Those of us who struggle with low self-esteem tend to shun whatever activities might conceivably make us lose, drool or look ridiculous. This avoidance is not entirely conscious. We might not realize how seldom we feel safe.
We might not say out loud: The less I do, the less I can do wrong. But this is our default response to invitations, obligations, opportunities and life itself.
It keeps us sitting very still.
Passivity spawns passivity. And we confuse our inactivity for inability.
In our passivity, others see peace. Stillness can be holy. Stillness can heal. Passivity evokes serenity. And if we choose it for that reason, so it is.
But where do those of us with low self-esteem draw the line between serene stillness and frozen-faced passivity?
Low self-esteem turns life into hard labor. Just getting out of bed, getting dressed, and going outside takes courage, given the ferocity of our fears. Deeming our spontaneous, authentic selves unacceptable, we lock into performance mode around others, doing and saying whatever we hope will help us escape mockery or worse. Ironic as it sounds, passivity exhausts us — spawning more passivity.
In a “Just Do It” society, we’re the ones who chant: “Don’t Do It.”
We’re passive because we assume that we will lose all arguments, disputes and debates. We’re passive because we assume that we can only make things worse. Pondering the very prospect of a before-and-after, cause-and-effect arc, we retreat.
Why even pretend to spar? Our white surrender flags are permanently raised. At the first whiff of conflict, we go slack and/or silent and/or say Okay okay okay with a sad or falsely cheery sigh — and/or we send our self-abasing minds a million miles away.
That’s what we do when facing the everyday: the ordinary but unknown. When facing fun or even potential fun, we affix virtual chains to our own ankles and lock ourselves up in tiny, tight virtual cells because we’re so sure that we don’t belong wherever good things are occurring or might occur.