I Have a Real Big Problem, and I Am Not Sure How to Deal With It

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    Hi Lucas.  I can definitely relate to what you are going through.  I can only speak to my case but I’ve lived most of my life within these protective walls I built around myself.  I have extremely low self esteem as the result of being rejected many times growing up.  I felt these rejections were because I was defective in some way.  I’ve become hardened and I’m afraid to become intimate because this would mean tearing down the walls, opening up, and letting the real me be seen.  I’m afraid people won’t like what they see.  This immense fear of being judged negatively and possibly rejected keeps me from becoming intimate.  I never got help but I hope you will.  Best of luck.


    Everyone has internal dialog that questions motivations and such. We berate ourselves for not being as confident and self-assured as we ‘pretend’ to be. (in stories this is often symbolized by the evil step mother – instead of nurturing our selves we put ourselves down which can become a unhelpful habit even a addiction)

    On my latest employment review, I was giving high scores for remaining calm in difficult situations. I could only smile as inwardly I feel I’m often in a state of panic. Begs the question what is real – the ‘negative internal dialog’ or my outer actions? Who am I?

    Both are real in that I experience them however neither are me. I find Buddhist thought helpful here as the self as we tend to imagine it to be is always changing and so does not exist as a fixed ‘thing’. I am not my thoughts, I am not my memories, I am not my actions…  ‘I am’

    I’m trying to express a similar idea behind fear and courage. Courage and fear are related is that we exercise courage when we overcome fear. No fear, no courage required.  If we define ourselves by our thoughts we might say we are full of fear if we measure ourselves by our actions we might say we are courageous.

    Someone who practices mindfulness and meditation might say such labeling is unskillful and stop asking the question. It is enough that we can act even when afraid, and for those time we can’t forgive ourselves and work to do better.

    I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole here, however I hope you can see that our inner dialog does not always match how we are in the world and that’s a good thing. So give yourself a break.

    Much of the anxiety your experiencing comes from the tension your creating between labeling yourself based on a negative internal dialog and the how you act in the world – your persona.  Because the labels seem to contradict each other you label your actions fake, a facade, you’re only pretending… Faking it till you make it (which is what we all do) however you can’t acknowledge when you make it because you labeled it as a facade.

    In the words of Yoda ‘there is no try only do’ You aren’t faking it your doing the best you can with what you have despite the negative self talk.  Its clear from your post that you work really hard to do better when you learn better. What more would you ask of anyone.

    Work on avoiding labeling yourself base on negative self talk. Pay more attention to how you actually are relating to others. Be honest and become a master of your stories – vice letting your stories master you.


    Hello Anita,


    Well, it definitely affected my  motor skills, as I was unable to do things that most kids took for granted, such as holding a scissors or pencil until much later, but with the help of an occupational therapist in school, I was eventually able to do it without much struggle (for that, I am eternally grateful).

    I still have some issues, particularly with stiff and tight joints that come with the condition. As a result, even if I were to stretch everyday, I would have the flexibility of a wooden board.

    Another issue that pops up is with visual spatial recognition.  Everything behind me always looks much farther away than it actually is, which has caused a few accidents and mishaps in the past.

    As far as relationships, I haven’t thought about it, but it could be something like Autism Spectrum Disorder, where people have a hard time forming relationships. It is hard to explain, but I’ve always felt alienated from most people, as if they could never understand me, no matter how much they tried.

    I suppose, however, that since no one can ever know what it is like to be ourselves, existence itself is kind of a lonely thing.



    Hello, Peter. I appreciate your insight. I suppose this kind of goes back to the question: “what does it actually mean to be me?” In sociology, there is the theory of the “looking glass-self,” the idea that we are what we want others to perceive us to be.

    I guess this comes from the idea that outside influences, whether we realize it or not, have more to do with shaping our identities than we realize. For instance, why did you wear blue jeans today (assuming that you did)? Because when you were young, you saw other people and your parents wearing them, and so in order to fit in with the rest of society, you decided to wear blue jeans because you wanted to project to society that you belonged there.

    I never honestly thought about identity in this way. My actions seem fake to me because they aren’t how I feel at all. In truth, I feel like I broke a glass menagerie, and everything is shattered into millions of little pieces, and I am trying to put together a really rough makeshift version the best I can before someone rushes in and finds out.

    I also fear that I look like someone who doesn’t have their act together at all, which will completely turn away any potential relationships. No one will want anyone that is a depressed 23 year-old with an extremely fragile sense of self-confidence.


    Dear Lucas:

    Cerebral Palsy must have had a big part in forming how you view yourself, what you believe about yourself, the very observations you make and the actions and reactions of others to your condition.

    I have a neurological condition called Tourette Syndrome. It started when I was very young, maybe five or six. It was a result of a scary childhood but the condition itself caused me a lot of problems. I observed myself, those many tics I was doing and feeling, and I felt like a freak of nature. And then, there were people making fun of me, pointing at me, laughing.

    The tics kept happening every day, every night, for as long as I was awake, multiple times per minute, most of the time. I tried to stop the tics and failed. That added greatly to my conviction that I was a failure, incapable, helpless and hopeless.

    I still have tics, not as many as before (I think with age there is some lessening in most cases), and I still feel uncomfortable about them. But I am able to continue my seven year old healing process. I don’t think I will ever stop those tics but my quality of  life is way better than it used to be.

    I hope this share is helpful to you, let me know if it is…?



    Mindfulness allows me to notice that my thoughts don’t always determine how I act. Though I may be afraid I often act with courage in the face of that fear.  Mindfulness reveals that who ever ‘I’ am my thoughts and actions don’t necessary define me.  This creates the space where I might observe (detached) my thoughts and actions and more often then not come to a realisation that my fear is False Evidence Appearing Real (F.E.A.R.).

    Mindfulness reveals that Everyone, EVERYONE struggles with this fear of ‘being found out’ and fake. (Does that shock you?)  But that it is almost always false evidence, we aren’t being fake were working on our becoming, when we are trying we are doing. This realisation opens the door to compassion for ourselves and others.

    You F.E.A.R. That you look like someone who doesn’t have their act together. (look like implies you know as some level that this issue is about perception and not reality) No matter how many people tell you that you look like someone who has it together you won’t believe them because you have decided that you are your thoughts.

    As our thoughts are constantly changing this must be overwhelming and begs the question which thought are you?  The tendency is to pick the most negative which allows you to create what you Fear and make the false evidence real.

    The good news is that if we create what we fear mindfulness allows us to create what we hope for.

    If your authentic intention is to create strong relationships and not sabotage them by creating conditions that reinforce your negative thinking you might start to work on becoming more skillful and compassionate with your thoughts.


    Sorry, I didn’t mean to report. I clicked the wrong button.

    I appreciate your help, Peter. I’ve never considered before an anachronism like that. That’s a very interesting way you put it. I guess aside from what you said, False Evidence Appearing to Be Real, I also think that I’ve neglected myself for such a long time that I don’ t know who I am anymore. When I was younger, I never had a self-identity. I just did what everyone else was doing because that’s what I thought was needed to survive.

    Now that I am older, I am starting to think about the man I would like to become, the type of man that people would talk about at a funeral. What would they say about me?

    Life seems like a giant question mark at this point. I have a feeling that there is a deeper meaning to be found than just the daily lull of survival, but I must have not found it yet. Either that, or I am simply too optimistic.

    The thing that’s really scary at times is that reality doesn’t even seem real, which could simply be the result of depersonalization from anxiety, but sometimes I have this sneaking suspicion that I am not control of my own thoughts, and it can be enough to drive you absolutely insane if you let it.


    I’m sorry to hear that you were treated that way, Anita. I personally know what it is like to be treated poorly with a disability, and I wouldn’t wish it on my own enemy.

    If I can’t do anything decent, I will at least wish you a fruitful and industrious recovery from your 7 years of pain.


    Dear Lucas:

    Correction: I shared with you about seven years of healing-in-progress, not seven years of pain from which I need recovery.

    Which is what I suggest for you as well: healing- healing from all that can be healed. Accepting what we cannot change and changing what we can.



    Hi Lucas,

    I have the same internal voice. I really love the episode of Bojack Horseman S04E06 – this might get my comment moderated out, unsure about the policy on this, but whatever: it’s called Stupid Piece of Sh*t. It’s the first/only time I’ve seen that voice so accurately portrayed in pop culture. It’s a combination of negative self talk and existential crises all rolled into one.

    I was talking to my brother about it – we both have the voice, seems to especially crop up in people who have tendencies toward perfectionism who have also been abused. One thing we both realized was that the voice is very good at grabbing onto “real” information about our failures in order to get its foot in the door, and then it just lays into us with all manner of constant abuse.

    My other thought on your post is that you’re not really having problems with intimacy per say.

    Like say intimacy is inviting someone into your house. You know your house is a mess. The wallpaper is peeling and floorboards are rotting and you’ve let trash pile up everywhere. And you’re like “Why can’t I just invite them to live in here with me? What is wrong with me?”

    I mean, 1) because you don’t want them to see your trash and think poorly of you and 2) because you know if you’re this terrible to yourself, why should you make others live in your trash? You’re trying to protect them from yourself.

    You have a trash-house problem, not an invitation problem.

    What I did, and what a lot of people do, is to find someone else whose house is also full of trash, and invite them in. Because they already live in trash, so what’s the big deal?

    Needless to say, if this metaphor is making any sense, inviting people with their own problems to share yours can get very, very messy. I’m not saying don’t do it, but I am saying it wasn’t the answer, it didn’t help my original trash-house problem, and we did end up hurting each other a lot. We also ended up helping each other a lot. In the end I realized I had to fix my house myself. Once I did that, inviting people in was so much easier. I don’t live in the cleanest house these days, but it’s better than it used to be and I feel okay about having people inside every once in a while. In other words, it’s still a struggle, but the struggle is less hard.

    My advice would be to try to stop beating yourself up for not being okay with intimacy. You’re just giving that negative voice another piece of ammo. I’ve jumped out of a plane twice, and it’s awesome. Sharing my intimate emotional feelings is a thousand times harder than that. So you’re not abnormal, or we’re both abnormal together.

    Another thing I do is that if I’m trying to solve a problem (my next job, for instance) and that voice is arguing with me, I put aside solving the problem until I have more control over that voice. The voice is an expert at ruining every attempt to make a decision or positive change in my life. I try to focus on the day to day and stockpile positive experiences until I feel up to trying to think through my life again.

    Take walks, call friends, pet a cat, eat a favorite food, whatever I do that makes me feel good. Maybe even help others, but do it with the knowledge I’m really trying to help myself. (*cough*this post for example *cough* 😉 )

    Once I’m in a better mental place, try approaching my decision-making again. This makes me slow sometimes to get things done, but I try to be okay with that and forgive myself for not “living up to my potential”.

    I try to tell myself: this is my best, and that is okay. It sounds so stupid and simple but it’s the hardest thing in the world to let go of that loathing and frustration. I hope you can find some strategies and get some peace. Good luck to you!

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