As an artist (and I include writing under the title artist), I often read books on how to increase my creativity. The book I’m working my way through right now is The Right to Write, An Invitation and Initiation into the Writing Life by Julia Cameron. It’s a new age-y feel good type of book that focuses more on how the reader feels about writing than the correct forms of writing, but it’s a good book for what it is. After all, I know how to write, I know the rules for proper writing and I know when I’m breaking the rules, too.
The exercise I’m working on right now is called “Valuing Our Experience.” It’s pretty simple, actually, but not easy for me. The instructions are to write down fifty things I’m proud of myself for.
Living with my parents, there wasn’t anything in their opinion I could do that I could be proud of. If I did well in school it was expected of me, or the step-father’s biological daughter did so much better. If I tried something like making some art or writing, it was all extremely bad in my parents view. Everything I did was mediocre at best in their eyes.
Even after I went to live with my grandparents, pride in my accomplishments wasn’t really encouraged. For different reasons than my parents had, my grandparents always shot down any attempt I made to feel good about what I’d done. Win a speech contest or make the Dean’s List for grades, it didn’t matter. Even though Grandma would give me positive reinforcement when I excelled at things, if I ever sounded like I was proud of my accomplishments, she would tell me, “Self praise stinks,” or ask if my arm was breaking by trying to pat my own self on the back.
I know that Grandma was trying to teach me humility. However, what she and my parents both taught me was that there wasn’t anything I did that was good enough for me to be proud of myself for. Because of that, trying to come up with fifty things to complete this exercise is difficult, even so many years later.
I realize this exercise is important to me, and so I keep working on it.
I looked up the definition of self esteem at dictionary.com. The website gave this definition:
|1.||a realistic respect for or favorable impression of oneself; self-respect.|
It also lists the synonym of self esteem as pride.
How can I have self esteem if I can’t recognize the things I’m proud of?
I’m still working on my list, but here’s a few highlights:
- Taking 6th place in Humorous Interpretation in a speech competition in High School
- Winning District for the American Legion Oratorical Competiton in my senior year in High School
- Staying in front of the audience after I froze and couldn’t speak at all for 3 minutes at my first American Legion Oratorical Competition in my sophomore year, and not running crying from the auditorium
- Having a story published last year in my local newspaper
- Being an excellent cook
- Teaching myself lace making, weaving, sewing
- Seeking a second opinion from a different doctor and getting my knee fixed
- Committing to the months of physical therapy it took to get my knee back to normal after the surgery
- The way my body gains strength and flexibility easily
- I recycle, and have been recycling since before recycling was cool
That’s ten things, and it was hard to do. I’m still working on the other forty.
What things are you proud of yourself for? Is it easy or hard for you to come up with a list of thing to be proud of in yourself? If you can’t think of fifty things right off the bat, can you think of ten? If not, why do you think that is?
I know pride is considered a bad thing in society. However, I’m finding that appropriate pride really is important to building self esteem.