A few years ago, my now 11-year-old daughter received an iTouch as a gift and quickly mastered the art of e-mailing and texting, with me being a favorite recipient, mainly because there were so many restrictions her Dad and I placed on her about with whom she could communicate. When we exchanged those first few electronic forms of communication, I noticed something that piqued my curiosity.
At the end of every communication, right below her first name was the phrase, “I am awesome!”. After a few exchanges, I asked her why she kept repeating that phrase in every text and e-mail, as I was well aware of how truly awesome she is and didn’t need to be reminded. She giggled and explained that “I am awesome!” is part of her electronic signature, and when I asked her why she chose to include that, she stated very matter-of-factly, “Because I really am awesome.”
Lest you think she is a braggart or a conceited little girl, she is anything but either one of those things. She always has been one of the smallest in stature in her class, and although she recently has started to come into her own and become more outgoing, she used to be rather shy and quiet. Yet, she always has had such a strong sense of self and truly likes who she is. Several years ago, she was doing an assignment for school that posed the question, “Who is your best friend?” She always has had a lot of friends and gotten along very well with everyone, and she never has limited herself to one person whom she regards as her best friend. So, I was curious to see her answer and was not prepared for what she wrote. She answered the question with, “myself”, and when I asked her why she listed herself, she said, “Because I love myself”. Again, it is not said to brag or because she thinks that she is better than anyone; she just genuinely likes who she is and embraces all of the unique qualities and characteristics that make her so very extraordinary.
So, if my 11-year-old daughter can love herself, what happens to so many of us as adults that we cannot see in our own selves what she sees in herself? I pose this question, for I have struggled with self-worth over the years, and in the past few days, I have shed tears after reading messages from several of the most caring, beautiful, loving, and strong women I am fortunate enough to call my friends who see themselves as anything but awesome. Others see how truly incredible they each are in their own right, yet they do not and cannot see or accept that about themselves.
It is curious to me that so many of us want and need someone or something outside of ourselves to validate who and what we are, whether it be through a friendship, an intimate relationship, a career, etc., yet we are the first to disagree when someone compliments us, praises us, or challenges our self-defeating attitude and negative self-talk. We place so much importance on being valued by others that when others hurt us or disappoint us, we automatically feel unloveable, rejected, or damaged. We lose sight of who we are by seeing ourselves through either someone else’s eyes or by being blind to our own goodness and light. We are our own worst enemy, when we need to be like my oldest daughter and be our own best friend.
I have always disliked the cliché, “You have to love yourself before anyone else can love you”, probably because it is true, and the truth, as you know, can hurt. However, after several chats with dear and trusted friends recently, I have had to surrender to this notion and embrace it, as it is true. If we do not love and accept who and what we are, why would we think anyone else would love and accept us unconditionally?
If we look back on our lives, my guess is that we can pinpoint precisely why we do not love ourselves fully. Perhaps, we were neglected or abused by our parents, bullied at school, involved in an abusive relationship, ridiculed by a teacher or an employer, or a host of other self-esteem deflating situations, all of which are real and valid. That said, I know from personal and professional experiences that why it can be helpful to know where a problem began, it is more important to focus on dealing with the problem in the present to make positive changes for a better today and a brighter tomorrow. We can’t change what has already happened, but we can learn from the past and then change our own thoughts, actions, words, and feelings. This may be easier said than done, but the bottom line is, it must be done.
Reading the words of my friends who are in a lot of emotional pain right now, coupled with my most recent anxiety attacks that triggered a wave of self-doubt and negativity, touched off something inside of me that led to this blog. If you are old enough to remember the film, “Network”, this next part is my written version of the “I’m mad as hell and not going to take it any more!” scene. I am mad as hell that we pin our hopes, dreams, self-worth, and value on anyone and everyone, except ourselves and that we so readily give away our dignity, self-respect, love, energy, and time like cheap candy on Halloween. What would happen if we treated ourselves as lovingly as we do our family and friends? What would happen if we complimented and praised ourselves as much as we do our loved ones? What would happen if we encouraged, forgave, cared for, and respected ourselves as much as we do others whom we hold in high esteem? What would happen if we spoke to ourselves with positive words usually saved for people we want to try to impress? What would happen if we took back our abdicated power and chose to be happy? I really do want to see what would happen, because it has to be better than believing we are anything less than awesome and settling for less than we deserve.
As I wrap this up, let me be perfectly clear about one thing that should be obvious if you read this blog. I am perfectly flawed, so, I am NOT trying to pass myself off as a fully evolved, put together person who exudes self-confidence. I empathize with my friends who have reached out to me in their own turmoil, as their words, thoughts, and feelings are ones that I have had myself. That said, I have had enough “light bulb” moments lately to light up Broadway, and I am making an intentional effort to practice what I preach, which is harder than dispensing advice to, and being a cheerleader for, others. I am definitely a work in progress, so, please, pardon the mess while construction is under way.
That’s another story . . .
Categories: That's Another Story