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To see ourselves as others see us. Friday June 2, 2017

In "To a Louse" (that is not a predictive text error) Robert Burns pleaded "for some Power to give us the gift to see ourselves as others see us" (apologies to the purist).

Whilst he was pointing out that the lady would lose her airs and poise if she knew there was a louse on her bonnet, for many Moodscope members it may have the opposite effect. So often guilty of denying positives and concentrating on negatives I am surely not alone in ignoring, or at least discounting, praise.

As I turned over in bed my wife said "I know you probably won't believe me but you are wonderful ... thoughtful, considerate, kind, generous and amazing."

An hour earlier I had been lying awake after another poor night's sleep pondering Leah's article a few days earlier that asked "Is your job worthwhile?"

For most of my life the answer would have been a swift "Yes." Managing a team in an important support department of the local NHS Trust - I loved the job and the people I worked with.

Since retirement the answer would be no. After numerous attempts to find voluntary work have come to nothing and my self confidence and self esteem, heavily dented during my final two years at work, have slowly sunk to near zero I feel aimless, worthless and without any purpose. Many of you will be able to understand the impact this has had on my nearest and dearest.

My normal response when my wife says something like this is to pretend she hasn't. Mostly it makes me feel uncomfortable and self-conscious; I am just an ordinary man and have never liked praise beyond a simple "Thank you" or "Well done" on rare occasions. This time though was a bit different.

During my earlier thoughts I had realized that much of what I do is for other people. That's not quite as altruistic as it sounds, I see something that is easy for me while the other person would find difficult. Consequently, it doesn't feel special or extraordinary in any way and I tend to dismiss it. However, for some reason it occurred to me that if I threw a life buoy to a drowning man it's more than throwing a bit of plastic into the water and easy to understand how others would see it as lifesaving.

Perhaps, occasionally, we should examine why other people say good things to, or about us, and not just assume they don't understand the situation.

A Moodscope member.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment below.

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Molly Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 4:43am

Wanted to say a lot more in response, but your last paragraph just summed it all up. Molly xx

Lex Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 6:44am

Very powerful, Alan. Thank you for sharing.

Eva Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 7:44am

Hi Alan, such an good blog, I try to accept compliments with grace and also to give them with feeling when warranted. I think with depression it is very easy to become consumed with 'me' and so it's so valuable to get an outside perspective, and to really listen and digest. Thank you for raising an important tool in helping to get a balanced view, I think that this is one of the great healing tools.

Eva Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:01am

A quick hijack to respond to Valerie and TG, apologies for the delay it's been a busy week, my hair has been, very long and short, black, purple, pillar box red, ginger, strawberry blonde, pink, blue and blond. I'm getting more disgraceful as I age ;) , I'm going to have to read "when I get old I shall wear purple..."

LP Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 7:46am

Hi Alan,
I was saddened to hear how much of an impact retiring from work has had on you.
It must be very common after so many years if it being such a big part of your life and is a loss as you loved it.
I'm sure there are things about it that you don't miss though and at least you are free of those!
It sounds like knowing that the good qualities that you brought to your work haven't gone, hasn't been helping you.

I can really identify with this blog. How I think I might be perceived by others has a much bigger impact on me than I want it to, which is why I've taken comments that are made by others on board too much. Having awareness of this over a period of time has helped.
Having a parent who is generally very negative and certainly was over many years as I was developing, probably has had a lot to do with it. A constant trying too hard to prove my worth.

It doesnt help that I have a job that I love, but have a hierarchical authoritarian person to answer to. In these days of austerity, pressure being directed our way to prove that we are value for money doesn't help either. Knowing it isn't enough, saying it or others saying it isn't enough, we are being told to provide evidence and figures. It is Very hard not to feel pressurised by it, but I'm learning how not to take it on board. take on board.
Thankfully my colleagues are more openly talking about it, albeit amoungst ourselves.

I used to feel as though I were a mirror.
However people seemed to perceive me, was what I became when relating to them.
Looking back on it (and it has by no means gone!) there's no way a person can be nothing and have no positives, we are complex beings, it's just hard to see our true selves without the stuff that gets in the way.

Telling it here, helps me to see that it is not about my self worth as a person. That has to come from me and grow in strength.
It's good to take more of the positives from others as a plus, because, as you say, so many of us find it hard to do that. Do we have to be careful about relying on that too much though?
It's lovely if it happens, but what we tell ourselves is a constant.
It may be hard for us to see, but small positive truths about ourselves add up and grow.
I liked Lex's blog once about planting positive seeds.
We can plant tiny seeds of our own, nurture and protect them from the elements, be gentle with them, feed and water them and watch them grow. It takes time. Nature doesn't hurry and just is.
A few Moodscopers have spoken of their love of trees. And how great planting trees is for the environment!

Here's to planting and nurturing some seeds, positive truths about/for ourselves.
If it's hard to see any, we are free to choose! and let nature do it's thing.
Thank you for an inspirational blog Alan
Wishes for light and gentleness to you and all. LPxx

Orangeblossom Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:19am

Hi Alan
Thanks for blog which is very thought-provoking & encouraging.
Self-acceptance is something that I battle with from time to time. I do find that I have to revisit self-acceptance as I need to accept my shadow side. At this time positive, affirmaing comments from people who I respect are invaluable. I think that you wife must be a lovely, thoughtful & perceptive person to be as positive & encouraging to you when you most need it. She may also know you best.

Leah Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:25am

Firstly sorry if my blog kept you awake!
The funny thing is I have just sent Caroline a blog that contains your title but it is more about they way we are heard- so Great minds think alike.
Thanks so much for your thoughtful blog . For me positive comments go through my mind like a sieve where as negative comments I soak up like a sponge. I will work on this,
When someone says something nice to you , do you feel you have to say something positive back to them.? I do.

Mary Wednesday Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:29am

Grouchy Marx famously said "I wouldn't want to belong to any club which would have me as a member!" I know what he meant. Most of the time I feel like a fraud. But I also feel for your wife, as my husband (who used to love his work) has had his self confidence eroded since taking the redundancy package. Things have not worked out and he feels like a failure. He is very far from being a failure and I rely on him so much. Thank you for your blog; most thought-provoking.

Mary Wednesday Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:31am

That should have been Groucho of course. Autocorrect strikes again.

LP Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 12:18pm

I liked Grouchy Mary! :) x

Jul Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:49am

Hello Alan. The thing that struck me in your blog was you saying that during the final two years of your job, your self confidence and self esteem was heavily dented. This is not right and happens to so many employees. There must have been something that happened during those two years that caused you to feel like this. It does take time to find your feet after leaving work and actually not doing anything is just as worthy as doing voluntary work. Voluntary work is not plain sailing and can be fraught with the same problems as paid work. It's isn't magic sinecure by any means. I think far too many retirees think they should rush into another form of work otherwise their standing in the community will plummet. But we must do what's best for us as individuals. I would say I spent the first four years after leaving my job starting projects, voluntary work and attending clubs or whatever they are called and giving them all up one by one. I now do one hour a week helping out. I think it's different for a woman although it shouldn't be! I find it impossible to accept compliments and when someone does say something nice about me, I remember my son's American girlfriend who used to respond to compliments in her Southern drawl with "Why, Thank you!" It's short and sweet. (I was just about to say Alan you are great but decided not to Lol!) Julxx

The woman whose feet don't touch th Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:50am

Hi thank you for a lovely blog. I find that I attach great value to some things and not to others. So the fact that people are very complimentary about x but say that I didn't do y well. I take the value of y the thing I want to do well as almost defining me. And I am no good. Whereas maybe the fundamental value of is worth more than y. Very mathematical I know, very logical but doesn't change how I feel.

Alan I think your wife is right, she obviously is very good judge, if you don't accept her opinion then you are saying she isn't a good judge. I am sure she would value your support of her opinion in this case

Sal Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:58am

Thank you Alan for a lovely blog, beautifully expressed. Without wanting to take away from your main point about letting the compliments in, may I mention a possible outlet for your skills ? (if you decide you want to try volunteering again). There is an organisation called Retired Executives Action Clearing House (REACH) which does what it says on the tin, i.e. arranges a match between retired people with skills, and community organisations who need them. I have used them, admittedly about 10 years ago, and found they took enormous trouble to place people with compatible charities etc.

The Gardener Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 11:33am

Alan, I wonder how many thousands are in your situation. I am SO glad that your working career was rewarding - sad finished on a bit of a sour not. A friend who was a whizz at making businesses thrive (as long as his lieutenants did their job well) finished on an awful note. He was MD of a major chain of businesses in the West Country, farming and countryside orientated. During his last two years BSE and foot and mouth hit. He had to close 2 businesses, made loads of people redundant and had the agony of farmer customers selling up, even commiting suicide. It has soured him for the rest of his life, as unless he was MD, director, President of this and that life was not worth living. He's giving his family hell and lost most of his friends. Another friend was in the FO (de-bugging embassies, we believe) and lived the life of Riley for 9 months of the year. Retirement was catastrophic 'life's so UNSTRUCTURED' he would say. As he and his wife hot-housed their two children to achieve, they were not going to waste their time on marriage and children, so no grand-children. Could go on for pages. Volunteer work seems THE answer - ever more demand - but hedged about with law and inefficiency. Here, and in UK, there is a demand for helping children with reading - but if you are a man you need positive vetting before being let near a child. We all need to be 'needed' - and, with medical science making us live longer, retirement is longer. I had a marvellous retirement, finding a 'niche'. But only one person could fill that niche, that particular research could only be done once, others can use the results. Good luck, Alan, low self-esteem is a hell of a problem to solve. I don't know your circumstances, family, pension etc. We got involved in India - I was going to spend 2 months each winter helping older girls with their English, without which they had no chance of a career. Then my husband's health put the kibosh on everything. Perhaps a spell with VSO (if it still exists) might be an idea - bit like a 'gap year' for the young?

The Gardener Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 12:52pm

Nothing to do with blog, might amuse (no HO today). I have installed an expensive en suite handicapped bathroom. I showered, fine. Nurse came, put Mr G in shower, I, peacefully, got breakfast. Shrieks from upstairs (in French) we were flooded. Flew up, shower pan full, Mr G covered in shower foam and complaining vociferously. We needed a 'ventouse' (plunger). In other house, flew over and back, unplugged. Reason? There is the equivalent of a tea-strainer to stop anything going down drain. 2 hairs will block it. I dealt with that, then turned on shower to clear foam. Wrong one. God soaked, fully-dressed, nurse in hysterics. Then, pantomime of getting Mr G in car - we are in a one-way street, I was parked in church square. Steaming I said to Mr G 'You will walk'. got to corner, leaned him on a lamp-post, went for car. Notary's wife came by, broken foot - said 'Back up the one-way street'. But the local policeman hates me, He'd be lurking to fine me again - so usual pantomime of hazard warning lights and shoving Mr G and zimmer frame into car. With apologies to late lamented Sue Townsend - just finished her articles, and have a ready-made domestic farce of my own.

LP Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 5:04pm

:)) Ooh la la! I did have a chuckle TG! Imagined Mr TG being shoved in and out of car tangled in Zimmer frame with soap foam still making him slippery. A day of one mini catastrophe after the next, couldn't have written it! Thanks for sharing :)) xx

Jane SG Sat, Jun 3rd 2017 @ 7:57am

TG this story really made me laugh! I can imagine it was very stressful so sorry for feeling amused by it! X

Lesley Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 7:13pm

An excellent blog, Alan. You are most fortunate to have had a career and job you enjoyed until the last two years of your career. Not many people have that either because of depressive illness, other illness, poor employers or being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time economically. Having spent four years in another country without work and unable to get voluntary work my self esteem plummeted, depression appeared again and lead to a rash decision. My employability back in the UK (without financial support) dropped through the floor. Now I make do, without a cheerleader telling me how great I am. Enjoy your pension and your retirement. You have been lucky to have earned it.

Molly Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:59pm

Good commment Lesley. Retirement must be really hard to adapt to, but what happens when we have many years left before retirement and find ourselves in difficult circumstances. Where is the next penny going to come from to just survive! I think we have to try to accept our circumstances for what they are, but not easy.

Molly Fri, Jun 2nd 2017 @ 8:28pm

I was made redundant two years ago, also after some horrible times for the last couple of years in the job after 13 years of working there but we knew the redundancy was coming and I almost looked forward to it. I prepared to take a break and do all the things I never had time to do. I achieved little of all I the things I wanted to, finding that I did more when I was working. I did not prepare myself for the lack of confidence, the lack of purpose, the real impact it had on my life. I was somebody when working - I am now a nobody. I am not retired so I have to work again at some point. Circumstances have put this on a real halt. I cannot see a way out but Alan, don't ever give up. 'It is what is is' was a great quote someone recently said on here (cannot remember who as I am terrible at remembering names) but I believe something will come along for you when the time is right and remember to listen to your wife, she knows what she is talking about. I kept thinking that my husband only married me because I had a successful career and I have now failed .....wrong ! He married me for who I am. Keep fighting Alan, you are worth it - we all are xx

Jane SG Sat, Jun 3rd 2017 @ 8:00am

Thank you for the blog Alan. It really made me think. I'm glad you say you are starting to 'hear' your wife and also see what you do for others. I'm afraid I go too far as in being a people pleaser as my self esteem is poor. I still work and I love my job but recently took a cut in pay and rank which hurts, especially as I'm still doing the same job. Desperately trying to let this go, not met it knock my confidence too much and keep moving forward but some days it's really hard. Take care Alan

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