Whenever I tell people I suffer from Low Self Esteem, they normally just nod and accept it and don’t really ask anything about that. Matters about Mental Health usually don’t start a conversation with people so it’s just like I told them “I had Fish for Dinner and it was okay”, they know I said something but there’s nothing there they want to talk about. When I tell another comedian about it, the reply I usually get is “Don’t we all?” and that’s probably true, as comedians we can be some of the most insecure people on the planet, we want to get on a stage in front of complete strangers and tell you some of the most personal aspects of our lives, including our sex lives or lack thereof, and do it all in hopes that you laugh and give us validation.
But when I say that I suffer from Low Self Esteem I don’t mean “My ego is really low and I need people to feed me praise so that I can feel good about myself” I mean “My ego doesn’t exist and despite people telling me that I’m a good person, I have feeling that they’re lying and that I’m not a good person and everything is my fault.” And when I say everything is my fault, I mean everything.
Did you have trouble driving to work? That’s my fault, Sorry.
Did you have a terrible lunch? I must have caused it, my bad.
Did someone steal your wallet from the gym when you went there this morning? You know the gym that was on the other side of town? The one I don’t even have a membership to? The one I’ve never set foot in? I guess I should have paid more attention and kept an eye on your wallet while you were in there, I can’t apologize enough for my lapse in allowing this to happen.
You want to know how bad it can be?
When I was working at a building in Ontario as the head of Security, a young man fell to his death climbing along the top of a 4-story wall in the parking lot across the street. He was being chased late in the evening from a bar he’d been at that night and to escape from his pursuers he climbed along this high wall and slipped and fell. I was at home asleep and wasn’t at work because I didn’t need to be, and this happened across the street where it wasn’t really my area.
I agonized over this for two days wondering what I could have done differently to save him and blamed myself for not doing more.
That’s what low self esteem is about.
It also means you have trouble dealing with compliments, for instance I did a show a few nights ago and I was told I did a really great set and that people really liked me and what I did. I had to say thank you and smile and accept what they were saying, but there’s a feeling in my head that accepting this kind of praise to be true is to be conceited and being conceited is wrong because you should be humble at all times, to be full of pride is totally wrong and ignorant. Don’t know why that is or why I do it, but it is part of the low self esteem, I think.
After shows I used to want to hide from the audience in the back of the room so that I didn’t have to deal with them telling me how horrible the show was, until a comedian I’ve worked with said “No, you should be at the door and people are going to come up to you and tell you how much fun they had and how funny it was and accept that.” So, I started doing that and every time someone would take my hand and tell me how funny the show was, I would say thank you. When they’d say they never laughed so hard in their lives I said I’m glad. When they’d say those things part of me thinks that it’s because of the other acts, nothing to do with me. When they’d say something like “You really can play that guitar!” or “You’ve got some voice on you, you’re a great singer!” I’d say “I’m having a lot of fun up there, so it makes it easy to play and sing” when what I want to say is “What makes you say those things? Did you not see me? I’m average at best.” But I stay at that door and I listen to people’s comments on the show, and I try to accept that they’re being honest, but that is very hard.
I’m working on myself, but it can be very difficult for someone at my age to have to change decades of how your brain works but I at least know what it is now, and that helps, so I can work on correcting everything so that’s a good thing, but if you wonder why I’m kind of muted in my response when you tell me how much you enjoyed a show, now you know.