“Can I go to the bathroom?” these were the words which I dared not utter while desperately trying to control my bladder. As I sat there in the first grade classroom, I was nervously looking around at other children. No one else was asking for bathroom breaks so the fact that I was made me shrink with shame. I am not sure how I got that idea but I can tell you it was there. A four year old boy could not express himself. Somehow I felt that if I asked, everyone will look at me and laugh at me. It was the fear of being different than the crowd around me that made me nervous and I held it for like 2-3 hours I suppose.
And it didn’t end there. I was afraid to ask for help, I could not ask help, not even from the teacher. Because that also implied that I was “not enough”, that I lacked something, that I was unintelligent. I could not ask my parents because well, what will they think what kind of a brain-dead child they have? All other children seem to do fine.
Well, I realize now that isn’t the case but as a child I just did not know.
I remember the first time I entered a sprint race. I was 4 or 5, I remember everyone being on the starting line. I was nervous, I was afraid but I thought I can do it, even if I don’t win, I will try my best. I guess that is what anyone can hope to do. When the whistle went off, all sprinted, except me. Turned out, there was some slippery material that had earlier been accidentally spilled on the track and later was wiped out but the guy who did that “missed the spot” if you know what I mean. As lucky as I turned out to be, it only fell in my track and so the first step I took when the race started, ended with me face first on to the ground. I still remember, looking up, seeing all the children run away, gleefully, no one looked at me, which was a relief in one way. But I remember that I cried, I cried like a baby. Not because I was hurt, although I think I had a bloody lip from the fall I took. I cried because I felt I could not compete. I had no idea why the ground in front of me was slippery at that moment. I only knew that I had taken my first step and I had fallen. I got up and ended the race, I was the last one to clear the rope and I was a good one minute behind others. Yet, even when the teachers applauded me for not giving up. I knew deep inside that I had changed. It wasn’t that I felt I had failed, I felt I would always fail. The crowds, the cheers, did not matter to me. It was my inner strength I was trying to find and I couldn’t locate it. It just wasn’t there. Every step I took towards the finish line got heavier by the burden of shame.
That was 22 years ago and I do not think I ever fully recovered from that incident. It shattered my confidence or what little of it was there anyway. And it followed me everywhere. Part of it is because I made a habit of not confronting my hesitation and doubts. I always felt inferior on the inside. When I saw someone do something really cool, like doing a one-wheeler on a bike or learning a new sport, I would stop in my tracks. My friends would try to drag me to join them and I would just recline to the benches and see them play, cursing my self for not being able to join them. Playing for me was like competing, only one can be the winner and the winner was good, the loser was bad and no one loves the loser. And here I was, not participating because I knew I would surely lose.
Because of my shy attitude I was also bullied in school quite often. But I guess everything has its consequences. I slowly became more angry. I would at times lash out when I was provoked but I would be the coward when I felt like the loser. I could fight, punch someone but not see myself equal to others. And the self-realization of this apparent failure did not help at all. I became, angry at myself too. And then to top that I started putting on weight. I got fat, and no ones loves a fat boy, do they? So I had one more thing to feel inferior to others. I never thought I was handsome or smart. Being shy as I was I could never match wits with people who made fun of me. Some of these people were good people who meant nothing bad but just made fun of me because everyone else was doing it but I begin to hate people because of it.
Anger, hate, shyness, inferiority complex, rage, narcissism everything piled up to make me one mess of an individual. It corrupted my thoughts. Things like, death, suicide no longer meant to me the same as they would do to any normal person. I guess I really just did not care.
It has been very hard for me to come back to what we call normal. It took some really extraordinary friends (thank God) who helped me pull out of all this mess. They challenged me and for better or worse I tried to lose the inferiority complex.
Don’t get the wrong impression though. I am still a loser. I still hesitate, I still feel terribly nervous. I am still no better than I was before; but now I take things less seriously. I realize now that we are all different, that we all have our high’s and lows. Realize, that there is nothing best except what you make of the moment you are given. I wasted so much in my life because of it. It is an abyss which will take you whole, if you let it. You should not be ashamed of what you can not do but always ask yourself, could this have turned out differently had I done something?
There is nothing wrong with failing, there is nothing wrong with being a loser; but there is everything wrong with having a loser mentality and surrendering to it.
Seek help, if you feel like it. There is so much potential in you that no one will ever know of, if you do not step up.
Expressing yourself is very very important. If you have kids, ask them about these things, about how they feel. A simple incident may be devastating to their little hopes and dreams.