Why do I lack self-esteem — A historical perspective

I wanted to provide some context to my post about my personal issues. I think this can and hopefully will give you perspective on what people may deal with under the shadows but are afraid to share.

Growing up, I dealt with a number of parallel issues. The loss of my biological mom, Iris Foster, was difficult for my mother’s family to deal with. I wasn’t told of this until I was 18, so the direct impacts from her death didn’t come until later. Something always seemed off though, in dealing with my family and family friends. A great number of people in my mother’s family and significant portion of my father’s family didn’t feel comfortable in dealing with me, because of my mom’s death and my maternal Grandmother’s decision to force everyone to keep my mom’s direct lineage to me a secret (later, my maternal grandmother told me that she didn’t want me to know that my mom had died because she believed I would use it as an excuse to be a failure). People tended to shy away from me or always seemed uncomfortable in dealing with me. My maternal grandmother didn’t make things better by driving people away from her and by extension me, due to her own manic depression.

When I became 10 years old, my maternal grandmother became extremely verbally abusive towards me. At the same time, my father left out of my life for a 5 year period, due to disagreements with my maternal grandmother and my mom who raised me, my Aunt Crystal, moved out of my grandmother’s house. I was there, left to receive a daily level of verbal abuse, demeaning language and self-esteem destructive messaging. I got this from 10 years old until dementia took my grandmother in 2002. There were some nice moments and my grandmother did a tremendous amount for me in terms of material support, but she made me feel like a useless failure, a piece of shit every day. No level of success in school, work or personal life changed her perspective on me. I dealt with a similar level of psychological damage in my relationship with my father, after he came back into my life. In his eyes, I was and wasn’t his son, a consistent source of regret, failure and not living up to his standards. Now, I also dealt with a significant level of teasing and bullying in elementary, middle and high school, being the shy, awkward fat kid trying to fit in with my class mates. As an adult, I have become friends with a number of the ones who teased me but growing up was different than our childhood days. This is the foundation that launched me into adulthood.

Now, as an adult, I struggled in my dealings with people, especially women. I love women and have always had a great desire to be in a loving relationship like my parental grand-parents. I have always had confidence issues, going back to high school. I didn’t know what to say to get a woman interested, so I studied different pick-up lines, conversation tips and asked my male friends for advice. I was 19 when I realized that I would never have “game” to make myself appealing and attractive to women, so I tried to become larger than life personality through drinking and partying. In college, I was an expert drinker and going into the corporate world, I continued this as a way of helping me cover up my insecurities, total lack of self-esteem and fear of approaching women (I felt then, as now that when a woman sees me, she sees an ugly freak that is a complete turnoff). Drinking gave me the “false courage” to provide the appearance of being a confident social person. While I was working at the Bartech Group, I started a “Weekly Update” listing, highlighting parties, business events social events, spiritual events, etc. I started getting promoters sending me their events and free admission to clubs and events in exchange for my promotion. I felt popular, in control and on demand. From 2003 through 2008, I spend 6 nights out at clubs, parties and events every off week that I didn’t have Jamil. I was living a bi-polar lifestyle, on the weeks I didn’t have Jamil, I was out in the street, self-medicating my depression and negative self-esteem and wasting hundreds of dollars per week. On the weeks that I had Jamil, I didn’t drink or party and was fully engaged on being his father and promoting him as a young man.

During these time periods, I had a few serious relationships and was married twice, but neither marriage was borne out of the women loving me. Katrina and I met and the dating immediately sped to a serious committed relationship. We did have two significant time breaks during our dating phase (equaling 8 months’ worth of time) but we came back together each time. The signs that our relationship wasn’t healthy were very visible but I thought that I could overcome it through love and my level of spirituality at that time. I also clung to the relationship because I felt that she was the only one that wanted to be with me, that if she left, I would never find love or marriage again. While the relationship brought Jamil to us and the world, the remainder of the relationship was not positive. I experienced verbal demeaning abuse and physical abuse during this relationship. The verbal abuse was very similar to what I experienced from my grandmother. When we got divorced, I spiraled into a deep depression because I felt that this was it and I would never find anyone who actually wanted me.

Jackie and I met through Boy Scouts, when Jamil and Xavier where at Bates. Initially, she rejected me, multiple times and I gave up. Then in late 2008, she actually started pursuing me (this was extremely rare for me because only 3 other women ever pursued me). I was distrusting at first but I gave in. After we started our relationship, things changed. She became distrusting and verbally abusive. I dug-in and tried to retain the relationship because, once again I didn’t believe that anyone else would want me so I had to make this work. I truly believe that by the time we got married, Jackie didn’t even like me as a person, but she married me anyway. The relationship became cold and nothing I did ever changed the environment. She was a great mom to Jamil, but to me, it was different. She used to tell me that my manic depression and lack of self-esteem actually made her dislike me more. I wasn’t a man, in her opinion.

Since our marriage ended, I have been alone. I have been in treatment for my depression and have been serious about addressing it. I have gotten saved spiritually and grown in my walk with Jesus. I still deal with this crushing lack of self-worth and self-esteem. I have tried to work on this and let go of 30 years of damage to my psyche and confidence but it hasn’t went away. For me, the issue has not gotten easier. Each day, I feel the sting of rejection, rebuke and unworthiness in multiple parts of my life, but especially in the part dealing with women. I know that when I post stories like this, it drives more women to feel that I’m too damaged, unworthy, unattractive to even consider dealing with. Well, considering that this is what I have experienced, I’m not making a bad situation any worse, I’m just acknowledging the truth and giving cover to women, family, friends or anyone who sees me as unworthy of their time or effort, so they can say it’s because of my statements about myself.

So I ask this of everyone who reads this post and similar ones that I have made. If you have someone in your life that’s struggling with depression, self-worth, negative self-esteem and related challenges, don’t back away from them. One of the core things that I and others struggle with is the isolation that comes from people pulling out of your life. I’ve had a number of people who tell me that people will pull back from me because of my negative opinion of myself and my openness about my depression and poor self-esteem. They state that my pronouncements about myself make people feel uncomfortable, they don’t know what to say or they don’t want to be around someone who thinks poorly of themselves. That approach is not helping the person trapped in self-defeat. Pulling away only confirms the negative self-worth feelings that a person has about themselves. If people didn’t think you were unworthy of their time, interaction, love or attention, they wouldn’t back off or cut off contact. I’ve also had friends respond and say that when you get to a solid place spiritually, that you will be prepared for people to reengage with you. While I hear that, I also know of family, friends and people who came together at different places of their life, when they were struggling or challenged with different issues, so it’s hard to accept that you are only worthy once you get yourself to a platform of no issues. While not intending to add to a negative self-worth, that does because you feel that people only want to deal with people with no issues and that once any new issues occur, people will back off of you again. I’ve also been told that one shouldn’t need validation from another to feel confident and worthy, that you should get it on your own. That go it alone model does run counter to the teaching of Christ. In his parable about the lost sheep, the shepherd’s joy and excitement came from finding the lost sheep, not the 99 who were already in the fold. Waiting on that sheep to “come home on their own” runs counter to Christ’s message of reaching out to those who are lost or struggling. We should find joy in embracing those in our life in challenging situations versus retreating from each other.

I’m not asking for anyone to treat me any differently. If you don’t like my personal exposure on myself and don’t want to deal with me, I understand. I ask for you to re-engage with others in your life who are dealing with similar issues. They need to hear from you. The pain their dealing with is their own, but your interaction can help them know that they are valued. They aren’t an ugly pariah that everyone wants to run from. Don’t leave them to suffer or try a “tough love” approach to leave them on their own. Please embrace someone else who is dealing with similar issues that would be a blessing. Jamil and Xavier both dealt with depression at times, but I made it a point to tell them every day how great they were as sons, let them know how much I loved them and how I expected them to be greater than I could ever be. I wanted them to know that I would be relentless in letting them know how valuable they were as young men and that they had someone who would tell them constantly that they loved and valued. Do that for your family and friends who are struggling as I am. I’m used to being in this space and don’t expect it to every change, just please don’t let someone else become comfortable in this space. Show others that they are valued, important and worthy of your love, time, friendship and interaction.

I'm a Father, 10th generation American (family roots to South Carolina, 1725 roughly), Political, Public Policy, Economic Theory & Data Analytics SME.