I’ve been watching Eddie Izzard’s Marathon Man documentary on BBC3, and there’s no denying it’s inspirational to see a 47-year old comedian with no real history of sporting endeavour run 43 marathons in the space of six weeks; watching Eddie battle through muscle tears and serious foot damage to complete his task is a thing of wonder to observe.
But that’s not particularly out of the ordinary as far as Mr Izzard is concerned. He has a film out, another documentary (which I can’t seem to find much information regarding, called Believe), which this time charts his rise from humble street performer to what he’s become today.
And what has he become? Well, at age 48 he’s one of the most renowned and respected stand-up comedians in the world. He’s become an actor, able to play both straight and comedic roles with equal aplomb. He has learned to speak French (and is currently studying Latin and Persian), achieving a level of fluency where he is able to conduct stand-up gigs in the language. He has played piano on stage in front of 60,000 people with Midge Ure, and after his fantastic fundraising efforts for Sport Relief is rightly recognised as an endurance athlete.
All this despite suffering from Dyslexia, and he still has the balls to tell people he likes to wear women’s clothing, Eddie Izzard has in the last 13 years gone from simply being my favourite comedian to being an individual I truly admire and respect, and this is chiefly due to his mindset that if you believe in yourself, you can achieve anything.
Now, my issue is that I’ve never particularly had much self-esteem; perhaps it’s due to not having a great deal of support from my emotionally inarticulate father when I was growing up, but now, at age 30, when I analyse my skills, achievements and aspirations, I find myself thinking ‘so what?’.
This is a general feeling of inadequacy I’ve always struggled to shake, and I don’t think I’m being fair on myself. I look at some of the skills I’ve developed during my life that some people never do; I can speak, walk, read, write, ride a bike, swim, drive a car. I have a degree. I could just about design and build a house by myself. I’m a competent sportsman, I have a decent eye for a picture, and I’ve had photographs published and stolen and I’ve shot a wedding and it didn’t end in a total disaster. I can play guitar, bass, piano and drums on a sliding scale of decency (with the first being best), and I’ve yet to be booed at karaoke. Plus, may I add, if you’ve read this far, then I might lay claim to being a decent stringerer-of-words-together.
So, looking at that, I could say I had a fairly multi-stringed bow. But the problem is two-fold; firstly, I’ve have always felt like a Jack-of-all-Trades, Master-of-none, able to dabble in several fields with a modicum of success, but unable to specialise in anything. Secondly, I feel that other people are able to diverge into other fields of endeavour with greater ease and élan. than me. I’m hardly Albert Schweitzer, or C.B. Fry.
If I’ve learned one thing over the last ten years though, it’s that people aren’t massively fond of their friends being self-deprecating all the time; it’s preferable to arrogance, yes, but it still gets a little boring after a while. Thus, I’ve developed an awareness of when to reign in what other people might perceive as being false modesty (which is more often than not low self-esteem and an absence of confidence, but which is occasionally an abhorrence of arrogance).
This is all shit to do with whether your like yourself as a person or not. I’m not sure I ever have, but I’m getting better. I feel I’m definitely growing as a person, from being able to empathise with others to a greater degree, to having a much more open mind than I have previously had (which I put down in part to learning how to play chess about seven years ago). I’ve tried to operate by the old maxim of ‘if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all’, I’ve tried to be more supportive of friends and tried to suppress the irrational envy I can sometimes feel. I know this is probably stuff that’s elementary to most people, but these are skills I’ve always struggled with.
This all isn’t so much an attempt to answer a question as to formulate the question in the first place.