Self-esteem – will bet you are sick and tired of hearing it being said that you need to raise it.
Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We cannot outperform our level of self-esteem. We cannot draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.” Iyanla Vanzant
Self-Esteem: You Either Have Or Need It
Idyllic is not a word you would use to describe my childhood or the home that I grew up in. Granted, a childhood neighbour told me she had no idea that my life was less than perfect. My mother had her masters in pretence. In all fairness to her, she tried to pretend her way into respectability. Little did she know that such is a value that is first engendered in oneself then exuded from one’s being into your world. You cannot buy or blackmail your way into respect.
This was a lesson that was taught to me over many years and bucket loads of tears.
Signal Of Low Self-Esteem – Depression
She was a study in contradiction, my mother. On the one hand, she would always tell me that education is key, as well as manners. At the slightest infraction, she could be heard screaming from down the road, “Manners will take you through the world!” The neighbours never knew that lesson was being imparted through fist thumps to my head and whacks to my back.
I left my mother’s house for the first time at 16-years-old. What I did not know then was that depression had already visited and was setting up house with me. Depression is not easy for anyone to go through, and it can affect people differently.
It was not until the breakdown of my first marriage did it rear its “ugly” head and said hello. Yet, I ignored it. I was in love – with my first husband and with the idea of being married – but not with me. He, however, was not my first love. I had a prior one, a man many years older than myself.
All these relationships taught me one thing – that I was not good enough.
In fact, they merely reinforced what was taught to me through my mother’s fist, knife and any instrument that she could lay her hands on to inflict pain on me. To her, I was being disciplined, taught “manners.” Actually, I was being viciously abused and my self-esteem dragged along the streets of self-hate.
Passing On The Lesson
Upon my completion of studies in the former Soviet Union, my daughter’s father launched another bitter battle over her. Looking back, this came again because I was a relationship with someone who expressed and demonstrated what it means to love beyond comprehension. As the battle heated up and I was becoming distressed and extremely homicidal, a girlfriend gave me the most valuable lesson in parenting.
Show Abigail love and only love. Never speak ill of her father and surround her with love. She will figure things out for herself in time.”
Sound advice you know upon hearing. It resonates deep in your soul and this one did. No, I did not manage to keep my mouth shut. However, I did manage to limit to a bare minimum any snide comments or sharing any detail about the divorce with her.
Does my daughter, as a result, have the highest self-esteem a human being, particularly a woman, can have? Probably not. However, observing her over the years, I see a woman who loves herself. She has and will continue, I hope, to reach out when she needs help.
Raising The Bar
Our youth is often misguided, lacking in self-esteem and there are no true role models demonstrating self-love. When this piece was first written a few years ago, a particular young woman came to mind. Designer clothes, makeup-up, partying and sex were the hallmarks of success to her. I am a Facebook junkie of no mean order but this young woman beats me as to what she will post and simply for attention. The “adults” in her life were too busy trying to be “pals” with her and themselves in need of a good dollop of self-esteem.
We all are here to walk our paths. No one can do the journey on our behalf. Individually we get to choose our companions. Sadly, many of us did not have the necessary grounding in love, respect and self-worth growing up. As adults now, too many choose lust posing as love and cover pain with drugs, alcohol or food.
Some people are reaching for anything that allows them to hide. They are hiding scars inflicted through the negligence and ignorance of those assigned to show them the way.
Acknowledge, Accept, Heal
News of Robin Williams’ apparent suicide on August 11, 2014, prompted the first writing of this piece. My prayer then was that it would cause more to stop covering their eyes and ears. To acknowledge and accept that depression is often masked with drugs, alcohol and/or food are the first steps. Sadly, while some have taken off the mask, too many are still in denial.
Food was my mask for many years. I have very little tolerance for alcohol and none for illicit drugs. Lust pretending to be love was another favourite of mine, especially in my youth. My heart saddens when I see women of my age still making this mistake. It hurts me, even more, when they are parents as I know their children are watching and taking notes.
As mothers and even grandmothers, let us show our youths another way. It is time. Einstein reportedly said:
“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Self-Esteem Is An Inside Job
Fast forward to 2017 and we saw the opioid crisis taking over the lives of many, while politicians and others turned a blind eye. The interest of the few dictated the response. It was another reminder to all of us to look within and take care of ourselves and our families.
As it continues, albeit overshadowed by the COVID-19 epidemic, it is way past time to stop this insanity.
Time to speak with our children, grandchildren and wards. Teach them that there is another way, a different way of living. My own journey has taught me that teaching about manners is only one step (granted not beating it into our children).
We ourselves need to learn to love ourselves and not be afraid to show our children that whatever your family has is enough; that they are enough.
Let us teach our children that respect is an inside job – one that you are willing to do, for you and for them.