Self-esteem is a tricky little bugger.
I’ve always had issues with mine; I mean, with the small amount that I even allow to exist.
Perhaps it’s my childhood? My sometimes non-religious views? A realistic attitude about what I actually provide to the world?
After reading a very good article written from the perspective of an artist this morning, I attended a local Mothers Of Preschoolers group my neighbor told me about. The article, about devaluing, opened my mind. The MOPs, whereat a fellow mother honestly detailed her life with anxiety and depression (and OCD and body image issues and …well, you get the idea), opened my heart.
“I’m sure men and boys experience it too, I know they do, but in my personal experience it’s women who consistently undervalue their work, their time and their talent and it’s women who desperately seek approval by making themselves small,” Johanna (the artist I mentioned) notes.
Caroline, the brave MOPs woman with constant struggles, spoke of a lifetime of hiding. She thought others would only want to see the perfect her, the one she wasn’t ashamed of. She was flawed.
Although I have not been diagnosed with a specific condition (yet), I felt like these women were speaking to me, or even about me.
“…I had subconsciously believed that valuing myself meant devaluing others which would make them feel bad which would make them not like me.” Johanna continued, “I had kept myself in a nice little box that would be no obvious threat to anyone.”
I feel my own box. Like a bad mime, I keep people away from the invisible walls with my facial expressions, body language, and comments. I push away, instead of invite in. Sometimes the box is literally my car, my house, or my closet.
Sadly, Caroline felt similarly. She spoke of assuming her own family wouldn’t want to know this dark side. She described herself thinking how her husband and child would be better off without her in their lives.
This is an extreme position to take, a sure sign that you need to talk to a counselor.
It is also one I understand, and have felt. Blearily, tiredly, I’ve looked around and seen the only problem is me. No self-esteem. The only logical parts able to stop anything remind me that death would screw up my children psychologically, or that I might fail and be stuck as a vegetable.
If I was truly logical, however, I would see that my thinking is, as Caroline said, twisted.
I have spoken with a therapist, a counselor. When I mentioned how deeply I’d allowed myself to sink into self-loathing, she agreed the thinking was wrong. “You need to see a doctor,” she said. “You need to test your hormone levels,” she said.
We wonderful, emotional women are extremely down on ourselves, and it’s often because of hormones.
In fact, hormones can be blamed for everything. Of course, despite my pleas to my husband, we cannot simply be rid of them. They are essential to other feelings, and to basic body functions.
Aside from functionality or regulation, I would also like to applaud an approach Johanna details partway through her crafting article.
She wrote the post to talk about an art submission to Craft Town, and how she had mentored applicants for this event in the past. “(A)bout six years ago, I banned my students from saying the word sorry, and we did a little experiment. They had to present their work without saying a single negative word about it, and throughout the exercise they would have absolutely no encouragement or feedback from me whatsoever. So no negativity from them and no approval from me.”
The results? “What happened shocked me. Some students weren’t even able to begin speaking. They looked at the floor, they took deep breaths, they took several minutes just to find words to begin with that wouldn’t include any sort of apology. Some were even brought to tears by the sheer frustration of not being able to criticise themselves.”
Can you make something, gift an item, talk about yourself -without devaluing? I cannot.
Well, I can. But, I don’t. I believe I should try.
Why? Fabulous results. From Johanna, one last time:
There would be a change in tone and volume that was so moving, so utterly inspiring that I can’t even describe it to you. They would speak without apology, explanation or expectation, about what they loved about their own talent. Then they would realise that no one was laughing at them, no one was horrified, no one had stopped liking them, and that they weren’t in trouble, then their voice would get stronger and clearer and calmer. And when they shone, something would happen to the other students in the room, and to me; we’d feel just a little bit closer to our own value because we could see someone else connecting with theirs.
And, what about Caroline from the mothers’ group? She admits to still struggling. However, as a plug for the group, her help came from joining MOPs but also from opening up. Instead of apologizing, hiding, pretending, she wore herself on her sleeve.
We are valuable women, valuable people.
Self-esteem has to come from within, my paid friend tells me. Johanna and Caroline have given me some tools to begin with. I hope we’ve helped you as well.