My He(ART)-Full Life

Thursday, October 20, 2011

honouring our SELF (esteem)

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'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, 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 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.


Amanda@runninghood said...

When I read this I feel like I could have written so much of it! Oprah...funny I answered a question tonight for an application and it asked 3 of the most inspiring women ...I said my mom and Oprah and I still thinking of the third. Love Oprah...she truly is an amazing and beautiful woman. Creating...yes! Being creative is such a huge part of my life. I've been working on an article about the creative athlete and how nurturing the creative spirit and expressing ourselves creatively and reflectively adds so much to all the other areas of our life....Running too! Thank you for sharing your life with us. You have so much to share and you share it in such a way that I felt drawn to your words....obviously you have many gifts and writing is one of them.

laurie said...

you have done a wonderful job of summing up what it takes to be "whole", which is different than "perfect". like you, i covered up my broken inside for years and i did it so well that i even believed i should be fine. but i wasn't. and i am still sorting through my inner pieces but it is so much easier to do in the light of day (awareness.) thank you, as always for being so generous with what you are learning.

jane said...

I love your words and open spirit, Soraya, and they both nurture me. Thank you for your generous HEART. xo

Kelly said...

Oh my! This is a perfectly wonderful list! I still struggle with many of these things...perfectionism, boundries...but I see the light. I just have to get there. That's where I am right now...I see it, but I don't own it. You have grown so much!

patty said...

Dear Soraya, first of all, you do express this so eloquently... you should seriously think about writing a book (maybe you have already considered it!)

Also, I see myself in so much of what you touch on here.... even though I did not have an abusive childhood (restrictive, yes, but mostly loving)I still, in spite of my advancing years, seem to struggle with so many insecurities. Confidence has never been my strong suit. Comparison, perfectionism, being defined by others....these things come and go in my life, some days more than others, but yes, still there for sure... It's just so wonderful that we can let them out of the bag and compare notes with each other!

Janet said...

You are wise beyond your years! Many people never learn these things. You're lucky to have been able to not only learn them but to share them with others. Thank you.

PatH said...

Thank you for all your wonderful writing. I am filled with admiration for you. You are creating a beautiful life and you have a gift for writing. These are great reminders of how to live well and how to get back to a soulful life. And sharing our journeys is so helpful - knowing that we are not alone and that others are seeking wholeness and trying to live a meaningful life.

Julie said...

I feel like I keep reading these "self appreciation" stories and they are very inspiring!
I just wrote about my artistic journey from childhood until now and it touched on so many of the things you discussed (too many to write).
Its amazing what you come across when you are in-tuned to it!!
You are very talented, your work shows such a great spirit, totally makes me smile :)

SooZeQue said...

Your courage and untiring energy to rise above is always inspiring. Oprah always use to say "you are not what happened to you". You've proven that - you are good, inspiring, loving, open, trusting and more. I love how you always try and grow. I'm gonna have to check out Dr. Estes. Her books look so interesting. I listened to one of her online sessions and she speaks in such a way we can relate easily ~ i like that! Stay well my friend!