Friday Series — Self-Esteem

By now you’ve probably read about Oprah and her confession about gaining weight again.  Many commentators have already written about this.  In fact, so many have done so, I wasn’t going to say anything myself, but this ties into self-esteem Friday well.

Here’s a woman who has all the trappings of self-esteem.  As Kate Harding said, Oprah has more money than God.   She is known nationally and internationally by her first name only.  Her name is her brand.  She’s very successful at what she does.  She has mansions and chefs and personal trainers.  She has people.

And yet, it doesn’t matter. 

“I’m mad at myself,” Winfrey writes in an article provided early to The Associated Press by Harpo Productions.

“I’m embarrassed,” she writes. “I can’t believe that after all these years, all the things I know how to do, I’m still talking about my weight. I look at my thinner self and think, `How did I let this happen again?'”

Harriet at Feed Me says:  If Oprah, with all her ups and downs, her struggles to accept herself as she is, her repudiation of her body and her appetite, can’t learn to love herself, then who can?

The answer: You can. I can. Even Oprah can.

Self-esteem and learning to love yourself doesn’t come from the outside.  One can have all the trappings of what society considers self-esteem — high impact career, power, ability to change people’s lives for good or ill, and yet not have self-esteem.  While all the trappings must be nice to have, it doesn’t change who you are.  At the end of the day, the money, the power, even the helping people, doesn’t make you love the person staring back at you in the mirror.

The foundation of developing self-esteem is to realize that you are okay just as you are.  Right now.  Even if you don’t change anything about yourself.

Yes, that’s a hard concept to accept.  In today’s society, we are bombarded with the idea that we are not good enough.  We aren’t thin enough, wealthy enough, sensitive enough, healthy enough.  We work too much and aren’t able to tend the house and family like we should.  We aren’t spiritual enough.  We don’t take enough time to relax.  And when we do relax, we do it in the wrong way.  There are thousands (if not millions) of self-help books on the market just to help us improve whatever area of life we are deficit in.

There’s no money in telling people that they are good enough just where they are.   And unless you are a mass murderer, you are good enough just as you are.

You don’t need to be thinner.  You don’t need to be richer.  You don’t need to play harder.  This really isn’t a competition between yourself and any body else, or even yourself and yourself.  Just because you accept yourself where you are right now, that doesn’t mean that you can’t still strive towards something better.  I’ll use myself as an example.

I’m teaching myself an ancient lace-making technique called reticelloand punta-in-aria.  The work I’m doing is okay now.  Considering that I’m pretty much teaching myself this technique, and that there are relatively very few people who do this in the world, much less in my area, I’m doing very good.  However, I’ve seen the work people were doing in the 1500’s.  What I am doing is kindergarten level by comparison.  I am working on improving my technique and getting better.  However, where I am right now is good.

This is partly how you develop self-esteem.  Work on accepting yourself for who and what you are right now.  Yes, acknowledge that you still have these goals, but accept that you are doing well right now.   Contrary to popular belief, accepting yourself as you are does not necessarily mean you will lose your drive to improve.  It just means that you don’t have to engage in self-hating tendencies while you are working towards your goals.

Because, no matter what you do, at the end of the day, it really is you who you see looking back at you in the mirror.   It’s very lonely to look in the mirror and tell the person looking back at you how lacking you are.   It much better to tell yourself how you are good enough.  If you tell yourself that you are good enough often enough, eventually you will believe it.

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6 Responses

  1. Hey! A fellow lacemaker! My poison is bobbin lace, and I love doing it. Punto in aria and reticello are gorgeous.

    And I’ve always thought one of the most profound pieces of philosophy comes from Buckaroo Banzai: wherever you go, there you are.

    If you’re always going to be there, it kind of behooves you to learn to like you.

  2. I don’t do lace, but I do play musical instruments, sing, and write and paint, all for my own pleasure. A saying I always keep in mind if the internal critic begins to rise is the one that goes, “The forest would be a very quiet place if only those birds sang, who sang the best.”

    Just because we can now see and hear the very best in the world at things, does not mean that what we do in our small way does not add value to the world.

  3. “The foundation of developing self-esteem is to realize that you are okay just as you are. Right now. Even if you don’t change anything about yourself.”

    Except that you need more self-esteem. Because no one likes people who hate themselves.

    I mean, that’s what I usually hear in exhortations to get some self-esteem, and then I just hate myself more for hating myself. I agree that this “you are okay just as you are” has got to be the key to self-esteem, but even people who are trying to build your self-esteem usually don’t follow it.

    But I still don’t buy it, because what if I am a complete failure and not improving at all but rather getting worse? I have experienced practicing like hell and finding my skill level had decreased afterward. (Only perfect practice makes perfect.)

  4. Your last paragraph was rewarding. I am crippled with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease Dementia but i fight each and everyday to win the battle over the evils of the diseases. Tho i am slower at times, and suffer much confusion, i tell my self to go on and join the world. My joints are crippled and i am in constant pain, i continue to work in art, photo art, humor and blogging is GREAT theropy and keeps me active. I may not be very good at what i do, but i contribute and have fun. I’m not a beauty to fiew, but if you look deep into me, you would see that i have a heart of gold, sharing, and i have feelings just like all other humans.
    It is only the disease that differs you and i. You have a Beautiful blog and i thank you for sharing.

  5. Meerkat: I keep trying to answer your reply, and I find I don’t have any answers, except maybe to find different friends who can support you instead of bringing you down.

    I hated myself for a very long time, and yet still had friends who liked me and tried to help me develop self-esteem. My friends, however, tried to show me all the things I was good at, all the ways I was loved.

    It (the self-esteem) stil had to come from inside me, as for each thing I was told I was good at, I could show a thousand different ways I wasn’t good at it. My friends, though, tried their best to be loving and help that way.

    Saying things like “nobody likes people who hate themselves” is just throwing oil onto the fires of self-loathing. It’s just one more thing added.

    You said: “But I still don’t buy it, because what if I am a complete failure and not improving at all but rather getting worse?”

    You are still okay, just as you are. Self esteem really doesn’t hinge on how “good” or “bad” you are. If it did, Oprah wouldn’t still be talking negatively about herself.

    Self esteem is about being okay with you. No judgements. No values. No ‘buts’. Just being okay with you.

  6. I am an avid believer in the idea that self-esteem begins from the inside out. For me, this is a spiritual journey, a growth process. We have been so conditioned to conform and there is so much nonsense stuffed into our subconscious by the time we are 7 (not to mention genetic tendencies that you may be unconsciously operating on), that it take compassion, gratitude and patience, at least, to begin to make a significant dent in unraveling all of the limiting beliefs. Yet, nothing is impossible. Self-acceptance and love takes effort, but the return in inner peace, abundance and meaning to life that is gained, is well worth the effort. Everyone, regardless of what you have done, at the core, is significant and valuable. What you do is not the same as what you are made of. Doing is just a reflection of your current level of consciousness. You must know this for yourself however.

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