I couldn’t make up my mind what to call this post — the self-esteem post or the everything’s just ducky post, so I decided to call it both.
I’ve been reading about self-esteem. Frankly, I’ve never read up on it before and some of the things I’m reading are like — yeah, okay, I knew that. (Self-esteem is important to have.) Other things I’ve been reading have been eye-opening, though. One of the most revealing aspects of self-esteem is that — lack thereof — seems to be the main cause of so many issues like depression, anxiety and personality disorders. With that said, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t genetic components that factor in as well — not to mention neurotransmitters that can be out of whack (a chemical imbalance.) However, when it’s not a chemical or biological factor that’s creating the depression and anxiety but more of a cognitive (thinking) factor, the underpinnings for these mental health issues seem to be low self-esteem.
So what exactly is self-esteem, you ask? Excellent question. It is your sense of worth as a person. It is not just knowing but believing without a doubt that you are just as worthy as everyone else out there and that everyone out there is just as worthy as you. It isn’t predicated on anything other than you are worthy because you are here. You are a human being. That all by itself, makes you worthy of being. It doesn’t matter whether you work or don’t work, whether you have ability or disability or whether you have power and influence or none at all. The point is that we are all worthy human beings. Hitler was as worthy as Mother Teresa.
I know that sounds absolutely horrifying, doesn’t it? However, it’s true. And why is that? Because all human beings are inherently worthy. Now grant it, some grow up and become more twisted and cruel than others, but we are equal in terms of worth.
I was reading a Huffington Post article that also goes along with a Ted Talk by Mel Robbins I watched that explained why each human being is a miracle. It is because there is only a 1 in 400 trillion chance that you were even born being you. I’m not a numbers person per se, but that number really is beyond my capacity to even grasp. So whether you believe it was science or God that put you on this planet, either way, if you are reading this, you are a miracle!
But even so, why should we believe that “we’re special?” When growing up, weren’t we constantly told that someone else is better than we are or that if we don’t do this or that or another that we won’t measure up? Weren’t we given expectations and told that we better live up to them or else? That we needed to conform? Don’t we have approximately seven billion other miracles on Earth that we are or have been compared and contrasted to in some way?
Okay, everyone just take a deep breath and calm down. I’m not trying to give anyone a panic attack, including myself.
But, yeah, all of those comparisons and expectations that we’ve endured have become a part of our adult make-up, and that’s where the major culprit lies. Who hasn’t been brought up with unfavorable comparisons or unrealistic, critical or demanding expectations that are corrosive to one’s sense of worth? Who has been accepted unconditionally and taught to accept themselves and others as unconditionally and inherently worthy? I know, it’s a great concept to think that there are real people who believe this and who live with a great sense of self-esteem; which, by the way, isn’t the same thing as being narcissistic — though, there are many who may not know the difference between the two. May I kindly suggest that you Google both or just click here (self-esteem vs. narcissism) and then compare and contrast the traits of each?
What I know is that for me and I suspect many others, developing a healthy sense of self-esteem has not been our reality. As we grew up, we were judged and we learned to judge others and, especially, we learned to judge ourselves — harshly. Because — Survival.
And, by the way, that’s not to say that learning to discern/judge and think critically about life, to be able to self-reflect isn’t important; because it is. However, while using judgment to make decisions is useful and necessary, that’s very different than adversely judging another person because they are different or don’t conform to some shallow sense of beauty or whatever other surface criteria we have deemed is important that this other person must have in order to meet with our approval. That’s really just us being a dick when we do that. And we can all be dicks now and again. Oh, did I just judge people and call them dicks now and again? See what I mean? Just because I’m writing about this stuff doesn’t mean I have it all figured out. I’m learning and trying and will continue to learn and try until I get it figured out to my satisfaction. That may take some time. That’s okay, though. I’ll get there.
TV, all media actually — including social media — tends to focus on idealism. There’s so much hype and so little substance. Also, social media, in particular, is notorious for sometimes creating a sense of fear or anxiety in others because someone is portraying their life as more well-loved or liked or popular or fun or successful than those viewing them. Then when we compare our own lives to someone else’s, we can be left wondering if we even have a life. There’s even a name for this — FOMO (Fear of Missing Out.)
And, of course, social media can be used as a weapon to hurt others because we know people who were excluded from our fun outings or events will see our Face Book pages and realize they weren’t invited. Ouch. That’s hurtful. Taking pictures and posting them on social media all of the time to show what a great life you’re living is probably just another way to overcompensate for feelings of low self-esteem. It can be kind of a false front for some. And no, that’s not true for everyone; but for some, it just is.
Then there are the many that have embraced their fucked-up-ness and lack of popularity as almost a backlash to those hellbent on being “more than successful.” I suppose I fit in with those in the fucked-up-ness category. However, is either extreme really a good place to be? The point is we’re all looking to fit in and be accepted by someone somewhere. So if we’re rejected by people who think they’re “hot snot,” perhaps a different group who consider themselves “rejects” or “fucked up” in some way might accept us.
The only problem I see with that is when you are unhealthy and your identity is wrapped up in that unhealthiness and you are accepted because of your unhealthiness, then you risk losing your identity and, perhaps, friends if/when you decide to become mentally healthy. In other words, it almost seems counterproductive to do whatever is necessary to get yourself healthy if by doing so, you end up being rejected by the tribe that embraced the unhealthy you. It’s like being obese and then you lose a tremendous amount of weight and become a healthier weight with a better self-image and then you lose the friends you had when you were obese because you’re no longer the same. But the point is, people who have been hurt, rejected or ignored are looking for others who understand that hurt because they are or have experienced the same thing. So I get that. I’m not judging that either. I’m actually glad that I can find acceptance with others in similar situations.
The thing is, in this day and age, no one can measure up, except occasionally and then — what a rush when it happens! That’s what keeps us hooked into thinking that we can meet our unrealistic ideals. It is because we do meet them on rare occasion. When that happens and everything does come together, we are rewarded with an amazing feeling. However, that feeling is intermittent and variable, which means we get rewarded just enough to get us hooked on thinking we can do it again and again — even if there are long lapses of reward in between and we suffer greatly in the process. This is what happens when we gamble, btw.
When we live like this, it makes us poor role models and we pass this craziness on to our children, who pass it on to their children and I think the situation just continues to worsen with each generation. It’s truly awful because it manifests itself as that critical voice inside our heads that talks to us non-stop. For the mentally healthy, that voice can be kind, but for those who suffer with low self-esteem, that same voice can be mean as hell when we/it believes we don’t measure up in some way, shape or form. Instead of this voice being helpful to us in a healthy way, it puts us down or calls us names or demands more from us than we’re able to give. It’s punishing, unrelenting and brutal. It’s Freud’s superego. It’s the demon from hell with a pitchfork keeping us in line.
So what does that mean? It means that most of us are fucked up in ways that are incredibly hard to fix because this critical voice is so ingrained in our lives. When we listen and believe in the lies or misperceptions or distortions it tells us, we end up depressed, anxious, angry or have personality disorders or eating disorders or a whole host of other lovely issues that plague us. AND THE REAL KICKER IS THAT WE BRING THIS ON OURSELVES!
However, with that said, we do this because we haven’t been taught anything else or taught anything better or we don’t have it within us at the moment to make the hard changes that are required so we can have better self-esteem so that we can be mentally and emotionally healthy.
The damnedest thing is, if you haven’t grown up being taught to have good self-esteem, it feels ridiculous to start trying when you’re a self-conscious adult.
So instead of doing the hard work required, we often take the easy, less awkward path and medicate or distract or do other things, some that are truly harmful, just to stop that critical voice so we can feel better for just a little while. Whatever it takes to ease the tension and stress.
The thing is, our brains often distort our realities. Of course I can’t know this for sure, but my guess is that Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain — as successful, rich, creative, intelligent, well-traveled, influential and beloved as they both were, had underpinnings of low self-worth. They might even have felt like frauds. Again, I don’t know this for a fact — I could be completely wrong — but many successful people have come out and admitted that they often feel like frauds or imposters because, for whatever reason, they don’t believe they deserve to have the successes they have achieved and they are afraid of being found out. And those feelings start with a lack of self-esteem. (There are numerous articles on the subject of Imposter Syndrome.)
Anyway, as I was reading about self-esteem, it reminded me of the movie, The Help, and how Aibileen taught Mae Mobley affirmations to instill that important sense of worth in her that Mae Mobley’s mother, Elizabeth, seemed determined to undermine in her daughter. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it! It truly is one of my favorite movies.
The other thing that I remembered from when I was a child was that my mom used to listen to the local soul station on the radio in the 1970’s, and I would hear on a regular basis the I am Somebody speech. This is the speech from Sesame Street, which was slightly modified from the original poem written by Langston Hughes.
Anyway, after I found those clips on You tube, I accidentally clicked on another clip called The Duck Song. Okay, this song has been stuck in my head all day. And you know what? I like it! (At this point, you have to listen/watch the Duck Song before you read any further or else the rest of this isn’t going to make any sense.)
Okay, now that you’ve heard The Duck Song, please proceed.
I liked the Duck Song so much that I made David listen to it. Afterward, his question to me was, “Where do you find this shit?”
But then later on when I’d finished some work for him, I told him that I’d put the work on his desk.
And David said to me, “Do you mean on the kitchen table?”
And I said, “Well, yeah. I mean if it looks like a desk and acts like a desk, (he’s been working at the table these last several days), then I guess that means it’s a—”
“Duck?” he chimed in.
“Exactly.” I said. “A duck who wants a grape. Waddle, waddle.”
So just remember if you are suffering from self-esteem issues or even if you have great self-esteem that —
You are smart
You are kind
You are important
You are a miracle (1 in 400 trillion)
And You are somebody!
Unless you look like a duck and quack like a duck, then you might be David’s desk aka the kitchen table. And you might also want a grape. Waddle, waddle!
Blessings and health to all,