everything ( I get lots of positive comments but my head only focuses on what I think has gone wrong) so you can see the actual reality and then being mindful and trying to accept the present.

    I does need raising as I if not checked it can form a really powerful downward spiral. Hope this helps.


    Mark – Thank you for your response. I will have to check out Wings (having a browser issue with site at the moment). I agree, I think being present, mindful, and living consciously are keys to maintaining a good life balance. I practice these myself. So far Tom hasn’t been able to “get” the meditation, but I have hope he will at some point.

    Annie – Thank you also for your response. I have a feeling you are right, that he will have to find something that inspires him as I don’t seem to be able to do that. I do struggle with expressing just how deeply it pains me to see him accept his existence as I don’t wish to add more self-depreciating feelings to his negative internal dialog. Thank you for your well wishes. I’d love to someday have him experience the levels of joy that I do, and to know he can be that happy anytime all on his own.

    Neil – Thank you for sharing. I think you are on something there with figuring out past negative thoughts. I’ve tried to talk with him and let him know that those negative thoughts didn’t just appear there on their own, that somewhere he received that message whether verbatim or just interacting with someone in his life that for whatever reason caused him to feel stupid and that maybe figuring that out, when and where he picked up the message, could help.


    Hey you guys. I’m not a religious person but if one wanted to label me as “something” I would say that I am a christian rastafarian. For clarification, I say Jah to equate it to the most highest form of unconditional love and tenderness. You’ll see that I say it in what I actually just wrote just a few days ago that may parallel with this. I’m going to copy and paste it exactly as I wrote it so please bare with me; meditate and look/see into what I’m saying. I’m not saying that this will necessarily “fix” whats going on but perhaps better serve as a “compass” to maybe point you in the right direction for healing. Peace and Divine Love to you all! <3
    It’s entitled:

    Exploding Ketchup Packet is to Art as Anger is to Inspire. The starter map to treasure!

    “Inspire people with love by first loving yourself.”

    I think there’s a beautiful peace of mind there when you choose to work on loving, appreciating, and accepting your true self. Of course this is a lot easier said than done. I started with myself with doing one thing at a time where one small action blossomed into big change! I first started by being mindful of what I LIKED about myself and had accomplished instead of what I didn’t and just focused on that every day. I still do it! You’ll immediately start to notice that there is a wealth of spiritual fruit you will be able eat that comes with this peace of mind and will eventually help make you healthy! Sweet fruit like:

    Positive thoughts
    Positive attitude
    Diminished feelings of envy and jealousy

    The last bullet above is a HUGE life changer if you are able to recognize and shine light on those two things where they are safely tucked away deep in your mind. It definitely was for me once I was honest about it.Sometimes I literally felt this in my belly…just uncomfortable to see little kids skate better than me!! UGH! When/If you choose to do your life work directed and dedicated toward a positive attitude with positive thoughts, you will gain motivation to do things from love for yourself (not quitting or giving up on yourself) instead of from anger or resentment towards another ( trying to prove something to them or to be accepted). I used to do that a lot when I was younger but was never really satisfied in my accomplishments. I needed something more. I did not know I was actually neglecting my true self..essentially starving myself to death.

    EDIT: You will not have a lot of physical energy in your body if you don’t eat and drink water. This is a natural occurrence for humans. Have you felt emotionally and mentally weak and exhausted? The same goes for your spirit body; if this is not fed, then your body (physical reality) will eventually follow and will also be unhealthy.

    Although this is a very personal and intimate journey, it’s a great adventure! At first it seemed difficult for me, but if you’re not afraid of hard work and have a” child-like” curiosity about yourself, you will naturally grow to become very patient with yourself and eventually others, thus making your own journey, which doesn’t really end, much easier as you will want to share with others on their journey in unity. (I call that spiritual nudity! Lets all get naked Haha!)

    From this work process over time you will notice inside you a “level up” to what I like to call “real success” for your life; kind of like Dragon Ball Z when you’ll get closer and closer to your ultimate form but it takes 57,987 episodes to get there! LOL! (this is actually the same idea they use in martial arts with the colored belts). It takes a lot of time and effort but in the meantime, while you’re practicing, loving yourself, thinking positively, and behaving with a positive attitude, Jah will provide even more nutritious spiritual food for the road like:

    self confidence ( “Why yes I really can do this!” What was I so afraid of?)

    self worth (I need this job so I can’t allow you to treat me this way because I love myself too.)

    Empathy and Compassion ( I kicked you down…I’m sorry…let me help you back up.)

    Responsibility ( I really don’t want to do this, but I’m learning to love myself so I’ll do it anyway because this spiritual food is so GOOD! MmMm!)

    Humility (I know I messed up and i know that I was wrong so I will try better. I’m sorry.) this compliments the above

    Purpose ( Now I know which way to go! Let’s live! <3)

    The ” ultimate form” that actively loving yourself will get you closer and closer to is mental freedom…actual true freedom to just be yourself lovingly and peacefully with no shame! It’s what Bob Marley was talking about in his song:

    “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

    -Bob Marley RIP

    In learning to love yourself, you will come to experience for yourself that you are no longer held captive by mental slavery. No more being bound by competing with others, having doubts, or feeling like your life has no value. No more being beaten to death by insecurity, anger, and selfish pride. You’re becoming free but don’t quit yet!
    This self love serves as an effective guide on our life journey and will offer us inner peace as our positive thoughts and attitudes will only see/perceive problems as opportunities for inner growth. (This is how I deal with shitty jobs and other distasteful situations and able to remain at peace on the inside.) I feel this is probably what most of the Bible is about ( or any religious thing)…working out our own salvation through Christ mindedness (love and peace). What do you think?

    “Each one has to find his peace from within. And peace to be real must be unaffected by outside circumstances.”

    Once you realize this new found freedom, feeling as good as it does, you will want so bad to take good care of it while you have it; fighting diligently to keep it and not being irresponsible with it. (I learned to think of freedom this way when I got animals.) Try not to become too comfortable and forget about it though; be disciplined mindfully through prayer/meditation/giving thanks and whatever you do with focus ( I skate,do music, and pray) or you’ll be tossed right back into that slavery very quickly!
    “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1Peter 5:8
    Don’t stop learning! Let’s face it now we’re all human. That old person/mentality/conduct always seem to come back stronger than before at points of weakness and the life journey will be bumped off track but don’t worry that’s okay. Jah makes it bearable so you can get back up and keep on truckin! :

    “The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.” Corinthians 10:13

    Our life “work experience” benefits everyone by what we actually do with heart, not just by what we know and do in vain. The resume of our journey will literally be overfilled with so much wisdom and truth of how powerful true success and true freedom really are that we will all be effortlessly able inspire people and change our own lives for the better. It has to start somewhere with making the choice of loving yourself first.


    Chris The Pusher
    I really hope that this not only gives you some ways to try to “fix” things by looking for the right answers but more importantly ask better questions Jah bless and peace to one and all! <3

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