Shadow sides

We have all got them. The dark, hidden spots within ourselves that rear up their ugly heads every now and then; at the best of times, at the worst of times. They are what makes you doubt and despise yourself, makes you shameful, even bitter and depressive, and do and say things you are not proud of. Momentarily or for longer periods. They are, I guess, a part of life.

However, sometimes, they are so prominent, so poignant, so persistent that you start wondering if your eyes ever twinkle with joy or delight whenever you do laugh. It is strange to never see yourself this intimately. You may know the feeling of joy and recognize it in others, but to see it in yourself from an outside point of view…? Perhaps only those who have been captured in the moment by an artist or a photographer have. But even then: Is what they see who they feel? How they truly feel?

Like Roland Barthes once said: “You are the only one who can never see yourself except as an image: you never see your eyes unless they are dulled by the gaze they rest upon the mirror or the lens […]”

In my case, or in a general one as well, these shadow sides, as I like to call them, hide an underlying insecurity of appearing pathetic, desperate, selfish, arrogant, conceited, etc.; essentially, of not being liked. And yet, people’s thoughts of you are rarely as bad as those you have of yourself.

For one, I live with a crippling feeling of loneliness and the shame following it; when my logic brain interrupts by saying it’s pathetic since I’m so privileged and that others suffer more. It only feeds and amplifies my shame. On the other hand, we are all lonely, my logic brain counteracts (oh so annoyingly); what I feel is nothing special compared to the greater whole. ‘Thus why not just get over it and move on?’

I’ve realized what is understood of the phrase ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’. Not from a religious point of view, but now that I’m without a job again I feel the lack of occupation in its most literal sense even more. Depression sneaks its ugly head into my rear-view mirror again. Every hint of motivation is lost just as quickly as it appears. Interests turn to obsessions which expand to the point of unhealthy before they deflate like the air from a balloon and are replaced by new ones. In order to fill the void with… something, because I’m somehow unable or too much of a coward to fill it with the right ‘things’. I violently yearn for these ‘things’; events and people to install themselves in my life and vice versa. So much it hurts, and at the same time I am disgusted with this urge and I rebel against it and tell myself I am not needed, because I don’t know how else to handle it. I’m too pathetic, too inept to do anything about it. And I begin to question if I ever really worked for the good things that have occurred in my life or if I’m just lucky or too spoilt, too presumptuous to think that if I’ll only wait, good things will come – without making the true and honest effort to make them happen or head towards them.

The worst – or, at least, my worst – shadow side may just be self-pity. It encompasses all the other shadow sides, everything I’ve said so far, in a grey mass that feels inescapable. It will always be within me, somewhere. Its parasitic existence will always cast a shadow across every thought or action some time or another. I guess it’s closely related to my self-deprecation (which again stems from a lack of self-worth or belief in oneself), but it also entails a sense of resignation, of cowardice; of lacking the courage or motivation to do anything real about it.

And thus the self-pity feeds itself in an endless circle. It inhibits me from the most selfless actions because I find myself unworthy of other people’s good graces and then I berate my own selfishness; for thinking that ‘even the smallest action won’t bring any good so it’s not worth doing’, and, at the same time, I pity myself for thinking so little of myself. And I feel ashamed once again.

I feel alone again. Only I can do something about it. It’s such a lonely feeling to sit with, in every sense. Despite knowing that I’m not alone in feeling it; that many do so, I believe it can only be dealt with on your own. Then again, it’s the only way I have known.

I’m not sure I’m searching for confirmation and recognition of doing selfless acts, of being a good person; I mostly think my loneliness and insecurity further a sense of helplessness, of not being able to attract or keep people close beyond a superficial or impersonal level, anyway.

‘So, what’s the use of recognition?’ I think to myself.

Furthermore, I think this exact sentiment is what disables me from finding ambition in life; a job goal or a career. If I dismiss any future recognition beforehand, because I don’t believe in my own worth of getting it on the levels I need anyhow; if I can’t hold faith in the first-mentioned kind of recognition, how can I hold faith in a job-related kind?

And thus, I’m stuck. And I’m pitiful and selfish (or that’s what I tell myself). Because it’s not like I’ve been without any kind of recognition in my life. Far from it! But as I said, there’s a selfish need within of needing something less fleeting, less impersonal. Something deeper, steadier. And the fact that I feel so bad at giving it back (my track record tells me so, but I may be wrong), only feeds my shame of wanting it returned myself.

The other question is: From whom? There are few people in my life, and those few I am in contact with have their own lives to deal with. I don’t feel like clinging, without sense or purpose, to anyone. I never want to be a burden. And then I balk at the way I always end up making it about myself when I know I could be so much more for other people; that I can give and help instead of just making it about my own introvert needs. Somewhere, a voice says to me that I am better than this; that I can be better than this. But where do I find the courage, the motivation to do it on my own?

I end up back where I started: My own insecurity and inability in reaching out. Instead I hide away, hide inside myself. I… give up, in some way. (Too quickly, I feel, despite having spent most of my 20s like this, trying to make sense of things). Because none of these features could possibly make me anymore ‘attractive’ than I already am, I mockingly say to myself.


Sorry to be such a downer. I guess I’m a bit blue today.