I saw my shrink today and she casually made an observation that instantly crystallized something that I was struggling to understand before our conversation.
I’m at an age where people I know are starting to retire, and without exception they’re all really happy about the whole thing. I, however, have a problem with this – the idea of retirement scares the fucking hell out of me – and I never really understood why.
You need the strokes she said, to which I replied What do you mean?
What she meant was that I need the the acknowledgment of my usefulness from my peers and patients, because it makes me feel like I am contributing something meaningful to society. If I am left to my own devices, my mind and sense of self worth tends to get real dark, real fast. It’s not good. I begin to doubt myself and my worth to others.
Because here’s the thing: as humans, we have evolved to be social creatures. Our need to be a useful part of society is hard-wired into our DNA.
People with strong foundations that were nurtured by loving parents in their childhood tend to have an innate sense of self worth. They don’t spend a lot of time questioning their usefulness to others. On the other hand, those who were raised in chaotic, abusive environments almost always have a low sense of self esteem, even if they are sociopaths. Their default is to understand that they are not useful to anyone, because that’s what they were taught in childhood.
“Looks in mirror with pained expression...”