Dear friends...let me share this very personal story with you. It's my story...but maybe you see yourSELVES in parts of it too because it is a very human story. By the time I was 20, I had absolutely no self esteem at all. My very abusive childhood has left me shattered and shaken in ways I can't even describe. So here I was...very broken on the inside but wearing a mask to cover it up...pretending that I was okay when I very clearly was not. I was still in survival mode...just getting through each day. Of course my life didn't completely stop...I had relationships, educated myself, traveled etc etc but on the inside, I was falling apart. Completely. In retrospect, it was a gift! I had to fall apart so I could put mySELF back together...the way I wanted to. Of course...the process would take about 20+ years...but hey!! ...these things take time:)
Here are a few things I have learned along the way about self esteem. These are not things I have read in books (although I certainly have read my fair share!!) but..these insights come from having being in the trenches. Those long and difficult days, months, years...when I really had to dig deep and honor mySELF. Because at the end of the day, that's what self esteem is all about...it's about honouring our deepest SELVES...the soul and spirit we are.
* Let go of shame. For far too long I was immersed in shame. Shame that wasn't mine to carry and hold. Shame that was binding and suffocating. Shame that kept me locked in rooms I did not want to be in. Once I started telling my story truthfully...the shame slowly dissipated. This deep sense of unworthiness had eroded my very SELF. What I now realise is that there is absolutely no shame in being human.
*Set Boundaries!! Oh Boy!! Did it ever take me a long time to get this one!! I can chuckle a little about it now:) But the hard truth is this: there are some people, who themselves with low self esteem, will sense out your low self esteem like vultures...and prey on it. It doesn't mean that they are mean or evil, just that they themselves have been hurt deeply and, rather than doing the hard work of mending themSELVES, will lash out at others. I have been on both ends of this behavior. When I was in my teens, I invaded others' boundaries all too often. Let me tell you...this only eroded my self esteem even more.
*Reciprocity. If you give and give and give..there are some people who will take and take and take. With no appreciation, acknowledgment or love. I am not talking about tit for tat here (which isn't reciprocity at all)...but a genuine exchange of hearts. There should be reciprocity in all things...gratitude, understanding, time.
*Don't compare yourSELF to others. Oh!!! this is big huge difficult, isn't it?? What I have found is that we are all on a deeply personal journey and comparing ourSELVES to others (talent, creativity, material things, weight, etc etc) really doesn't serve us in any positive way. It simply locks us out of our own potential.
*Grieve. Sometimes we simply need to grieve...for deep hurts, wounded spirits, people that are no longer with us, things lost. Grieving is good and right and healing...tears carry us to other, deeper places within ourSELVES.
* Don't allow others to define you. How many of us have had others tell us what we can't do?? How impractical and foolish and a waste of time and...etc etc our dreams are?? I am not going to allow another person, a culture or set of values to define who I am, what I can do and put me in boxes of their making. We can define ourSELVES and evolve.
* Create!! There is just something about the act of creating that fortifies our spirits. It can be something as simple as baking a cake or gardening or painting...sewing a curtain, knitting...you name it! Making things with our hearts + souls + minds + hands...engages our whole selves and builds us up.
*Mentors!! We need them!!! I was so lacking for mentors in my life, I had to actively seek them out. For me...Oprah, Toni Morrison, Dr. Estes, Maya Angelou...just to name a few.
* Give up perfectionism. At it's core...perfectionism is a cover up for "I am not enough". I am not lovable until I am perfect and since no one is perfect...I will never be lovable. So we beat up on ourSELVES. A vicious cycle. For most of my life, this was my first instinct. It's something I still have to work on all the time. After becoming a mother, I realised that I had to mother mySELF as well.
To ourSELVES...be kind, be gentle, be forgiving...then we are truly able to extend it to others.Of course this isn't a complete list! There is so much to learn on this journey to SELF. Please feel free to add any of your own insights.