Sometimes I tax myself for existing.
I’ve been doing this since I was … honestly, I don’t know. I’ll say 10. 10 is a nice number. It’s also when my parents started getting divorced.
What does this taxation look like?
Disregarding my own lived experiences.
Ignoring or actively discounting my abilities.
Making myself small.
Dimming my light.
Rationalizing my accomplishments as worth less than they are, or–sometimes–as worthless.
You get the idea.
Many, many people ask me why I’m so hard on myself. Often in the same paragraph they’ll follow it with kind words about my attributes or a list of my accomplishments.
So what’s the deal?
I don’t know. I’d like it to stop.
And I know I’m the only one who can stop it.
But it is a deep, deep groove.
I’m not tabula rasa. Rewriting how I view myself will take much more than brushing dust off a chalkboard. Knowing is a long way from doing.
Thankfully, I have friends. Allies in the fight against, well, me. Or the voice in my head.
The voice that can’t help piping up with some sarcastic remark or biting commentary whenever I make any mistake, or consider doing something new or different.
The voice that raises its hand and waves it around like a third-grader waiting to be called on, eager to make a clarifying point highlighting how I deserve less credit than I’m being given by whomever I’m talking with.
Occasionally when somebody says “Oh, this is good” or “I thought that was funny” or “You should be proud of XYZ”, I shrug and force a smile (and say thank you, I finally managed to start doing that consistently).
But too often I find myself speaking out, pushing back, letting the voice in my head treat me like a ventriloquist dummy: ”Oh, but it’s missing this” or “Right, but I had so much help” or “Thanks, but let me raise to your attention this extenuating circumstance that undercuts what I did”.
It’s like I tax myself for existing.
I did something? Well I’d better fess up quickly if somebody talks to me about it. I’ve got that criticism in a holster, ready to conversationally quickdraw and blow holes in the arguments of any fool who dares imply that me or my work is worthwhile.
I don’t understand why I’m like this. It’s exhausting.
But I’m learning to fight it. To catch the arrows my inner critic shoots at me. To let the incessant, self-destructive urge to cut myself down when I’m praised or acknowledged wash over me and flow harmlessly past.
Because life is hard enough, and I’m sick of taxing myself for living.