Um, What is Wrong With You?

A Confident Child Watching a Stick He Has Thrown.
A Confident Child Watching a Stick He Has Thrown.

What? Didn’t I hear you ask that just this morning when you dropped a bowl and it didn’t even break? You said, “What is wrong with me?” You were dramatic about it. You hit your forehead with the heel of your hand and said, “What is wrong with me!”

So, before we can talk about marriage or relationships or the skills we have or would like to have, we have to find out what is wrong with us.

Let’s try this thought out: There is nothing wrong with any of us except our worry about what is wrong with us.

I’ve been investigating this question for a lot of years and so far I haven’t found any bad behavior that cannot be explained as a result of worrying about what is wrong with us. If we had confidence, if we always knew without a doubt that we were good stuff, would we argue with our parents and, later, our spouses? Nah. We’d grin at their antics. We’d have patience. We’d use our mental powers to find agreeable solutions.

This worry about what is wrong with us goes beyond individuals. Nations fight wars out of fear we lack the ability to survive in peaceful problem-solving mode. Yet there is no international dispute that could not better be solved with reason.

When I was a kid I used to ponder whether the good in me or the bad was deepest. Was I fundamentally good way down at the core of me? Or was I a raving monster barely covered by a thin social veneer? I’m sure glad I worked that one out. It’s clear to me now that the social veneer covers a middle place where our worries get us in trouble. Way down deep we are good—if only we can trust ourselves.

We worry for two reasons. We’ve seen ourselves do harm. Well, let me make my own confession. I’ve hit my sister over the head with a block, told my mother she didn’t have a clue how to raise me, and married so I could have a family, not for love. This last harmed my former husband and caused our child a lot of grief. I hasten to say I wouldn’t do anything like that now.

The other reason we worry is that we’ve been told we’re no good. Say you were slapped on the bottom for wiggling on the changing table. You howled. You did lie still long enough to get your diaper changed. Apparently the slap worked. But with that slap, a little self-confidence slipped away. And there were other slaps, and scolding and criticism, too, right? Each sign of disapproval from a parent made us worry more. I remember a state of panic that left me unable to take a deep breath. Was I such a disappointment? Would they keep me?

Then there was the talk of personality. In the culture of that time and place—1950s Maine—people thought a personality could be fatally flawed from birth. They didn’t understand how worry about what is wrong with us distorts the personality. You spend your childhood in a mild or intense state of panic, you’re bound to grow up too neurotic to attract a good mate. And there’s the rejection more feared, the final proof that we are basically flawed. My worst fear was becoming an old maid school teacher. I’m not kidding. I had some of those unhappy old ladies for teachers and they were mean, bitter people. They should not have been teaching little kids. They made kids feel like two cents.

I watch people and I see the flaws, the awkwardness, the wrong moves, and even the harm they do others—and, under it all, causing the trouble, the lack of trust in themselves that is the birthright of every child. Each generation robs the next of self-trust. Each new child loses himself or herself before reaching the teen years and must create instead a facade, a social veneer, to present to the world. That veneer giggles and grumps, is too shy or too bold, and harbors all manner of bad impulses. That veneer says the wrong thing and offends people. All the while, the person underneath longs to be seen and loved. That was always my idea of romance. A boy would come along and see me for the fine person I was and his love would heal me from the insults that had made me awkward. But the boys were too worried to see or heal anybody.

I have, gratefully, been able to rehabilitate my ability to observe life with confidence and to participate fully, with my re-discovered abilities and powers intact, never damaged after all. I’m an ordinary (amazing) person like you. What I have done, anyone can do. There is nothing wrong with any of us except out worry about what is wrong with us.

Comments 10 comments

thougtforce profile image

thougtforce 5 years ago from Sweden

This article is spot on, and I so agree with what you say! Your sentence; "Each generation robs the next of self-trust" says it all! It is so sad that humans continue to do the same mistakes over and over again and we have in some way created a society that is not suited for humans. Kids no days are not treated quite as bad as before but we still rob them of their self-trust. With our brain capacity we should be able to do much better. Thanks for a great article.


amillar profile image

amillar 5 years ago from Scotland, UK

I agree with this; it's like teaching our children to put their jeans on first, then their underpants on top - and then saying, "Now jump up and down until you're properly dressed".

There are better ways, but the establishment seems to think it would adversely affect the GDP; I don't.

triciajean profile image

triciajean 5 years ago from Bantam, CT Author

Hi, thougtforce. Thanks for a great response. It's good to know my message comes through. BTW, I love your hub name.

amillar, I can always count on you to come up with further ways to illustrate the point. Good one.

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

I can't tell you how much this hits home for me. I grew up watching my perfectionist dad curse at himself for silly mistakes or accidents or just slight of imperfection on something and I always thought it so odd. Even the part about mean bitter old teachers. It was the 80's when I had a 3rd grade teacher whow was the meanest and tried to get me to change hands (because I was left-handed). You really bring up great points about worry too- this begins to get prevalent in young children.

It is admirable to what you shared, the good and bad, about yourself and things you've done. You have a gift for self-reflection. Loved the hub!Vote up for sure!

Jeanine 5 years ago

Tj... oh my ... I weep..."All the while, the person underneath longs to be seen and loved. That is profound...and that you found yourself in tact is so good for us all to hear... for it is the hope of mankind that longs for the love you so elegantly speak of... I weep openly that we all come to our senses and love ourselves for the miracle that is within us.... life is living in me...Izetti is right, these words... and what they say unlocks my tears...

triciajean profile image

triciajean 5 years ago from Bantam, CT Author

isettl and Jeanine, I'm a deeply touched that I could write a piece you would resonsate with. You both bring a wonderful awareness to your reading and participation in the conversation. Wouldn't it be great if we could say to that father, that 3rd grade teacher, and each of us in our younger time, "What are you worried about? You are okay with me."

izettl profile image

izettl 5 years ago from The Great Northwest

I think I'll be saying that line a little more in my life- "What are you worried about?" I like it, it feels good. I might even use it on my dad- lol.

Jeanine 5 years ago

I to love speaks of worth... He said I always feel if I can't find my place...she said;different is unusual, unusual is unique, unique is one of a kind and one of a kind is priceless... I will start using your line also... what are you worried about....mmmmmm that sounds right doesn't it...

triciajean profile image

triciajean 5 years ago from Bantam, CT Author

izettl and Jeanine, I'm happy to provide a good line, especially one that helps us in our relationships. My motto is, do/say anything that builds confidence, mine or another's.

Karanda profile image

Karanda 5 years ago from Australia

Ah yes, the ability to cast aside those feelings and actions that keep us trapped in our own rut. I love the concept that there is nothing wrong with any of us except our perception of what is wrong with us. Self loathing has a lot to answer for.

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