Our experiences shape us as individuals; I truly think we are a sum of our experiences. They may not “define” us, as we aren’t necessarily doomed or fated to fall in the steps of those before us or the examples that were set for us, but they have a huge say in who we are. I don’t think we should use them as an excuse or justification, but perhaps the mere knowledge of their affect on our lives can help us understand. To understand and accept that we act or react in a certain way, and that might differ from someone else because they have had a totally different past.
So saying, it’s only natural that our self-esteem will have a direct correlation with our childhood, our manner of upbringing, friends and family members, school, etc. I’ve always hated that psychologists seem to bring their patients back to childhood, in order to blame problems on the parents or some other person or place in time, rather than having the person take responsibility for his/her issues… but so much of our personality, our mindset, becomes ingrained during those formative years.
I can’t say for certain that the somewhat perfectionist attitude of my parents turned me into an anal, obsessive-compulsive individual who struggled with an eating disorder and who will never see herself as anywhere near “perfect” but always striving for something better. They always used to tell me “You’re the best, you can do anything,” blah blah blah. I suppose that was a great motivation, the fact that they acknowledged our worth and put so much faith in us… but I was so scared to disappoint. They never said I wasn’t good enough… but I always thought and still always think I’m NOT good enough. I’m very hard on myself; we’re on own worst critics, so They say, and I definitely own that saying.
Much of my low self-esteem stems from physical appearance. Yeah, that might be shallow, but I can’t help it. Factor in that I’ve never been popular with the boys and can’t seem to keep my own husband happy, and that just adds to the inner conflict. Nevermind that I don’t even make it close to the lower end of the scale on comparison with standards in society. Whether we like it or not, the media plays a huge part in how women view themselves. Just think of all the catalogues, magazines, movies, etc. Much of my turmoil comes from the fact that I can’t change certain aspects – it boils down to being born with a set of genes that no amount of diet and exercise will change. If I want to be happy, I have to just *accept* that this is the way I am… and that’s hard. That means that I’m not “the best” and I can’t “do anything I want;” I don’t have complete control over everything.
The other issue of low self-esteem stems from lack of personality. Hm… this sounds familiar. Much of this relates to your earlier topic, “Mirror, Mirror on the Web.” Perhaps I should just copy/paste? I won’t repeat myself. Let’s just leave it at a perceived inferior personality and lack of spiritual depth and maturity.
I have often felt that depression is relational, not necessarily chemical. There have been times when I’ve been so unhappy, I’ve seriously wanted to kill myself. I’ve even struggled with self-mutilation, but nowadays can talk myself out of it (if only not wanting to have to hide it from other people). I guess the real problem occurs when you’re so unhappy that you just can’t function and do everyday things, you can’t talk yourself out of it anymore. In any case… the things that have made me feel better were facing those things head on, trying to do something about it, instead of obsessing about the “what ifs.”
When I’m eating better and exercising and my clothes aren’t so tight, I feel healthy and productive. Surrounding myself with positive people and inspirational influences make a *huge* difference – friends, family, going to church. Even though we need to base our self-worth in God and what He says about us in His Word, it helps when we are surrounded by people who boost our spirits and make us feel loved. I’ve found that, when I’m in a loving, nurturing relationship, the other things (even my physical appearance!) suddenly aren’t so important. I feel safe, secure. These times have been few and far between, and I think of them as phases, but wonder if I shouldn’t feel that way all the time. It’s just not necessarily feasible in the human sense.
The older I get, the more things I discover at which I’m lacking. But you also gain knowledge, experience, and I’d like to think these things somehow balance themselves out. I believe that many of my “faults” are psychological in nature; it’s a big step acknowledging that, but training your mind to think differently is another story. I will never be perfect, and that’s fine, but I never seem to be content with where I’m at, who I am. I’m trying to look on the bright side. My “inner critic” will always be there, but I’m trying to drown it out with positive thinking.
I don’t know that those fears – the fear of growing up, the fear of success, the fear of excelling, (those two sound the same) and the fear of knowing – necessarily relate to self-esteem. Although I have to admit I relate to some of them. I don’t know that I fear growing up so much as I wish I didn’t have to. I often yearn for the carefree days of my youth when my parents took care of everything, when I was too naive to care what others thought. I enjoy doing something well, but hate when it’s automatically expected, or when I’m replaced by what I can do/provide instead of who I am as a person. It may seem inconsequential, and when I’ve pointed it out people don’t see the big deal… but since I like to bake goodies, people expect me to show up with a various selection of gourmet desserts or to have a bottomless cookie jar whenever they visit, nevermind the fact that I’m a busy individual and don’t have the time and money to slave over the oven every day. If they don’t see treats for a while, they think something is wrong with me. If I do turn out something, that immediately becomes the topic, nevermind how I’m doing or “it was nice to see you,” it’s “the pie was so good, can’t wait ’til next time when you bring the cake!” or whatever. And the fear of knowing for me mostly relates to things I know in my life need to be worked on – things about my attitude that need to be changed. I KNOW I need to be more accepting of my circumstances, I KNOW I need to be more loving despite my perceived hardships. I used to be afraid of knowing that my husband might not really love me… but now it comes down to acceptance. It doesn’t matter what someone else does to me, I’m responsible for my own actions; even though I may feel justified, I really have no right to treat someone else with less than with the love and grace God shows me. See – putting the knowledge into practice is hard, because it goes against our humanity.
inspired by fears departing