I once heard a friend of mine, frustrated with a mutual acquaintance, utter the words "he always has to be special!" Said acquaintance, this friend felt, was never satisfied with being "normal", he must be "special". I remember it well, because I realised when she said it how easily she could have been talking about me. I don't know this particular acquaintance well enough to know whether his reasons for needing to be "special" are the same as mine, but the comment on it made me think about myself and the way other people may perceive me.
Let me clarify. I don't like being "average". Getting a "satisfactory" rating on an assessment upsets me. It's not because I think I'm better than that - I don't. In fact, it's quite the reverse. I inexplicably consider myself to be absolutely rubbish. I feel like most people start out at neutral and I'm already minus 50. If I'm not special, above average, exceeding expectations in some areas, then I don't even out at "ok".
One of the odd things about low self esteem is that, to the casual observer, it can look remarkably like arrogance. A frustration with others not doing things I can do looks like a stuck up "why can't everyone be as good as me?!", when in reality it's more like "it can't be difficult if I can do it!", much like disappointment at an "average" rating might suggest I think of myself as better than that, rather than worse. Unfortunately, hearing yourself described as overconfident or arrogant only serves to reinforce the belief that everyone thinks you're rubbish, making you more likely to do/say the things which get you labelled as arrogant. I guess in medicine, we'd call it a positive feedback mechanism, although ironically it's fuelled by negative feedback.
Another odd thing about low self esteem is that, after a while, it becomes so ingrained that you don't even consciously think about it any more. On being asked "how did that go?", you instantly reply "dreadful", even though it may not have been that bad. You're no longer capable of seeing yourself in any way other than crap at everything. A boss of mine once told me to "stop with the self deprecation, it's boring". Naturally, this was a sign that, on top of all my other flaws, I bored people around me too. When said boss later said I was "demonstrably not crap", all I could think was "but you said I was boring". The lower your self esteem gets, the more you cling on to negative feedback as gospel and reject anything positive as either "trying to be nice" or "they don't know the *real* me" (see earlier blog on imposter syndrome).
This blog seems to go round in circles sometimes. I started off thinking I had something useful to say, and now I'm not sure I do. Perhaps just the writing is therapeutic. Either way, I'm sorry I insist on being special. I'd be delighted with normal, if only I felt it were genuinely true.