Monday, February 28, 2011

I think 'self-esteem' gets a bad rap these days. It's been taken too far and somehow became synonymous with 'self-centered' or 'bratty'. Self-esteem is not even close to those things. It's just a sense that you have worth as a human being, as much as anyone else. You like yourself and do the things that are best for you and yours. I am a veteran of the low self-esteem war and let me tell you, if you are lucky enough to have never fought it, thank your lucky stars right now. It sets the course of your life, truly. It's at the heart of every decision you make, every person you bring into your life. It's such a hard thing to explain. When you have low self-esteem it's not conscious, it's just how it is. You see yourself as below others and that's just that. Surely they must be smarter and better than me. Somewhere along the way you've determined that others are worth more than you. Their needs and wants upstage yours because they deserve it and you don't. And you don't even think about it. It I look back at parts of my life with shame for how I allowed myself to be talked to and treated, used and abused. Yes, allowed myself. I am not into victim-blaming, and you can't be a victim without a victimizer, but self-worth would have prevented so much. So much. Hindsight is 20/20, y'all. Me now wants to grab me 20 years ago by the shoulders and shake the shit out of her. Not that it would have done any good. My mother tried. But after years of "get out of my face", "you are worth more than this!" didn't have quite the same ring to it. Also it is hard to take advice on being happy from someone who is unhappy themselves. Now, this is not to demonize my beloved mama, far from it. She did the best she could with what she had, like her mama did, much like I am doing now with my children. With each generation the cycle gets broken a little more and a little more. The better you know the better you do. I am not a big Oprah fan, but I heard this quote on her show and I swear it speaks so many volumes to me. ""A Mother Who Radiates Self-Acceptance Actually Vaccinates Her Daughter Against Low Self-Esteem." Naomi Wolf

What finally did it? Why can I now see so much that I could not see before? Why am I now what people call "strong"? Well, several things. I had daughters, for one. Daughters who were growing up watching their mother be abused and kept under control by violence and coercion. Learning that this is what life is supposed to look like. That's pretty much what kids do. However your house is, that's what life is supposed to look like. I woke up as if from a trance when that heavy mirror came off the wall (that happens when people throw chairs at you and miss) and was inches from piercing my baby's soft spot and ruining her life or killing her. It felt like a literal fog lifted from my eyes. The road stretched out in front of me...years of this. Years of this. How will I survive years of this? There had never seemed to be a choice before. It was my lot in life to be treated this way, I didn't deserve any better. But my children did and that's what made me see that I had to leave. But for years even after that wakeup call and subsequent divorce, I had a long way to go. People used me. A lot. Like the song says, I was looking for love in all the wrong places. "I turned to a stranger, just like a friend." So much drama, so many bad bad people swirled around, like lions on a wounded gazelle. So much fear and hurt and tears.
Then Eric came along. He didn't know what to make of me. Slowly, over years, he worked methodically to build me back up. He nourished me like a newborn, corny as that sounds. With his actions and love and patience and his own high self-esteem he showed me every day that I was worth more than shitty 'friends' who used me and got me in trouble. It's funny to look back on that time in my life. People sure do get mad when you wise up and realize that they are using you and mistreating you. You are all kinds of assholes and uppity-so-and-so's when the jig is up. He helped me to see that I was worth more than minimum wage jobs. I could make CHOICES. Choices!! Choices that bettered my situation and my children's situation. Choices that let my kids see that we aren't limited by our pasts. We can move on and move up, because we are worth it, just by virtue of being human beings.


  1. Good post,one of my favorite expressions is "know your worth". When you know your worth, it radiates from within and touches every aspect of one's life. When they see you can no longer be swayed or manipulated by their crap, the clowns and takers will hit the curb in search of someone else to control. That Eric is a keeper.

  2. He sure is! He is the best person I've ever known, honestly. He's no saint, and he can piss me off to the highest level of pissivity, but he is the only person in the world who knows everything there is to know about me--and still loves me! :)