Tuesday, 4 February 2020

Ego - Part 2: Lack of Self-Esteem

My name is Russ and I am a compulsive gambler. My last bet was April 2nd 2019. So having tackled the definition I want to dive into the traits of egotism and see how these have played a role in my life so far, but mainly I will be focusing on the role they played during my addiction. There are a lot of traits out there on the internet when it comes to egotism so I am going to focus on the following (all taken from powerofpositivity.com):

Lack of self-esteem - Ironic as it may sound, most egotists do not have a very positive self-image. They acutely recognise their insecurities and attempt to camouflage these insecurities by forcing a false persona – one of competence and confidence – in a desperate attempt to conceal their real state of mind.

Megalomaniacal thought patterns - Having high expectations of oneself is a healthy and productive frame of mind. However, spending a lot of time thinking about how one’s greatness will far exceed anything conceivably realistic is not healthy or fruitful. 


Penchant for exaggeration and dramatization - As mentioned, egotists have an insatiable desire to make themselves appear important to impress others. As such, they’ll often exaggerate and dramatically overstate various aspects of their life. If an egotist perceives their life’s progress as inadequate – a common characteristic of such people – they’ll embellish anything and everything in order to make up for this “gap”. Should someone call them out, they’ll frequently overreact in a desperate attempt to get people to buy whatever they are selling.


Needing the limelight - Part of an egotist’s ravenous need for validation is apparent in their conversations with others. When the topic of conversation does not involve them, an egotist cannot help but intercede in a desperate attempt to redirect the spotlight. This is such childish behaviour to the highest degree, but an egotist doesn’t perceive it this way. A conversation that doesn’t revolve around them is not worth having or participating in.


Needing to feel an exaggerated sense of control - Unsurprisingly, many egotists believe that their way is the best way – and the only way. If an egotist detects a loss of control – often perceived as an act of disrespect – they’re quick to become angry and defensive. Such attitudes and behaviours are most apparent in a group setting. Many workplaces appreciate and understand the importance of teamwork in accomplishing a common task or goal. However, the notion that “two heads are better than one” is distant and imperceptible for those with an egotistical streak.


Lack of self-esteem

What is self-esteem? (Taken from mind.org.uk)

Self-esteem is how we value and perceive ourselves. It’s based on our opinions and beliefs about ourselves, which can sometimes feel really difficult to change. 


Your self-esteem can affect whether you:


Like and value yourself as a person

Are able to make decisions and assert yourself
Recognise your strengths and positives
Feel able to try new or difficult things
Show kindness towards yourself
Move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly
Believe you matter and are good enough
Believe you deserve happiness

Looking back I feel I have suffered from a lack of self-esteem for many years. In my teenage years I was never really happy with how I looked, felt I was overweight, ugly, did not have any girlfriends. It played on my mind a bit but I tended to try and just bury it deep inside and go out with my friends and have a good time. What I did have, in abundance, was wit and charm and I quickly learnt how to be funny and become the life and soul of the party. I built that party persona and people liked me, I was fun to be around and I will be honest here, I liked that persona as well. I enjoyed the attention and people laughing at my jokes (which we will touch on later) and it made me forget my lack of success with the opposite sex. I was not great at communicating with girls, even my persona tended to freeze up when it came to talking to them. If I got to know them, say a friend’s girlfriend or a female work colleague, I could talk away to them and make jokes and they liked me, well at least I think they did. Liked me as a friend of course, but I felt like once I got to know a girl I could talk to her, I just could not pull the trigger when I was out and about in pubs or clubs…probably did not help that I had quite a few beers in me on those occasions.

In school I had my core group of friends but I also got along well with nearly everyone no matter what clique they fell into. Again, looking back, I wonder did I do this intentionally, did I develop an ability to be able to converse about almost anything, be it sports, video games, music etc.? That ability allowed me to drift between groups during school and avoid any sort of bullying or torture that some people endure during their school life. I tried to make friends with pretty much every group more so as a defense mechanism for me so I did not have to deal with any confrontation in school, I just blended in no matter who I was with.

So when it comes to gambling and my addiction where does a lack of self-esteem fit in? Well for one I carried on that trait of getting along well with nearly everyone into my adult life, I probably still do that to this day as I do not like confrontation or awkward silences. My laughing, joking persona has become who I am as well, between self deprecating jokes or jokes that push the boundaries (it’s no coincidence I am called “The Dark Tourist” in work due to conversations when I am around), I still have that persona, to be honest, that is probably who I am now. Although I do feel that I am getting better at knowing the right time to have a laugh and a joke and the right time to be serious.

Back to when I was gambling though, according to mind.org.uk problems with money and ongoing stress can cause low self-esteem. So it is no surprise given how every month I would be faced with money problems due to gambling and I would spend large portions of the month once my money ran out trying to figure out how I was going to survive until the next payday. When I say survive, I do not mean food wise, I mean survive that no one finds out about my gambling problem, Add to that the amount of debt I had gotten myself into and how stressed I could become about my financial situation when I spent time thinking about it or stressing over my partner finding out and losing her and the kids.

Finally, I just want to take the list of eight things your self-esteem can affect from above and describe how I felt during my active addiction.

Like and value yourself as a person

When I ran out of money for gambling and was trying to figure out how to survive the month I pretty much hated myself and thought I was worthless. Those thoughts were not as active when I was in the middle of gambling as I was almost like a zombie, physically and mentally. If anything, when winning at least, I thought I was amazing and if people only knew how good I was at gambling they would envy me.

Are able to make decisions and assert yourself

I was never able to make decisions around my gambling and how to stop or how to "control" what I was spending. I would tell myself I would only gambling for one hour then be sitting there four hours later. When it came to decisions outside of gambling I was afraid to make any that may have exposed my gambling problem and did not want to assert myself in case someone questioned me and my motives.

Recognise your strengths and positives

I have been crap at this my whole life and the perfect example is when it comes to job interviews. I am terrible at getting across what experiences I have or how to make what I do sound important, I just do my job, I am a boring person, I have no strengths and no positives. Even in recovery, it has been a struggle to recognise how far I have come and accepting any praise or positives has been difficult.

Feel able to try new or difficult things

By the time I entered recovery the only hobby I had left was gambling, it was the only thing I did and the only thing I had any interest in doing. Going out and trying new things would have just gotten in the way of me gambling and I had no desire to be out either. I think I was also scared of leaving myself open to the possibility of failure. In my mind if I didn’t try something I couldn’t fail at it.

Show kindness towards yourself

The addiction tricked me into thinking that gambling was a way of rewarding myself and a way to relax and unwind but when I had lost all my money and was scrambling to figure out how to survive the month I would hate myself for what I had done. Then I would make it to payday and my reward for that would be to gamble again and the sick, twisted cycle just kept repeating.

Move past mistakes without blaming yourself unfairly

Finally one that was not really affected during my active addiction as I had the ability to blame everybody else for anything that went wrong and not myself. If I made any mistakes I just made sure they would not expose my gambling problem and moved forward without thinking about any potential damage or hurt I had caused. I also felt that I would be able to fix the mistakes I had made, via gambling, and all would be well again.

Believe you matter and are good enough

The persona I had and the vibe I would give off to people was that I was confident, funny and thought I was more than good enough but inside my own head I thought I was a piece of shit most of the time. To clarify, I thought I was a piece of shit when I was out of money and waiting for the next payday but once I got paid again those thoughts disappeared until the money ran out. Again, that sick, twisted cycle on repeat.

Believe you deserve happiness

More than deserved happiness, during my active addiction I felt I was entitled to happiness and I should have it handed to me on a plate. I had no idea what actually made me happy but looking back I think money was what I thought would solve it. Not a massive win but it got to the point where the only way to get my finances back on track was to gamble my way out steadily and of course that only escalates and ends in disaster. Money and being liked by those around me because I think deep down I thought if they knew the real me they would not stick around. I just believed that gambling, at some point, would give me the happiness I was craving.

Russ

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