Tag Archives: self-esteem

How I Learned A Powerful Life Lesson From “Goldeneye” (The Video Game)

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I grew up during a strange time. I know every adult could make that claim with the benefit of hindsight, but I think I have some substance to back it up. It was a time when the internet barely existed, Saturday morning cartoons were still a thing, video games were still mostly toys, and MTV was the ultimate evil in the eyes of parents, priests, and teachers.

There were a lot of transitions that were just starting to happen. As a kid, I didn’t understand them. I barely even noticed them until years later. I still feel their influence and have learned many lessons as a result. Some lessons were more critical than others. I still remember the day I got my first email address and I made the password so easy that my little brother guessed it. That was a small, but critical lesson I had to learn.

Another one took place a few years before that and it involved a video game that is still near and dear to the hearts of many. That game is “Goldeneye” on the Nintendo 64. For some, just mentioning that game should bring back fond memories of countless hours spent in the basement, yelling at anyone who dared to pick Oddjob in multiplayer. Those were good times.

During that same time, I went to school in an era where things like the self-esteem movement and DARE were still a thing. It seems so archaic now, given how well-documented the failures of both initiatives have become in recent year, but it was a serious issue when I was a kid.

I remember seeing all sorts of platitudes and motivational messages on TV, in movies, and at school-sponsored events. They all conveyed the same sentiment.

You’re all special.

You’re all equally good at everything.

You can achieve anything if you’re determined and work hard enough.

It all sounds so nice, but there’s just one huge problem and it’s one my awesome, wonderful parents went out of their way to teach me. It’s not entirely true.

Yes, we’re all unique, which is not the same as being special.

Yes, we all have equal worth, but we’re not equally skilled.

Yes, you can achieve a lot with hard work, but you can’t achieve anything.

These all seem like rational, reasonable lessons to teach a kid. I’m certainly glad my parents made an effort to give me that perspective because it was hard to ignore the whole “you can achieve anything!” mantra that kept playing out every day. I admit I got caught up in it at certain times. I also got upset when I felt like I didn’t achieve something that I felt I’d worked hard enough for.

At some point, I had to learn that all this idealized encouragement was flawed. My parents did their part, but it took a particularly memorable experience to really hammer that point home. This is where “Goldeneye” comes in.

There was one summer in which this game basically dominated our entire day. I would wake up, meet up with my friends, and we’d start playing the game for hours at a time, much to the chagrin of our parents. These were good times. That, I cannot overstate. However, there was one issue that often came up over the course of that summer.

One of my friends, who I’ll call Shawn, was just too damn good at the game.

By that, I don’t just mean he won more multiplayer matches than most. I mean he always beat me. It didn’t matter which character I used. It didn’t matter which maps we played in. Aside from a few lucky shots, he pretty much kicked my ass every time I played him. Some of my other friends did challenge him, but he was still the best. That much, we all knew.

I thought he was good because he played more often than me. I thought I could eventually get to his level if I practiced enough. For a good two weeks in July, I essentially trained myself with match after match in “Goldeneye.” I tried to memorize every map. I tried to get a good feel for every character and weapon. I tried to hone my aim so that I made every shot count.

While I did improve, especially compared to some of my friends, it didn’t change the outcome. Shawn still beat me almost every time. It wasn’t that he played or practiced more. Shawn just had a natural talent for gaming. His reflexes were a lot quicker than most. He had a visual acuity that most couldn’t match. He could also concentrate in a way that was downright Zen-like.

To his credit, Shawn was humble about his skill. He didn’t brag or rub it in my face, although he certainly could have. He didn’t have to in order to get the point across. In certain activities, be they sports, video games, or underwater basket weaving, there are just people who are inherently more talented. It doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much you train. You just aren’t going to reach their level.

I eventually came to accept that. It was the first time it really sank in. Hard work and dedication won’t help you achieve everything. It can help, but there are going to be people who just have more talent and you can’t always work around that. It was a hard truth that I’d tried to avoid up to that point, but after that summer, I came to accept it.

Coincidentally, this is around the same time when I stopped taking those self-esteem messages at school seriously. As I got older, my perspective became a bit more realistic. In the long run, that probably served me better than just blindly believing I could do anything if I worked hard enough. I genuinely worry how much I would’ve crushed my spirit if I had to learn that lesson the hard way later in life.

Again, I got lucky. On top of having two great parents who kept me anchored, I had a friend who was just naturally talented at kicking my ass in “Goldeneye.” While all those losses were annoying, they taught me a valuable lesson and one that still helps me to this day.

To Shawn, who I hope reads this one day, I sincerely thank you for that.

Also, I apologize for all those times I threw my controller at you.

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How I Lost And Regained My Self-Esteem

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Self-esteem is one of those concepts that has gained a mixed reputation in recent years. To some extent, that reputation is well-earned. We’ve all dealt with people with an inflated ego. Being around them for extended periods can range from frustrating to intolerable. Some have even called the glut of self-esteem and its narcissistic byproducts an epidemic.

Personally, I think that claim is overly hyperbolic. However, I understand the popular sentiment. I was a kid around the time the cracks in the the self-esteem movement really started to show. I sat through many of those classes that espoused the value of self-esteem. I saw all those PSA’s after popular kids shows encouraging kids to believe in themselves no matter what. Even by kid standards, I thought they were cheesy.

At the same time, I was dealing with a lot of personal issues and my self-esteem was often a big part of those issues. I went through periods of my young life when I thought I could do anything. I went through other periods where I thought was a worthless waste of flesh. Going through the rigors of puberty, enduring high school, and dealing with some less-than-ideal health situations certainly didn’t help.

It was worse than this.

In short, I had a lot of self-esteem as a kid. I really believed in myself and I fought hard to affirm that belief. Then, as I became a teenager, I lost my self-esteem. I became a miserable, self-loathing hunk of living misery. I don’t know how I could’ve felt worse about myself. Then, as an adult, I got my self-esteem back and I haven’t let go over it since.

It was a roller coaster ride, to say the least. It wasn’t always a smooth ride and I found many ways to make it harder for myself. The older I get, the more I realize how misguided I was and how much of it was my own doing. I like to think I’ve learned form it. I also think the experience is worth sharing. Hopefully, others can relate. Perhaps, those who struggled like I did can glean lessons I wish I’d learned earlier.

Before I get into the details of this story, I want to make one thing clear. I don’t blame the self-esteem movement that has become so popular to bash.

I don’t blame the schools, either. I grew up in an area where the schools were great, for the most part. By almost any measure, I was lucky. I got an education that many kids in America would envy.

I sure as hell won’t blame my parents and family. In fact, they’re the heroes of this story. They put up with me at times when I was downright insufferable. My mother, my father, and my siblings did all the right things for a kid like me. I’m lucky they were there because things could’ve turned out way worse for me and I have nobody to blame but myself.

To understand where my self-esteem issues began, it’s necessary to understand the kind of kid I was growing up. For the most part, I was pretty normal. However, if there was one trait that set me apart from the other kids, it was how uptight I was.

By that, I don’t just mean I was stressed out by tests and homework. I was the kind of kid who would get anxious and upset if a school bus was late. I always had to be on time. I always had to get things done early. I didn’t procrastinate on anything. That may sound like a useful trait, but the way I went about it made it a liability.

Between being so uptight with timing, I was just as uptight when it came to grades. Anything less than a perfect score was disappointing. I had this mentality where there were only A’s and F’s and nothing in between. Again, this is not something my parents, teachers, or counselors imposed on me. This is something I did to myself.

I held myself to a high standard. I bought into the idea that just believing in yourself was enough to achieve anything. I’d read it in superhero comics. I’d seen it in cartoons. I genuinely believed I was smart and capable at a level that grossly exceeded my actual abilities. Call it inflated self-esteem, if you want. The end result was the same. When you set impossible standards, you set yourself up for inevitable failure.

My parents warned me, as did my siblings and friends. Everybody warned me that I was being too hard on myself. In hindsight, I should’ve listened. I really wish I had because it set me up for some very difficult teen years.

On top of that, this is around the same time I developed a terrible acne problem that plagued me into my 20s. I also developed asthma that made basic exercise or just a typical gym class feel like prolonged torture so on top of having an acne-ridden face, I was also out of shape. It made me extremely self-conscious of my looks and when you’re ready uptight, that’s a bad combination.

Altogether, this hit my self-esteem the same way a flame-thrower hit a wounded fly. I didn’t just lose my confidence. For a while, my sense of self-worth was hanging by the thinnest of threads. It got to a point where I just started randomly insulting myself. It wasn’t a funny kind of self-deprecation, either. My parents and siblings got downright angry with me whenever I did it, but that rarely dissuaded me.

It got bad. For a while, I had a hard time believing it would get much better. I honestly thought my self-esteem was gone and I was destined to be a walking ball of misery. Then, something remarkable happened.

It wasn’t some incredible epiphany, either. As soon as I graduated high school and entered the adult world, I found a new kind of confidence. It didn’t happen overnight, but there was definitely a transition. It started in college, but it only blossomed as I got older and gained more life experience.

I think the catalyst for that change came when I got my first taste of independence. In college, my life wasn’t so micromanaged. I could actually set my own schedule, plan my own day, and make my own choices. Granted, it wasn’t total freedom. I was going to college on my parents’ dollar. However, compared to high school, it was like getting paroled.

In this environment, I learned something critical that I hadn’t learned in high school or from cheesy after school specials. To have self-esteem, it’s not enough to just believe in yourself. You have to work for it. You have to earn that feeling of accomplishment. It’s not easy, but it’s worth doing and by achieving it, you’re going to feel better about yourself, by default.

It also helped that I became much less uptight in college. To some extent, I do blame some of the messages I got in high school. I had been under the impression that if I didn’t get perfect grades in high school, then I would never go to college and I would die poor and lonely. Even if that impression was misguided, it was such a relief to find out my failures in high school did not define me.

That Spanish test I failed in my sophomore year did not ruin my future.

That assignment I botched in my physics class during my Junior year did not decide my fate.

That may not sound like a big deal to most people, but for someone who was as uptight as me, it was eye-opening. It caused me to re-evaluate my approach to personal standards, real achievement, and how I graded myself.

Suddenly, my personal world didn’t seem so dire. There was some room for error. I could make mistakes, learn from them, and be better for it. To my younger self, that concept might as well have been an alien language. I didn’t care about the process. I cared only for the result. I had to learn that appreciating the process helped me work towards those results.

This didn’t just extend to college. It also helped with my personal life and my health. In college, I got my first girlfriend. I actually developed a social life where I made friends, went to parties, and hung out with people. I was still socially awkward. To this day, I’m still behind the curve in that respect. However, I’m light-years ahead of where I was in my youth.

Things really picked up when I started taking care of myself. Instead of just laying around, feeling sorry for myself, I started exercising. I got serious about treating my acne. I sank most of my savings into fixing my eyesight so that I didn’t have to wear thick glasses anymore. In short, I invested in myself. Like any good investment, it didn’t pay off immediately. Over time, though, the results compounded.

Bit by bit, my self-esteem returned. I had to work for it. Whether it was developing better study skills or getting into shape, I actually had to get up in the morning and make a concerted effort. I know it sounds like common sense, but to my younger self, it seemed so hopeless. If I couldn’t achieve everything all at once, then why bother? It was a terrible mindset and one that held me back.

Today, I have the confidence and self-esteem to share this story. I can even look back on those difficult times and laugh at how I acted. Some close family members will even laugh with me, even though I did not make things easy for them. They definitely did their part. They helped keep me from falling too deep into despair. It just took me a while to do my part, as well.

It would be easy for me to make excuses for my struggles. I could’ve blamed the self-esteem movement, misguided teachers, and after school specials that aired in between my favorite cartoon. In the end, they would still be empty. I still made the choices that made me miserable.

I set myself for disappointment and frustration. Nobody was going to come along and fix everything for me. Nothing was going to resolve itself, just by hoping for the best. In the end, my self-esteem was like any other skill or challenge. I had to apply myself. I had to work hard to earn the results I sought. They were hard lessons to learn, but they were worth learning.

I just wished I’d learned them sooner.

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A Personal Story The Day Before Valentine’s Day

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day. For spouses, lovers, mistresses, and fuck buddies, it’s almost time to begin a day of romance. There will be kissing, chocolate, love-making, and just plain fucking, although not necessarily in that order. It’s a beautiful thing. I don’t deny that. As an aspiring erotica/romance writer, I have a strong appreciation for all the things that Valentine’s Day represents.

That said, it’s also my least favorite holiday and has been for a while now. I know I’m not alone either. Some have gone so far as to create an entirely new holiday called “Singles Awareness Day” to balance out all the annoying reminders that Valentine’s Day gives. It’s basically a weaker version of Festivus, minus the famous Seinfeld connotations.

Now I don’t take my disdain of Valentine’s Day quite that far. I don’t believe that creating one bullshit holiday to counter another is that productive. It also doesn’t change the underlying reasons why many people hate Valentine’s Day.

For many, Valentine’s Day is a harsh reminder that finding love is hard for a lot of people. Let’s face it. If you’re a pretty, young woman with big tits or a handsome young man with a fat wallet, finding love is easy. You can walk down the street in a thong and you’ll probably find someone to celebrate a holiday with. It’s just that easy.

For the rest of us, though, we don’t have that luxury. We’re at the mercy of our circumstances and some of us don’t handle those circumstances very well. In fact, we find ways to make them worse, even when we don’t have to.

In that spirit, as well as the spirit of those who would rather spend this Hallmark Holiday drunk, I’d like to share a little anecdote that should help explain why Valentine’s Day is so difficult for me.

I’ve gotten personal on this blog before. I’ve confessed to sleeping naked and shared a story about my first trip to Las Vegas. Those stories have some inherent sexiness to them. Unfortunately, there’s nothing sexy about this one. It’s mostly just somber recollection of a very lonely part of my life, long before I ever had an outlet in erotica/romance.

It happened when I was a teenager in high school, also known as my extended stay in Hell. I’ll probably say this many times on this blog, but it’s worth emphasizing. I hated high school. I was absolutely miserable. I wasn’t just a whiny, self-loathing teenager. I basically went out of my way to be miserable. It’s even more pathetic than it sounds.

This particular story highlights just how bad it got for me. It happened right around January of my freshman year, which also happened to be the year I developed a horrible acne problem that plagued me for most of my teenage life. So I was already feeling pretty bad about myself to begin with. However, being the miserable little fuck I was, I just had to make it worse.

During this time, we had a major snowstorm, which happens pretty often in my part of the country. We get at least two a year and this one was probably the biggest of the year. The whole neighborhood was a winter wonderland. It would’ve been so pretty if I weren’t such a miserable little shit.

In addition to the snow, it was colder than a snowman’s nut-sack in the morning. Given how early class started, I had to be out at the bus stop at around 6:30 a.m. Remember, this is the middle of winter. It’s still dark out and most of my body is still asleep.

Why is this relevant? Well, it matters because the bus stop I stood at was just across the street from my house. The neighbors were nice and our families got along. So when it was so damn cold and dark out, they would let me and the other kids stay indoors where it was warm. It was a good deal. The kids in my neighborhood were all very nice and friendly. I had no reason at all deny such a generous offer.

Then, I remembered that I was a miserable, self-loathing teenager who had the social skills of a brain-dead fish. Even when the weather was nice, I never talked to anyone. I never tried to strike up a conversation. I would literally spend an entire morning not saying a goddamn word to anybody. The most I did was stare at my shoes and daydream about not being in high school.

As a result, I didn’t take my neighbors up on their generosity. I just remained out there by the curb in the freezing cold, shivering to myself and finding more reasons to be miserable. All the while, the other kids at my bus stop stayed indoors and stayed warm. They probably even chatted, supporting one another in any way they could, knowing that high school always found new ways to make teenagers miserable.

I really could’ve used that support. I really could’ve used friends like that. I believe that if I had chosen to hang out with them while we waited for the bus, I probably would’ve been less miserable in addition to being warmer. They probably wouldn’t have said a word about my acne problem. They were teenagers, but most of them weren’t assholes.

Sadly, I just decided to stay miserable. I decided to keep to myself. For an entire week during the coldest time of the year, I stayed out at that bus stop, alone and miserable. I never said anything. I just stood there, endured the cold solitude, and waited for the bus. It’s as sad and pathetic as it sounds.

Why am I sharing this the day before Valentine’s Day? Well, I want to tell this story to help illustrate how bad I was at connecting with people. I had horrible social skills. I had no charisma whatsoever. It certainly didn’t help that I was exceedingly self-conscious, mostly due to my acne. It is a sad, pathetic feeling that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

Now don’t get the wrong impression. This pathetic loneliness was my fault and mine alone. My family did damn near everything to support me in every possible way. They went out of their way to make me less miserable. I basically rejected them. I made the decision to be miserable. I wish I could unmake it because it still affects me to this day.

Looking back on those cold, lonely mornings, I feel as though I set myself back. I eventually did improve my social skills, but I was very behind the curve and still am to this day. It shows when I talk to new people and especially when I try to talk to women. I can handle myself a bit better, but I really did handicap myself for reasons that have never been justified.

So on the day before Valentine’s Day, I find myself remembering those cold mornings in high school again. I remember the loneliness and isolation that I imposed on myself during that time. I don’t doubt for a second that there are many others like me who share that feeling. Not all of them are in high school, but I imagine there’s never a shortage of miserable teenagers.

To those out there who do feel lonely, especially during this time of year, I would urge you to fight the urge to stay miserable. Fight the inner demons saying you deserve to be lonely. You’re better than that. You deserve to connect with others because guess what? They’re human, just like you. They seek connection as well. Look for it and you’ll find that you don’t have to be alone.

For this year, at least, I’ll probably be spending Valentine’s Day alone. The only companion I’ll have is named Jack Daniels. However, I refuse to remain in that cold, lonely place I put myself in all those years ago. I want to find love. I want to connect with people. Hopefully, my work as an erotica/romance writer will help me achieve this.

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