Thursday, January 05, 2006

Self-esteem

Take a look at this handsome fellow.

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Young, tall, slim, tanned, blond, healthy, well-dressed, adequately-funded, smart, funny, and kind, he got a lot of attention from women. It seemed like every time he went somewhere, women would come up and talk to him. This would happen not just at clubs and parties where that was expected behavior, but almost anywhere. At the grocery store, at the veterinarian's with his dog, at the dentist, visiting someone in the hospital, at the gas station, at McDonald's – he was hit on by women in all those places, and others as well. Women all but threw themselves at his feet and begged for his attention.

And he liked women. No pretty gay boy he, in fact he loved women. He loved everything about them. The way they looked, with their array of lovely shapes and their rainbow of beautiful colors. The way they acted, with their infinite variety of personalities, no two alike but each fascinating. The way they felt, the way they smelled, the way they tasted. To him, women were a feast for the senses, for the body, for the mind, for the soul. He loved women.

But.

But he didn't know how to react when women hit on him. In fact, a lot of the time, he didn't even realize that was what was happening. The idea that women were attracted to him was scarcely conceivable to him. Because he thought he was ugly. He thought he was boring. He thought women had no reason to be interested in him.

I know all this because he was me. I was him.

Eventually, I got over those feelings. Mostly. They've never completely gone away. They lurk, somewhere in the depths of my psyche, but I didn't let them stop me from winning the girl everybody wanted. "Two hundred men sitting in that tiny social hall watching her dance. …I didn't speak a word of French, six weeks later she was my wife." Not exactly like that, but close enough. Out of all the men who wanted her, I was the one who took her home, forever.

Self-esteem. What is it?

An internet friend describes how youthful rejection by adults -- by one adult especially -- negatively colored his view of himself and of God for decades.

Self-esteem. Where does it come from?

Another internet friend describes herself in terms that to me seem grandiose and quite literally fantastic. When a man rejects her and turns to another woman, she ascribes his choice to a desire for mediocrity, even though by any measure I'm aware of, the preferred woman seems vastly more accomplished than she.

Self-esteem. Why do some have so much and others so little?

A third internet friend escapes an emotionally abusive relationship and slowly begins to realize that she is not, as her husband has told her for 20 years, ugly and stupid and unlovable, but is in fact smart, cute, fun, and attractive to men. Even over the internet, it's a delight to watch her as she learns this, as she discovers herself again.

Self-esteem. What does it mean? Tonight I have no answers, only questions.

6 comments:

  1. I think self-esteem is being able to see the truth--ugly or beautiful--about ourselves through the lies that we tell ourselves or, most often, that we hear from others or from Satan, whose primary goal is to discourage and disengage us from our goals.

    Self-esteem, I believe, is not an exercise in feeling great about yourself all the time or doing only the things that make us "happy." Self-esteem is self-awareness, and an ability to reflect clearly and honestly on a situation and see our role in it, leading us to an understanding of who we are and how we fit in the world or how we measure up to the criteria that we've established as those by which we will live.

    It's a beast. I struggle so much with it.

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  2. I don't know the answer to what self-esteem is and why some people have it and others don't, but I do know that it can make all the difference in the world in someone's life. In fact, it is amazing to me the affect it can have on people. Yet as important as it is, it is one of the most fragile things on the planet. Why is something so important so delicate?

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  3. It is funny how it doesn't have all that much to do with the input society gives you, huh? I've never had a ton of self-esteem.

    I liked this blog. It sounded like me. Always given attention for my outside, but always baffled on the inside. That's what I meant in my blog about feeling like a very ordinary person on the inside and feeling like a stranger in my own skin, at times. To be treated as special when you don't see yourself that way is uncomfortable.

    I know that as I watch my kids, sometimes it's something we grow into.

    But I think more than a positive self-image, it's important to have a realistic self-image. Delusion keeps us from progressing as much as poor self-esteem.

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  4. I posted a comment and it went away.

    I've never been comfortable in my own skin, either. I think that it's something we grow into, if we let ourselves.

    Confidence is always great, but I think that it isn't what self-esteem is all about. I think they just sometimes affect each other.

    Some of us are born with an esteem of ourselves that isn't accurate. We should esteem ourselves as nothing and have confidence in our potential for anything. I think that the confidence is as tricky as the humility.

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  5. Hi Deleen,
    Thanks for commenting. Sorry about the wait. I have comment moderation turned on, so comments are in limbo until I approve them. I publish them as soon as I see them.

    You all are making me think, so I may have something more to say about self-esteem soon. I have a couple of other things I'm working on first, though.

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  6. I wonder if we had any self-esteem when we were intelligences. Did we have self-esteem in the pre-existence? If we did, then some of us might be born with a low self-esteem. That doesn't seem logical to me since we all chose the right path by coming to this earth.

    I think there are many variables that determine how we feel about ourselves; our personalities, our environment, how we were raised, the people we associate with, our understanding of life, and more things I can't think of right now.

    I do not know why some people have more self-esteem than others. I do know the one thing that reduced my own self-esteem faster than anything else was trying to figure out why other people, especially my siblings, seemed to have more of it than I did. We are each unique and really cannot be compared to each other. It's a good thing because I don't think I would want anyone to be like me.(Is that my self-esteem showing?).

    Julia

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