On a discussion forum recently someone brought up the issue of low self-esteem — feeling ugly, worthless, low.
I think in the past 30 years I’ve come from the deepest pits of hell to a peaceful grassy hill (which occasionally dips down into a dark swamp) on this one.
I clearly recall sitting in the hallway of my high school, crying my eyes out because I believed I was hated, ugly and worthless. I think it was freshman year, and it must have happened at least four or five times that year.
Somewhere in my brain, I thought it made sense that my extremely public distress was going to cause someone to realize how wonderful I was, invite me to hang out, and I would have friends.
By the time I graduated, I had a boyfriend, I’d been captain of the cheerleading squad, I’d been secretary of the student body, I had enough self-esteem boosting experiences under my belt that I no longer cried out for random help in the hallway.
But was it a build-up of self-esteem, or was it that I belonged to different groups, had a place among certain people, and was accepted?
The days when my self-esteem feels lowest now are when I’ve spent a lot of time at home surrounded by children who are whining, criticizing, and using every trick in the book to undermine me and get me to give them cookies and cake for dinner. At those times I feel like the world is against me, and there is no one in my immediate vicinity who actually wants, likes or needs ME.
When I’m feeling high self-esteem it’s because I’ve felt like I’ve been able to help one of my children with something, a neighbor has stopped to chat, someone has liked one of my blog posts, or some other indication that I belong in the world and that people are able to get some joy from my existence.
So when I think of the suggestions I passed along to the forum poster, I don’t think any of them were wrong: avoid magazines that make you feel lousy, for instance, and try to spend more time around people who make you feel good for who you really are. But I think I forgot one.
Know that you belong, and that your belonging brings others joy. Pay attention to those moments when you really know your belonging, and when you really see the joy you bring. Let those moments be your shining truth when the sun goes behind the clouds.
Now someone please remind me of this when I’m slogging through the swamps.