As for feelings of worthlessness, that will pass with time. If I remember right, you're college age? Your senior year will probably lay a lot of fears to rest. You and your crowd will be the oldest people on campus, you can screw with the heads of the underclassmen, etc. When that time comes, take advantage. If you're not otherwise involved with someone, pick up some cute sophomore or junior and make his day/month/year. Learn what it's like to be worshipped (and to be the more responsible one in a relationship). That will go a long way toward erasing feelings of worthlessness
I have to say, nothing really brings my confidence up like realizing that intimate relationships aren't the cornerstone (or the pinnacle) of my existence. They shouldn't be what I live off of. I think I've always idealized my relationships, and that depending so much on other people will inevitably, INEVITABLY bring me down. I must be strong myself. I must live FOR myself. My own needs should come first.
I was raised by a mother who thinks looking out for your wants and needs is selfish. She's Catholic, of the belief that anything pleasurable is probably a sin (except of course what she considers pleasurable herself). I think she instilled in me the belief that if I did not give myself away, sacrifice myself for others, I would be abandoned. That fear has become part of my way of life well into my eighteenth year on this planet.
But it's not true. My intimate relationships, and who loves me, and who gives a damn about me, don't define me. How much praise I get is a moot point. Basically, it should just be sugar in the cup and nothing more. Yet I've always lived as though I /must/ be loved. If I am not loved, I am nothing. If I am not wanted and praised, I am shit. Not true, though I have lived my life up until this point as though it were! Nothing bars me from expressing or being my true self so much as needing praise and love to survive. Nothing.
So, I attribute my lack of self worth to needing intimacy to survive. When I realize that a healthy intimate relationship is not the pinnacle of existence and happiness, I can be free. When I don't focus on my relationships as all that is good in life, I can breathe easier. Some are indeed good. They can be, and that's no lie. But I know that I cannot base my existence around them. I simply can't.
I have to say, nothing really brings my confidence up like realizing that intimate relationships aren't the cornerstone (or the pinnacle) of my existence. They shouldn't be what I live off of. I think I've always idealized my relationships, and that depending so much on other people will inevitably, INEVITABLY bring me down. I must be strong myself. I must live FOR myself. My own needs should come first. [...]
That outlook could be put into practice a couple different ways. Using that rationale, one might wall oneself off from the world and avoid relationships and human connections altogether ("I don't need praise; I don't even need to participate; I am a rock, I am an island"). Or one might lighten up a bit, not worrying so much about the "right" way to do things, and throw oneself into the pleasures of life to figure out what works; maybe even act a little selfish ("I've always idealized relationships and that didn't work; let me try again, and next time I'll look out for my own needs first.")
Or maybe you just meant "Don't put all your eggs in one basket." Balance in all things.
IOW, I don't disagree with anything you said, but your message is kind of vague. It's difficult to figure out how you intend to implement that philosophy or even where exactly you intend to find your self-worth. Does self-worth arise merely from dismissing the importance of intimate relationships? (Worth is a relative concept. It doesn't arise in a vacuum.)
In any case, I'm a fan of the "lighten up" philosophy. That was the essence of my earlier post: Lighten up a bit. There's plenty more to come (especially for an 18-year-old), and life is largely self-correcting anyway (via reality checks). So loosen your grip on the steering wheel a bit and enjoy the ride.
You don't necessarily have to throw yourself into a relationship with a younger man; that was just an example. (The original paragraph had a smiley face after it to show that the example wasn't to be taken seriously.) It was just my way of saying that even love doesn't always have to be heavy and deep and meaningful; it can also be fun and just for instructional purposes, i.e., just to see where the road takes you.
The next paragraph in my earlier post was the serious one:
There are lots of watershed events and times in life that change your attitude and outlook. The feelings of worthlessness will disappear in time. Don't worry, your best days are still ahead of you. Enjoy life and don't worry if things haven't quite fallen into place for you.
Let me back up and regroup a bit.
This whole thread is about "invisibility" and its negative effects on self-esteem.
The early participants in the thread tended to be extraverts. As I read the messages, they were complaining of being "invisible in a crowd." They interact with people, they're even important in the lives of the people around them, but in the hustle and hubbub of life and interaction they may feel that they're never fully understood or accepted for who they really are. It may be that events and people just pass too quickly and the extraverts don't have time to show themselves in their full complexity. Or it may be that people want them to play simplistic roles (the entertainer, the organizer, the healer, the servant, the host, the administrator), and it's easier to go along with people's expectations than to go against the flow and project a more complex picture.
My response: To effect real change, internal desires have to be defined and prioritized; then they have to be translated into external behaviors; and subsequently behaviors have to be tested in the real world to see if they accomplish the desired result.
Some extraverts seem to be bad at exploring their internal dimension and defining private goals; they work tirelessly as hosts, entertainers, and administrators to make their environment a better place, and in the meantime they forget to address the vague longings and a lack of fulfillment that comes from inside. So they get tracked into increasingly narrow roles in life. (Dominant Fe/Te). Other extraverts can define goals but seem to be bad at sticking to them and implementing them; they get sidetracked from their goals by the needs and promptings of other people and end up living their lives in a reactive mode instead of getting proactive and taking more control of their lives and their environments. (Dominant Ne/Se).
That's probably a simplistic diagnosis. I'm not an extravert after all. But invisibility in extraverts seems to stem from poor self-definition or from poor implementation of their self-definition. Extraverts seem to get caught in a mode of needing to approve of the external world (in the sense of seeing and implementing ways to improve it), or seeking its approval.
Later on in the thread, introverts talk of their own brand of "invisibility." The surrounding community (friends, family, and even spouses) is described as uncaring or even hostile, and so introverts feel they have to wall themselves off to preserve their identity or hide their failings and even hide their accomplishments.
Again: To effect real change, internal desires have to be defined and prioritized; then they have to be translated into external behaviors; and subsequently behaviors have to be tested in the real world to see if they accomplish the desired result.
Some introverts seem to be put too much weight on defining and prioritizing; everything gets boiled down to a few crucial, rigid values or ideas; when the world proves more complex than expected and demands more flexibility, those introverts feel rebuffed on precisely the things most important to them and they limit their interactions with the world so as not to be injured further. So they get tracked into increasingly narrow roles in life. (Dominant Fi/Ti). Other introverts are more flexible on their own goals and priorities but worry that the world's demands are more important than their own; to achieve any kind of self-fulfillment or even hear themselves think, they have to wall themselves off from the world. To the extent that they interact with the world at all, they tend to live their personal lives in an avoidant mode (or filtered through the medium of a network of rules and procedures); they live to avoid failure and disapproval, instead of getting proactive and projecting themselves into their environments. (Dominant Ni/Si).
Again, that's probably simplistic. But in that framework, invisibility in introverts seems to stem from attaching too much weight to one's self-definition or from attaching too much weight to the world's definitions. Introverts seem to get caught in a mode of disapproving of the world and/or fearing its disapproval.
One way around all these problems is to lighten up a bit: Lighten up on one's own definition/values/goals so as to be able to enjoy the world in all its complexity; and also lighten up a bit on how one interprets the signals and demands one gets from the world so as not to feel buffeted and overwhelmed by the requirements, demands, and rules of the world. (That applies to both extraverts and introverts.)
Extraverts don't, in fact, need to play out roles defined by the community or seek the approval of the world. They can take a little time off to puzzle out their own needs and then negotiate with the world to have those needs met. Introverts don't need to live up to a highly defined set of personal values or fear disapproval of the community around them. They can afford to worry a little less about issues of approval and disapproval, toughen their hides a bit, toss out some of their preconceived notions about how things are "supposed to be," and go out and have some fun.
To me, that's the path to visibility: Define your needs, resolve that they have merit, and negotiate to get them met. Don't fall into pre-conceived roles, seek approval, wall off the parts that are inconvenient, or avoid the parts that are painful. Instead, negotiate a middle ground that you and the community can both live with and that allows you to partake and participate. That makes you visible because you're at least part-creator of the community and the world around you.
Just my own spin on things, of course. I've probably gone on at too much length. But I want to tie in the entire thread and the original idea of "visibility."
I realize that my opinion is kind of an idealized, vague view in its own way. But "visibility" requires two parties and an interaction between them. Healthy self-worth arises when the interaction is successful and both parties feel prompted to return for more of the same--a positive mutual feedback loop is created.
No man is an island, and all that. Economists will tell you that it's difficult to create worth in a vacuum. It's the interactions with other people (a lover, a friend, or even a paying client in the workplace or an appreciative audience on a message board) that matter and create worth. And the more such interactions, the better: don't put all your eggs in one basket.
Using that rationale, one might wall oneself off from the world and avoid relationships and human connections altogether ("I don't need praise; I don't even need to participate; I am a rock, I am an island"). Or one might lighten up a bit, not worrying so much about the "right" way to do things, and throw oneself into the pleasures of life to figure out what works; maybe even act a little selfish ("I've always idealized relationships and that didn't work; let me try again, and next time I'll look out for my own needs first.")
What an accurate assessment of the possibilities. Having had this outlook before, I can confidently say I have experienced both. I’ve been the easygoing person who didn’t take much very seriously, was honest and straightforward in my relationships, knew how to have fun, and knew how to take care of my own needs. But I’ve also been the independence-minded “rock,” a person who thought that intimacy was unnecessary and that I didn’t actually “need” anyone. It’s part of the outlook, albeit an extreme part. Far from stopping me from enjoying people, it helps me to enjoy them MORE because instead of using them as mere “objects” for my self-esteem and sustenance, they become real jewels that are not /essential/, but are pretty damn beautiful to have.
What I really mean, and I think you understand, is that instead of looking to /others/ to validate me, I will look to me. Instead of needing the love and nurturance of others, I will love and nurture myself, by forgiving myself, doing my very best to acknowledge my own needs, etc. It’s a self-sufficiency thing, and it helps me not to become too attached or become too hurt by things. It DOES help me breathe easier and take life and everything in it less seriously. It feels good to have someone who is ALWAYS on my side – me. It doesn’t mean I don’t want others on my side, or others to love me, or others around me. It just means that even if all else, all people, were to fall away, I would still have what I need most. Me. Myself.
Haven't the time to read and thoroughly process the rest of your post, as I'm about to run off to watch Pulp Fiction (which I've never seen!) with my mom and her boyfriend - ahem, betrothed.