| 3.5°C Dublin

Declan Lynch's tales of addiction

 

Close

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his Unleashing Britain's Potential speech in the Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, London, following the UK's exit from the European Union. Photo: Frank Augstein/PA Wire

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his Unleashing Britain's Potential speech in the Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, London, following the UK's exit from the European Union. Photo: Frank Augstein/PA Wire

PA

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his Unleashing Britain's Potential speech in the Painted Hall, Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, London, following the UK's exit from the European Union. Photo: Frank Augstein/PA Wire

Have you ever felt that you were not good enough?

I mean, not good enough as a kind of a constant undercurrent in your state of being?

I ask the question knowing that many people will identify themselves somewhere in there. And because it is a deep source of addiction, that is sometimes called 'a lack of self-esteem'.

And I bring it up now because in recent times we have seen how it works when it swings the other way entirely; when a certain kind of person is never in any doubt that they are good enough - even when they're not.

I speak of the Old Etonians who brought us Brexit, the worst idea of the 21st Century, and indeed one of the worst ideas of any of the other centuries leading up to it.

Personally, I am deeply fascinated by how this works, by the way that 'the rich are different', as F Scott Fitzgerald so rightly pointed out.

They are fundamentally different to most of us who are always questioning ourselves, always doubting even our good ideas, always feeling that we are not worthy. They will talk absolute boll*cks for days, weeks, even years, and it truly never crosses their minds that they might be doing something wrong, something that could be seriously harmful to those who are less fortunate than themselves - which is just about everyone.

Privilege has apparently set them free; class has protected them from the agonies of self-doubt, which, to others, are an automatic consequence of being alive.

And yet, they, too, are human - in some sense, anyway - which may explain why there has never been any shortage of addiction among the upper classes - indeed, they probably invented certain types of it all by themselves.

Aristocrats have always been well-known for their outrageous alcoholism, their fondness for the opium den, the insouciance with which they will gamble away an entire estate.

So I suppose, being human - up to a point, anyway - within their own circles, they may feel that they are not good enough, that some other toff is more charming, or more successful, or possesses some superior attribute which brings on a touch of self-loathing in them.

The rest of us will lack some of the natural advantages of the 'top people', but we tend to have more opportunities to explore our own levels of self-loathing.

We are constantly being told that confidence and self-belief are everything, and yet we keep finding that we are not even confident enough to enter a room unless we are fortified by a few drinks.

Objectively, we may understand that we are good at something, it's just that we can't feel it, we only see how much better something might have been if we'd really done it right.

And yet... this is not an entirely unhealthy state of being. Indeed, perhaps the least attractive kind of people you will encounter are the over-confident ones, with this lack of self-awareness of their own weaknesses.

Somehow you have to arrive at a vaguely correct estimate of your own abilities, without the aid of mind-altering drugs. Without being too hard on yourself, or too easy. And on the whole, you're probably better off erring on the side of modesty.

Indeed, if undeserved self-regard is the most unattractive of traits, humility about real achievements is a beautiful thing.

And by humility I don't mean that you run yourself down - I mean that you have this awareness that whatever you've done, you can still do better.

So it's actually a statement of self-belief, without the unpleasant parts. And unfortunately the few drinks won't get you there.

Deep down, you know that too.

Sunday Indo Life Magazine