Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Self Esteem, and How to Have Some.

"...although the subject of self-esteem has generated a fair amount of controversy over the past few decades, it's clear that we don't get healthy self-esteem from constantly telling ourselves how great we are, or even from other people telling us how great we are. We get healthy self-esteem from behaving in ways that we find worthy of our own respect -- such as helping other people." Gretchen Rubin, Happier at Home

I read a lot, but I am not an annotator. It is a rare passage that inspires me to underline, highlight, or mark in any way, the page of a precious book. But this passage resonated deeply with me; possibly because a healthy self-esteem is an elusive creature for me, or possibly because I cannot seem to help saying "yes" to almost any project that might do some good, no matter how much time I have to devote to said project. I underlined and highlighted this passage, and bent the page over. It is the most definitive explanation of how to attain a healthy self-image I have found.

I am a negative self-talker. People laud the self-effacing humor, thinking it unassuming and humble, I suppose. I think, and this may be assuming the worst, but I really think that people love put-down humor, and putting yourself down is a way to participate in put-down humor while maintaining the image of being "nice." That's neither here nor there; I have a bad habit of starting statements with things like, "I'm not a particularly brilliant person, but..." or "I have literally no artistic talent, but..." It drives my therapist crazy; she is constantly trying to get me to reframe the way I speak, "I enjoy doing art" without the qualifying "no talent" bit.

There is one part of my life where I never put myself down, and that is when I am doing work for Relay. We've put on some good events these past few years, and while I am in no way responsible for the outcome, I certainly had a hand in it. I am proud of our Relays, of the work we put into our Relays. I'm not uncomfortable when I speak in front of the participants, or talk to patients, or any other aspect of my work with the American Cancer Society. Why not? I think of myself as rather uneducated and undisciplined, but I respect a giving personality, and so, when I am doing that work, I respect myself.

The trick is to apply that self-respect to the rest of my life.

1 comment:

Jen said...

I get it. It's like you can't say "I enjoy art" without the qualifier that you suck at it, because surely the other person is thinking, "But you suck at it! Do you think you're GOOD? Because you suck." But if we make sure they know that we know we suck, it somehow makes it okay to like the thing.

I get it. I do it. It's vile and awful.