Originally published in Comfort Zone Newsletter: November 2009
(before The Undervalued Self was launched)
The Good News
What I hope, of course, is that this book will be tremendously useful to you. This one is for the non-HSP as well as the HSP, because we all have an undervalued self, a “self state” in which we think we are inferior to those around us. For some it comes up often; for others less often, but usually at the most crucial moments in life. I believe the undervalued self is one of the two causes of emotional and relationship difficulties in life–the other cause is being highly sensitive and not knowing it. Thus I have always seen the two books as “book ends” that go together.
This book does not attempt to create “high self-esteem,” since what we want is accurate self-esteem. Further, high and low self-esteem is all about our ranking ourselves by how self-confident we are compared to others, a sort of vicious circle. Indeed, research finds that when people with low self-esteem are told to use self-affirmations, they only feel worse about themselves. It seems that they start comparing themselves to how they ought to be.
My new book takes a “natural” approach to the problem, in that it acknowledges that we, all mammals, are born with two basic social-emotional modes, “ranking and linking.” We are ranking when we focus on status/power/influence–comparing ourselves with others. We are linking when we focus on liking/loving. The two are somewhat mutually exclusive, in that if you focus on one, the other melts away. Sadly and ironically, the people who really want and need love the most have grown up in an environment that focused on ranking, so they focus on it too, rather than on linking.
There are other natural instincts besides ranking and linking that arose when we lived in one all-important kinship or cultural group. We need to know how they operate if we want happier lives.
- We all naturally have an overall sense of self-worth because we needed to know instantly if we could win in a confrontation for influence within our group. But that overall self-evaluation is a disadvantage now, since we are members of several different groups, where we may be strong in one group in ways that would be weakness in another group.
- When we lose in a confrontation we naturally become depressed–back down, run off, hide–so that we are not injured by continuing to fight a lost cause. But if we stay in that depressed state, we will be undervaluing our self.
- We usually snap back to a realistic sense of self, but after too many bad experiences of defeat-depression, especially in childhood, we naturally focus on the dangers of relating to others and maintain a conservative approach, which is to undervalue ourselves permanently.
The above is more or less the first chapter. The book also discusses the best way out of our undervalued self-state, which is to turn to the other natural system, linking. But usually it is not that simple because of the defenses we develop to protect us against further relationship trauma. So the book tackles healing those traumas, in ways other books have not done. Basically, I try to give away the secrets of the best psychotherapists, because I know many people cannot or will not go to therapy.
Where’s the Bad News?
The bad news for me is that this new book is rolling towards me like a huge wave of potential overstimulation and emotional intensity. For example, the publisher hopes I will be inundated with invitations to speak, be interviewed, and so forth. “Inundated” to me means I may be drowned. It’s hard to say “no” to just one more interview when the publisher has taken a risk on me and they need the book to sell well.
On the other hand, if no one interviews me and/or no one reads the book–if the wave fizzles–the publisher will be disappointed and no major publishing house will publish anything I write in the future, not to mention the many reasons it would upset me if the book did not reach or help many people.
So I am worried–it could sell too well or too poorly. When everyone asks me, “Aren’t you excited?” I want to say, “Yes indeed, overexcited and scared.” That’s how this HSP feels about publishing a book.
What’s the News for You?
I hope that publication of this book will roll toward you as a smaller, kinder wave that lifts you up and carries you closer to your destination. If it does that for even some of you, I will be very, very happy. My research shows that it should, in that sensitive people tend to have lower self-esteem than others regardless of whether they had a troubled childhood. That makes sense for many reasons:
- We are a minority, and in most cultures being affected by negative stereotypes.
- Being easily overstimulated and overaroused, we may do worse than others and worse than we ourselves expected when being observed or tested.
- We are more affected by negative feedback, since it is our strategy to observe and learn from our mistakes more than others do.
- We are more affected by a bad childhood, the major cause of a permanently undervalued self.
Besides possibly helping you with your undervalued self, this new book will affect you in another hopefully good way: I cannot write two newsletters, one for each readership, so starting in May, I plan to write one article per Comfort Zone issue on the subject of the undervalued self (non-HSPs will receive only that article quarterly). But again, I hope this focus will be of particular benefit to HSPs. So, put on your swim suit or your wet suit–and maybe have a life preserver ready for me. The wave is coming March 10.