Positive Reinforcement

Because of how I was brought up, I’m a person who is constantly in need of positive reinforcement.

Let me explain…

My dad never told me he was proud of me for anything as I was growing up. I was the constant screw-up and when something was done well, it was just assumed that’s how it was supposed to be so nothing was said. When I made a mistake or did something wrong? Boy…I heard about it.

My dad was (and still is) the guy who shit on me for not knowing how to look at the engine of a car and figure out why it’s not running, yet he never took the time to show me himself. He’s the guy who constantly harps on my poor financial decisions, yet never used his experience of being a bank manager (!!) to help educate me into making better financial choices.

So here I am, a man in his early 40’s, trying to get through life in search of the positive reinforcement that I never got from my parents from those around me. Regardless of whether I receive good feedback or bad, though, all I hear is the bad.

And it weighs on me.

Sunshine noted last week that I never give MYSELF positive reinforcement…I’m always harder on myself than anybody else. She said that it was no wonder I needed positive reinforcement all the time from others because I constantly take it away from myself with constant put-downs and self-criticisms.

And she’s totally right.

I’ve tried to see the positive in me, especially in the years since my first marriage ended. Yet every time I do I end up telling myself that I’m not worth it and back down the rabbit hole of self-destruction I go.  

Example? I just recently I ran a 10K on my own twice (!!) in two weeks and I was inching my way to being 220lbs, something I haven’t been in a decade. Then for whatever reason I sat on my ass for two weeks, stopped running completely, and then gained over six pounds in the process. I feel crappy physically and that, in turn, has affected my mental and emotional state.

At work I seem to be scatterbrained. When starting a project I read the document but skip through certain words in a sentence. When I complete what needed to be done, I find that I’ve missed something and it comes back to bite me in the ass. It comes across as me making careless mistakes and that, in turn, affects my mental and emotional state because I start questioning my abilities.

Sunshine has told me that I need to wake up, take the time to look inside myself, and somehow see the good things in there. Whenever I begin to hear the negative feelings pulling me down, I need to find a way to shut them up and shut them off.

Sigh…y’know, I find it’s embarrassing to be writing this all down. I mean, I’m a grown-ass man…why should I let these stupid feelings and emotions run my life? I’m the one who should be in control, shouldn’t I? Do any of my buddies from high school even HAVE these types of feelings? They’re just “manly men” who are steamrolling through life and grabbing it by the balls.

I wish that was me, but it’s not…and that ends up affecting my mental and emotional state because I want to be “that guy”.

I picked up a book a few months ago about controlling my anger, but I didn’t read more than a couple of chapters because I don’t feel like an angry person. I don’t think having a quick temper is the issue; it’s the result of the issue. I think it’s a lot deeper than just being an angry guy…so I’m going to have to do some research and find some reading material on how to find the positives in life.

Jeez…am I suffering through depression? I sure as hell hope not. I shouldn’t be depressed, anyway. I’ve got a great family, a solid marriage, awesome kids, and a pretty decent job that I have the potential to excel at. Why should I be depressed?

But I guess that could be a big reason why I’m still in need of positive reinforcement at my age. For whatever reason, I need somebody telling me that I’m doing a good job in order to believe that I’m actually doing a good job. I need Sunshine to tell me that I’m attractive in order to believe that I’m actually a decent looking guy. I need to hear that I’m allowed to be happy in order to let myself actually BE happy.

Is that what depression is? Yeesh…I hope not, but that might be the situation (I’ll have to do some research on that to know for sure).

Whether it’s the smart move to make or not, I might be getting a bit more “real” over the coming weeks and months on the blog. I need to go back to what started me blogging in the first place: sorting through my emotions and seeing if I can’t work through my shit.


2 thoughts on “Positive Reinforcement

  1. I think you’re being WAY too hard on yourself for the simple fact that you DO need positive reinforcement. The truth is, we all need that. I think that sometimes it’s more difficult for you, because, as I said when we talked, you don’t ever give it to yourself, so it feels like you need more from others than the average person. Something I found long ago, though, is that while positive reinforcement from outside sources is great and necessary, unless you are able to give it to yourself, what you get from others will NEVER feel like enough.

    Please don’t feel embarrassed to be putting any of this “out there”. We all struggle from time to time; you’re just brave enough to be talking about it.

    I have every bit of confidence that you will get through this, like you always do. And you know that you have my help and support along the way. You have lots of people in your life who care about you a lot; it’s important to remind yourself of that as you go through this process.

    For what it’s worth, I’m proud of you. I know that this isn’t easy, but still, you’re doing it. And that’s something that YOU should be proud of, too.


  2. Sunshine is right, we all need positive reinforcement. Some more than others. When I was going through troubled waters with my marriage I read lots of self help & “help my marriage” books. I can’t remember the resource, but I read that most men need praise & positive reinforcement. I don’t remember the reasoning behind it, but the point is that ITS NOT A CBG thing. I know me pointing that out doesn’t matter if you believe that its only you. Changing our way of thinking isn’t at all easy. Hang in there, everything is a process. And don’t forget to look at how far you’ve come!

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