Dancing with Insecurity

I am tired of kvetching. I have already explained that word. Sometimes it is deafening. People cannot deal with others in wheelchairs. Or on walkers. Many of us have self-esteem issues. People around us just look through us. They don’t want to see us. And on and on. Enough. I am as guilty as anybody. And I say it is high time we recalibrated our thinking. Easier said than done.
Recently, I reread the early chapters of what probably is my favorite presidential biography, The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, by Edmund Morris. I have been struck by what a sickly child TR was. Young Teddy was asthmatic, a sometimes fatal condition back then. He was near-sighted, and had to be home-schooled. His father wanted a rugged son and was disappointed in him.
One day he told his son, “Theodore you have the mind but you have not the body, and without the help of the body the mind cannot go as far as it should. I am giving you the tools, but it is up to you to make your body.”
I realize this is no longer the era of manly men, but maybe there is a lesson here. If Teddy’s resolve in the mid-nineteenth century came from his father, who he adored, it grew into personal strength, which he never seemed to stop feeling he had to prove to all around him.
I relate to that need, though I have come to believe that in the end, I never tire of proving it to myself.
That job never ends. I track it from my years in the news business to writing books. With each volume, I swear it is my last but need to prove to myself I can do it again. I feel as if the sick are always hyper-concerned about how others see us or become our toughest critics on how we see ourselves.
We do not seem to give ourselves a break. The road is tough enough. As with TR, we struggle with forces beyond our control. Life is hard, though it is made only harder by our obsessions. And what is the point? Who cares? But I know I am not about to change. Probably neither are you. Fighting our insecurities is a battle none of us needs or ultimately will win. As Aesop wrote so long ago, physician, heal thyself.

15 Responses to Dancing with Insecurity

  1. MB October 8, 2014 at 7:13 pm #

    My interpretation of other people’s perception of me is my biggest problem. Am I so critical of the chronically healthy because I’m projecting on them what I felt toward the disabled when I was healthy? I wonder if I looked away to avoid people like me because it was uncomfortable. That’s what I’m wrestling with right now.

    You are right though when you say we’re our own toughest critics. When I pass by a mirror I avoid looking at it because the person reflected back is not the person I think I am. The person in the mirror is broken and it pains me to think that’s how the world sees me.

    I doubt if Teddy Roosevelt would have been elected president today. He probably wouldn’t have made it out of Iowa. 🙂

    • Richard M. Cohen October 9, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

      I don’t know. TR was a force to be reckoned with. I relate to your relationship with the mirror.


      • Alina Maria October 10, 2014 at 6:17 pm #

        TR would probably still be elected today. (Although he wasn’t initially elected, he was a vice president who moved into the presidency after an assassination.)

        FDR, however, is the man who would have no chance at running for the presidency today. Americans would never nominate a person who can only walk using leg braces, and even with those braces, not walk well. I am conflicted about this fact. Even I, who have a disability, uses walking aides, would truly ponder the effectiveness of a president with a disability.

  2. Sally October 9, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    I’m afraid that my “Rough Riding” days are slowing down, physically but not mentally. In my mind, there is always a way to get things done. Like Robt Frost said, “the best way out is always through”. I’m not saying that I’ve never felt the anguish of insecurity, but basically I’m not an insecure person. Does that make sense?

    I guess I’m just too old to care how other people perceive me. I’ve had MS for over 50 yrs now and really, they owe me a living now..lol..

    • Richard October 13, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

      And why should you care? Isn’t life hard enough already?


  3. Dale October 9, 2014 at 4:49 pm #

    At the urging of my student daughter we took our golden retriever to Parents Day at Boston College. The campus is hilly so I opted for the wheelchair. Not a single person questioned that we took that dog into every building including the library. Everyone absolutely had to pet her. Nobody gave a damn about that chair. Surprise.
    Afterwards we took the kids to a local restaurant, leaving Wonderdog, thoroughly exhausted, in the car parked where we could see her. Well watered, windows cracked (it was a cool day anyway) and frequently checked..
    Some fruitcake PETA wannabe came in to the restaurant and accosted the manager about who there would have left this dog in the car. He’d seen one of ours go out several times, having asked if all was ok he knew what was going on. My husband went out and was thoroughly harassed, She said the dog was sweating:. Dogs don’t sweat. But apparently this lady had some mission going on in her head and laid in wait for us.

    I paid the bill, we all left. She took one look at me coming out in the wheelchair and bolted. We saw she had an elderly lady and small child in the back seat. I think they were sweating. I’m getting a lot more OK with using that chair now.

    • Richard October 13, 2014 at 12:39 pm #

      Trust me. You are a lot healthier than any member of PETA. They are whackadoos.

      • Dale October 13, 2014 at 8:28 pm #

        🙂 I’m a big fan of dogsledding and count some long distance mushers as friends. Best cared for dogs in the world. PETA is always on the periphery with their crappy track record. If Rachel Scodoris a legally blind musher can run the Iditarod I’ll find a way to get back on those runners some day. Thanks Richard.

  4. Pat Harper October 9, 2014 at 5:51 pm #

    This matters. Thank you.

  5. Mark October 10, 2014 at 6:11 am #

    This resonates with me. What happens when there is more proof suggesting we can’t do what we used to? I love to take hikes in the woods in Connecticut. However, yesterday evening I couldn’t get my left leg up and over a stone wall. So I sat down on the stone wall thinking of alternatives to getting over it…never once contemplating reversing course and going home. You’re right. I never tire of proving it to myself.

    • Richard October 13, 2014 at 12:41 pm #

      I think all of us do that.


  6. pamlynne October 10, 2014 at 12:18 pm #

    The need to prove myself to myself–that’s my big problem. I’m innoculated to the effects of other people’s perceptions of me and my disability/wheelchair/spasticity because I was always a loner (even during adolescence when peer pressure is strongest). I’m used to being invisible in groups where others form cliques. I don’t always notice if others don’t notice me.

    But I’ve always seen myself so keenly. I kvetch way more about my own shortcomings, insensitivities, and lack of ability than anyone else’s towards me. The more abilities I lose, the harder I am on myself about the smallest things. I will clock workaholic-level hours searching online for the PERFECT vase or potholder or ribbon or other fill-in-the-blank quotidian item as though it is the key to life itself. I am consumed by getting the tiniest details “right” in direct proportion to MS gobbling away large portions of my abilities and dreams.

    Yes, the brain does need re-calibrating. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Richard October 13, 2014 at 12:44 pm #

      Frequently I need to remind myself.


  7. Yvonne October 11, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    I used to love to dance. Now insecurity is my only dancing opportunity these days. Sigh

    • nancy s October 13, 2014 at 10:39 am #

      I’m with you, Yvonne. I tried doing the stroll with my cane at a reunion…not a pretty sight. I gave up… frustrated and sad…not sure anyone really noticed.