Phyllis (Barbara Stanwyck): We’re both rotten.
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray): Only you’re a little more rotten.
[Double Indemnity, 1944]
Those sort of critical insults may be fun in movies or novels, but how we think of ourselves – or what we accept others saying about us – can have a deep influence on how we engage in life, and how well we realize our talents.
In his article Why We’re Afraid to Speak Up, Peter Vajda, Ph.D. notes that “when some children wanted to, or attempted to, express their aliveness, their thoughts, their juiciness, their ‘wisdom’, their self, they were often met with resistance” in the form of reactions like:
“You think you’re so smart!” (with a negative edge)
“That’s not true; you’re stupid”
“What a crazy idea!”
and other responses that help set up enduring patterns of belief that “what we have to offer is not ‘good enough’, or that we are ‘bad’, or that we are ‘wrong.’
“This belief becomes an imprint, hard-wired on our brain, in our unconscious, and we carry this belief into adolescence and eventually into adulthood.”
Due to traits like divergent thinking, high sensitivity and emotional excitability, many gifted and talented people may have an especially difficult challenge in gaining a healthy and positive identity and self-regard.
John Lennon, for example, according to journalist and biographer Larry Kane (who was in the official Beatles entourage during their 1964 and 1965 tours), was very insecure and lacked self esteem.
[See the page Self-esteem / self concept.]