It’s time for two-cent psychology with Anat!
This time we’ll talk about self esteem. I grew up in a very critical household. I won’t go in to my dramatic back story ’cause it’s not really relevant, but the product of that environment (me) at 15 was a wreck. I had no self-esteem to speak of, and practically no friends. I never really had a lot of friends, but that time I had less than my usual small amount.
Firstly, I believe one of the most important paths to happiness is to truly learn oneself. I believe that leads to happiness more so than many other more difficult achievements. I’m not saying it’s easy, but really, you start off with everything you need.
Why am I saying that understanding oneself is the first step towards happiness? Because confidence is beauty and confidence is strength.
On the physical side out hearts are fleshy bits that wiggle about, but that’s a good way to describe them on a mental/emotional level, too. Our hearts are soft and squishy. To defend them people make all sorts of crazy contraptions. Each of those contraptions costs a lot of energy, so people can never fully protect their hearts.
The squishiest parts are the things we’re not confident about. When I was a little girl people called me short and it hurt my feelings. Thinking about it now I know why it bothered me, this simple fact. It was because I wasn’t confident in myself. So saying any fact about me that I wasn’t confident about would hit me right in the softest, least defended areas of my heart and it would hurt.
Some people build giant moats and just keep their heart to themselves. Some people get large metal plates and nail them to the parts that especially hurt if hit, leaving the naturally tougher parts to fend for themselves. Some people forsake armor entirely and surround their hearts with barbwire, so that any that approach are stung away by harsh words or made up opinions.
I know so many people who prefer the barbwire to learning to communicate. They make up this harsh personality where they insult anyone who doesn’t agree with them, where they pretend that their intelligence alone is a solace for the squishy, bleeding heart in their chest…
I strongly believe that the heart can mostly fend for itself, but for that we need to learn where it’s the weakest and learn to strengthen that part. How do you do that? By knowing who you are.
By understanding your heart and what hurts it and what doesn’t, you can not only armor up any part that you can’t deal with yet (we all have those), but also understand why it hurts. If we have jealousy issues, then we can understand why our heart hurts and not lash out. If we have anger issues over a topic, we can learn to avoid it, at least until we’ve learned enough to heal that part of ourselves.
I used to use my imaginary made-up stories as a shield, because I wasn’t sure if who I was would be liked. So I would present these characters to people first through my writing and my drawing. It was so much easier than exposing my squishy heart to people. I had them guard my soft heart until I studied it enough. After I did I found that I didn’t like who I was. So I changed. Slowly at first, little by little. I wanted to be the type of person who could say “no” to things, so I started. It was really hard at first, but I did. I wanted to be the type of person who said “yes” to scary new opportunities that might fail. I was terrified, but I started saying “yes” when every part of me wanted to say “no”. Slowly by slowly I made myself more closely the person I had in my mind that I wanted to be.
There are things, of course, that I didn’t like and couldn’t change, like the way I look or the way I sound. So VERY slowly I learned to embrace them. You don’t have to change everything, sometimes your perception of it is all that’s needed. I’m still short, but I don’t mind. I’m still the same ol’ face and body, but I’ve learned what would look good on me, and what complements what I have and I learned that I can be beautiful, even just to myself. Feeling beautiful and liking my inner-person made me feel much more confident, and others would see this.
Yes, there are still things in my heart that hurt and cut to the quick, but I learn a little more about them everyday.
What is confidence? It’s talking to people and knowing that most anything that they’ll say won’t hurt me, and that it’s completely ok if they don’t like me. There will always be people that won’t like what I am, who I am, what I look like. If I like me enough, then I can find people who will like me for me. With all my flaws and quirks and dings in my armor.
I’m not saying it’s easy, but the first step is to want to like oneself. Others are drawn to those who like themselves, I think. And even if it means changing your friends after a while, because you no longer like those same people you liked before, because you might find that they stay the same while you’re trying to grow… Let them go. Or better yet, encourage them to grow as well. There are so many people in this world and you only have this one life living as YOU. Let the bad things in your life go and embrace new things and new opportunities. In the end, it’s just you and your heart that’s left to face anything and everything that happens.
I hope this helped anyone out there, and I hope you like who you are. I’ve been down the self-loathing pit and I never ever wish that on anyone. If you don’t like who you are, change yourself to be who you dream of being.