Monday, February 13, 2012

Self-Esteem: How Low Can You Go?

Barbara: I met the most lovely young woman the other night. She was stunningly beautiful, but in such a natural way it seemed she never even thought about it: no makeup, long loose hair down to her butt, and comfortable, simple, and as a result sexy clothes and jewelry. But also all the fixings of a real beauty: excellent bone structure, perfect olive skin, and bright intelligent eyes. You coulda knocked me over with a sable makeup brush when she announced a few glasses of wine into the evening that she suffered terribly from low self-esteem.

And as the rest of us women also began to consider self-esteem that night it became clear—and maybe obvious—that this seems to be a universal issue for we women of the first world problems. But why? I know I ask “why” a lot—I’m like that annoying 3-year-old kid who’s just learned the word. But again, it just niggles, doesn’t it? Whhhhhyyyyy?

Okay, so why does it matter that there are more beautiful women out there, thinner ones, or smarter ones? Why do we need to measure ourselves against them—and when we do, why do we consider the comparatives as “shortcomings” and not “differences”? When I was younger, I was always drawn to bitches—and why? Because they made me feel absolutely sure of my place as someone dumber, less sophisticated, and less capable. And mostly because I deemed it so, not because that’s what they out-and-out said to me. Did that sense of my being less-than invade my every waking moment? Not consciously, but I know it manifested in all kinds of ways. I always used to worry that my husband would find someone more attractive and then leave me, devastating my very being. It never occurred to me that if our marriage were to end, it would be because we’d fallen out of love and couldn’t find our way back, and not because of some random, slight, and natural observation that there were, oh my god, yes, some women prettier and smarter than I (again, those bitches I was “attracted to” were also the ones I was most sure would be my marriage-nemeses: naturally Phil would leave me for the opposite of me, right? Naturally I would want them in my life.).
Image (yup, that's me) by Michele.
The thing is, we don’t make our problems better by sassing ourselves and preparing for the worst (i.e.: loss of love). No, that’s how we make our problems. That’s right. We. Make. Our. Problems.

That beauty I met the other night, her self-esteem issues attracted the worst kinds of assholes. And I’m gonna guess that if she were lucky enough to meet Mr. Right, she might actually drive him away by being more wrapped up in how “horrible” she is than in how wonderful he is. I wanted to take her in my arms and tell her how amazing she is and how much she deserves the very best (okay, I did tell her all that, short of taking her in my arms). But the truth is, she is surrounded by numerous people who trumpet her wondrousness. She’s not one of those people who’s alone with no one to love her. But it didn't seem to make a difference to her love of self. In other words, despite every apparent gift and advantage, there are still some issues that have such insidious power … they manage to trump all else.

Hello, low self-esteem. Now fuck off.

I want us to fight back. I want us to tell ourselves how amazing we are. I mean, what have we got to lose? That would be one (more) voice on the planet that’s got it right. And don’t worry about getting all hoity on conceit—conceit has its roots in other problems, namely lack of compassion and dearth of awareness. No, no, self-love is something beautiful and generous and expansive. It swells up your heart and gives it more space to love other people.

I begged that young woman to tell herself every morning how amazing she is until she maybe finally believed it, and suddenly one of our fellow diners shared her story with us: in order to land her dream job, she spent every morning looking at her reflection in the mirror and telling herself she was great and smart and the best one for the job. And you know what? She felt so relaxed and confident by the time she got to her interview that she nailed it. And you know what else? Cutest, sweetest, least conceited person I ever met.

By not looking into that distorted mirror anymore, we free ourselves up to really look outward and see the wonderful world.

Deb: Beautifully said, Barb. This subject continues to amaze and shock me. Not only from the point of view of my own insecurities, but from those whom I deem wonderful and “worthy” of self-love.

Lately when I let thoughts of self-doubt and insecurity take up space in my brain, I say out loud, “Enough. Stop this, poison thought. Get out of my head.” If I do not say it out loud, for some reason it looms large in my psyche all day. So I totally get why the cute sweet gal did that. It works! And some days/weeks I don’t say it once and some days I say it ten times. I think my brain is shocked when I say it and it lays off.

My biggest surprise of late, much like the beautiful insecure stranger you met, was when I read Diane Keaton’s book. Oh my God, she is so insecure. I mean, soooooo insecure. And I thought, Really? YOU are Diane Friggin Keaton! But then I thought, “Yeah, but we see her from the outside and she sees herself from the in.”


Barbara: And here's another look at one of the best expressions of confident self-nurturing. Which, with its amazing spirit, made us all stop and watch and cheer.


78 comments:

  1. Wow. Interesting post. Thought provoking indeed. I love this video, I've seen it before.

    Self-esteem and self-love are so crucial for happiness and peace. For me, I feel the best about myself when I have the courage to speak up, whether it be in class or when I'm in a group of new people. This past week was absolutely fantastic for me and my self-esteem really went up thanks to some new friends that I made. They really showed an interest in that really touched me.

    I am almost always the quiet chick in the back listening and observing, but sometimes I do get up and say something. I try to make my words count because, as a very shy person (can you tell?) my words are few and far between.

    One of my best friends since childhood is my total opposite. She is the loud, proud, center of attention kind of person, which is fine with me. She can bring me out of my quiet space and I can bring her down to a bit quieter when needed. We balance each other out.

    Self-esteem and self-love...seems harder to have than most things in life. Work in progress...

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    1. Actually it's very hard to tell that you're shy from your posts -- I guess having a forum like this allows our voices to come through clearly, instead of all muffled by our insecurities. I think being able to speak out -- speak your truth -- is absolutely the crux of making that shift. It's like publicly owning your ideas and thoughts. So important. That said, it's hard not to attach to the response that might come with that honesty -- and if the response doesn't match up with your expectations, it can so easily pull you back down. It's like we have to own our truth without also expecting others to, ya know??? And that's what people really respond to anyway.

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    2. I totally agree with speaking out. I sometimes get those looks of "did she really just say that? She's smart? She's funny? She was listening?"
      Yeah, I'm very shy. "Talking" here is easier than in person. I am one of those people that worries about what I'm going to say, so I tend to say very little. If I can start a conversation with someone about a book or movie or whatever, something we have in common, then I'm okay. I just have a hard time getting the conversation going. I have never liked to be the center of attention. I never craved the spotlight. I avoid most of the time. I actually refused to give a speech at my senior honors day in high school (I was salutatorian) because I was too nervous. The speech wasn't anything serious though, just something about the next graduating class following in our footsteps. I regret it a little (partly because the student that ended up doing it was...not the best person for the job, shall we say?!).
      I don't know...shy is how people see me. I'm friendly, I'm funny(ish), I'm smarter than the average bear (I hope)... Just not the loud, attention-seeking sort. I am happy sitting on my own reading Shakespeare rather than talking to a group of people about the new sequel to such and such movie series. Actually, it is often easier for me to talk to my professors than with my peers because they get it, they like talking about Shakespeare or Austen or whoever. I have had teachers that never seem to learn my name because I don't speak out in class. As long as I get the grade I deserve. I don't really care if they know my name or not. In some of my classes, especially English, I do speak out because it is something that I care about, something I know about.

      I would rather be shy than be too outspoken, I think. I wouldn't want to hurt people's feelings or anything, which is sometimes the case with the extremely outspoken. Maybe I care too much about people. I don't know...I want everyone to be happy, which I know I cannot make them all happy, but hey, I try!
      I only answer questions in class if I am 110% sure I know the right answer. I don't want to be wrong. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well (in colleg, in life) and I have a hard time taking the pressure away.

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  2. What a great post Barb, such an interesting subject that everyone can relate to in one way or another. Have your ever whispered your name and followed it by saying I love you....it is very striking...I read it it a book once and had everyone do it at a dinner party and their reactions were so interesting.

    I love that little video (a great way to start the day) If we could just learn to constantly build ourselves up. We are, really, our own worst enemies. People generally think more highly of us than we ever do. A good thing to remember. That's a good Example with Diane Keaton. I was always the extremely shy girl growing up, never spoke....yet somehow you have to get past that and move forward in a positive way. Now, I am in sales, and people would not guess how shy I am and how I fight that inner voice that can make me silent or bring me down. I have to keep one step ahead of it and surround myself with positives. Seeing that little girl with the blonde curls hurling herself through the day on a positive note is a good start!!! Thanks

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    1. Oooh, great suggestion, Mary Jo. I actually felt quite weird saying it ... and then it felt really good (but almost in a clandestine way). I think I have some homework to do! I only know you from the blog, but again, am surprised to heat there was ever shyness issues. But also great to have it reaffirmed that we can triumph over it. Thanks!

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  3. Oh My god....Its like ONE MIND !!!!!! Barb...you framed this topic in the perfect words...this is exactly how I feel about low self esteem.....I mean you know my stories right? Ive been in the low self esteem phase....and Man it doesnt not feel good...I mean seriously... You know why these people always attract assholes....because they dont think they deserve the good ones...!!! They dont think of them as capable and unique.....!!! I think every person is unique....the moment you start loving yourself..the world corresponds and comes together to love you..!!!! you meet the perfect people in perfect timing..Hell I met you gals...(LOVE YOU) !! And there is no difference in loving or BEING LOVED.....they feel the same....it all comes from within....and the reason this low self esteem feels bad is because we KNOW we wanna love ourselves but the comparison trips us off....I mean c'mon ! You are right you cant compare yourself to someone else.....you live completely different lives...they have nothing to do with you......I really wanna say this to anyone who has low self esteem.....DROP IT..I know its hard...but try it...try to look in the mirror...in your own eyes and open up your hearts...and LOVE.... you deserve love.....self love.....you start loving yourself...and see how the world around you changes.....its amazing....you are unique...you are a wonderful human being and you deserve everything you desire...And I am here to tell you...you can get it....BELIEVE in yourself.....things always get better....I BELIEVE IN YOU......AND LOVE YOU....coz YOU ARE PERFECT !

    And Deb heres a little tip....when insecurities start crawling up in your head.....try to tell yourself you'll get over them soon....they wont harass you after a while.....coz It happened to me...when I would shout "NO" at them....theyd come in faster....:P...I started giving myself a break saying "big deal....I'll be fine" and they just went away...and never came back...I guess we take our mistakes too seriously sometimes....we gotta start to forgive ourselves...and not wait for someone else to forgive us..because we know what we've lived...and we ARE gonna live with ourselves forever..thats for sure :P

    And the pix Bravo Michele.....and Barb you look gorgeous ;) ! And the video...AMAZING...I'd do that but I dont wanna scare my mom ! lol

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    1. Your least sentence made me laugh out loud, Shalaka! I think your mom would too :) Thanks for the awesome affirmation here -- you have an uncanny knack for shining a bright huge spotlight of love wherever you look. But your words are also deeply positive and helpful. Love love love!

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    2. Well you cheered me up, thanks for the pep talk.

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    3. Awwwwh no problem Erin I am happy to cheer you up........lemme know when you feel low....I'll start blabbering my pep talk ...lol love xoxo

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  4. lol...dont think I havent tried that.....I just forgot I was TOO TALL to do that....Owww...lol

    You bring out the best in me my Love !!!!! I am because of the people that I love....and who love me !!!!!!! Its so cool...I had an impulse to check for replies (and also to check if anyone is pissed off by my pep talk :D)....and you DID ! Love ya xoxo

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    1. Aha -- but here's the biggest tweak: if people were "pissed" by your pep talk, it doesn't matter, right? You stayed true to your truth, to who YOU are in this moment -- and did so in a loving and kind way. That's the beauty. xoxo

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    2. Shalaka, your response to this response showed up in my email, but not on the blog -- I hate when that happens. Let me just say, "No YOU'RE the best!!!" :) (we could go on all day, right?)

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  5. Lol yeah....its probably my internet connection I am browsing from my cell now lol....important part you got the response.....and No you're the best..lol lets stop now...(or we can continue it on the fb talks lol :-D)

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  6. I am just finishing Diane Keaton's book and I was so surprised by just how insecure she is. OMG Diane is unbelievably insecure and I guess that is why her work is so amazing and also why her roles show insecurity. I find the book so hard to read and want to just shake her to see her insides differently. I have been insecure until my late 40's when I decided it was not worth being anymore. I, too, saw myself from the inside and finally decided to look at myself from the outside and I was amazing. It took until my 60's when I realized it was okay to say no and to not be liked. A very wise woman (when I was having an issue with supposed friends) taught me to just say fuck it. It is their issue and no longer is mine and they can think what they want but I know the truth. It stuck. Great blog today Barb.

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    1. Question is: do I want to read this book? Man, I love her, but this might kill me! Thanks, Madge. The good news is that we can grow out of this terrible affliction -- if we work on it.

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    2. She has not grown out of it as the book ends. :)

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  7. Have had a few struggles in this department, mostly academic. I've always had this mindset of I am who I am and screw what everyone else thinks. It's my academic self-esteem that hits highs and lows.

    I struggled a lot growing up. I was often told I was "not good enough" (not by my parents) and had problems with test-taking....heck, I still do. My parents were told by a school psychologist I would probably never graduate from high school or make it through college.

    Even here at college I've struggled. When I turn in work I think is really awesome and get it back and it's just...ok. The sea of red pukes all over it; that's an esteem killer. Sometimes I get down about my academic performances and wish I could have done better, studied more, so it goes. Luckily I have wonderful people who snap me out of it and an amazing God I pray to often!

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    1. AND ALL DA BEREA COLLEGE STUDENTS SAID AMEN!

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    2. Yeah, that's the other side of the self-esteem issue -- it's hard to shrug your shoulders at "negative feedback", and yet I still think your academic standing is what it is: it means you're on your way in the direction that's right for you. A "glorious" challenge, as it were!

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    3. just remember Kelly someones opinion of does not have to be your reality . i learnt that lesson the hard way myself .

      no one on this earth is perfect . you got further in education then i did . i never went to college . you should be proud of yourself for that .

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    4. made a mistake with the first line of my comment this is what it should have said: someones opinion of you does not have to be your reality

      that sentence has given me great comfort when people have slagged me off .

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    5. I can totally relate. Although I never think my work is good enough. My mom and grandmother have always been supportive and never put any extra pressure on me, which I think is why I did pretty well in school and am still doing well now in college.

      Just a little advice: if you think you did well on an assignment and then you get it back and the grade is lower than expected, go talk to the professor about it if you can. Sometimes they make mistakes. I had this issue last semester with one of my professors who gave me the lowest grade I have ever received on a paper before. I went to talk to her after class so she could clarify what was wrong with it (or rather, what SHE thought was wrong with it). Before talking to her I also had another professor look over the paper and give me feedback and that professor said that the mistakes that were marked were ridiculous. So, when I was talking to the professor that gave me the low grade I pointed out the facts: I wrote what SHE asked for. That grade did not get changed, however I got a perfect score on my next paper, which I believe was to make up for HER mistake. (my major is in English, which I also informed her of during our meeting. She totally changed the way she spoke to me once she found out that I did, in fact, know a bit about reading a text and writing about it).

      I always doubt myself when it comes to academics, but then again I usually don't do as badly as I thought that I would.

      Best of luck!

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    6. Please do not misunderstand me. I am VERY PROUD that I am in college and am making it!!! And the opinions of others not mattering; every day they bother me less and less. But it has taken YEARS for me to achieve where I am today. And I'm thankful. "someone's opinion of you does not have to be your reality." Thanks Linda!!! :] I have a lot of people I know that need to hear that. Myself included at times

      Sometimes I think I did crappy but then I end up doing better than I thought!! (today was an example of that!)

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  8. I guess, people with high self-esteem have some sort of balance between their outer appearance and their inner beauty.
    I really admire these people, because I don't have much self-esteem, either.

    I don't know why that happened...

    When I was a kid, I was self-confident. I was popular. Heeey, everybody loved me!
    That started to change, and soon I found out that there are people, who are "better", who are chosen over me.

    But then again, I didn't really care. When I look at older pictures, I can't believe it...I wore the things I liked (and although people laughed at me, I didn't care. I couldn't see what was wrong), did the things I liked, was happy.

    Later, I lost that innocence and strength.
    I realized that people didn't "like" me the way I am.
    Whereas my friends talked to other guys, I was usually ignored.
    People laughed at me, because my teeth weren't perfect, and I had to wear braces.
    People laughed at me, because I didn't look like a model in my bathing suit.
    People laughed at me, when I did sports (my teacher told me, after I finished a race: Wow, I didn't think you could run that fast.).
    I was rejected, betrayed, and thrown away, as if I were nothing.
    See what I mean?
    I was treated like shit...I didn't act as if it bothered me (I didn't cry, or hurt myself, or whatever), but I guess it did bother me...

    I began to hide behind my friends. I became very insecure.
    Now, I am very shy and quiet.

    I always fear that people will judge me (because most of the people I know just like to make fun out of me). I always think people don't like me.

    And I guess, the more time I spend telling myself that I am worthless, the more it shows on my appearance.

    I told my Mum that I think the other students don't like me, and she said to me: The nex time, you see them, just say Hello.

    It took a lot of effort, but I did it. And it's nice, when they actually talk to you.
    It's not that I found friends, but at least it makes me feel a little bit accepted.

    And another thing (might sound weird...but hey, I am weird :D).
    I never used much Make-Up. I never thought about that, because - as you know - I didn't care about how I looked.

    But some time ago, I started to buy things, to take care of mysself. And that's important, too.
    You have to find yourself pretty. You have to love yourself.

    I took some pictures of myself, because I felt like looking pretty.
    And I really like them.

    http://img39.imageshack.us/img39/9897/feb20121.jpg

    http://img593.imageshack.us/img593/6138/feb20122.jpg


    I don't think I will change that fast. Maybe I will never change.
    But at least I can try to improve myself. And fight back. :)

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    1. Love your smile and radiance in the sunshine of the window.

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    2. While it was hard to read about your journey from self-love and acceptance to low self-esteem, I get the feeling you're back on track (as hard as it is!). Becki, those pics of you are SOOOO lovely. And the energy coming off them is soooo positive, I think the sound of those naysayers and bullies will fade away in due time. Thank you so much for sharing your story -- and much much love and good wishes in your continuing journey.

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    3. Becki loved your pix !!!!! light shining on your face....and eyes sparkling....beautiful !! xo

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    4. Becky, you are correct...you are not pretty...YOU ARE GORGEOUS....had to click the link a couple of times because I couldn't accept the beauty in the pictures could possibly entertain the notion that she was anything but...Here's a tip for you which might help you claim your rightful place in the grand scheme...Begin to talk to everyone who's path you cross...Just initiate a conversation...Mention the weather to the lady holds the door for you...Ask the cashier if the store is busy today while waiting to pay for your groceries. Compliment the perfect stranger on her new haircut when you are at the hairdressers...Try it for a while and you'll see, people will invariably respond in kind...you'll begin to make connections and feel connected. And really that's all its about...making connections as you navigate the day. Little one's will lead to bigger ones...bigger ones will lead to magical ones...Wishing you lots of magic!

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    5. Oh, wow, Annette! Best exercise ever!! Yes, Becki, do that. That will show you how subtly things can and will shift. You can't help but notice how people light up -- maybe not everyone, but truly most people are interested in engaging. Thanks, Annette! Genius.

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    6. It's scary but I am going to try your advice garedican. I love your positive spirit and encouragement!! Just what the doctor ordered : )

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    7. I think you look beautiful, and happy. For me happy is the more important quality.

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    8. You are lovely, Becki! Don't ever doubt, girl!

      A little advice from someone who is extremely shy: Smile. Not a joke. Just smile. Smile at anyone and everyone that you see, whether they are standing next to you or across the grocery store, smile. It may sound silly but this is a bit of advice that I got from my grandmother years ago and I tried it and it works. If staring a conversation with a complete stranger is scary for you (it is for me!), then a smile will work. Smiles are contageous and even if the other person doesn't smile back, so what? I promise that someone will smile back (I'm smiling now).

      One other little side note: Anyone ever have someone just rudely stare at you and make you uncomfortable when your eating or shopping or whatever? Well, as I was taught by my grandmother, the best thing to do is smile and wave at them. They will either smile back, look confused, turn and run, or any combination thereof.

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    9. Thank you so much for your kind words.
      You always cheer me up!

      Smiling is some sort of a magic key, I guess. :)

      I'll try that. I own a T-shirt which says: "Did you already smile today?"

      Maybe that should become my slogan.

      Talking to strangers is not the thing I love to do...
      But...it's weird, because a lot of people tend to speak to me...like ask for directions or the time, or if I could explain something...so there must be something about me, right? ;)

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  9. Thought provoking stuff ladies...and all the more so for me as I don't believe I've ever been troubled by this kind of ongoing self-doubt. For all the episodes where I have thought I've lost my way and judged myself harshly, generally I'm more of a "You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here." type of gal. But it's not hard to see why this blog would strike a chord with many, if not most, females as I think that we, women, are under so much pressure from so many sources to measure up to some mythical bar that it's the rarity for women to just declare, "This is me!" with any sort of real conviction. Scratch the surface and often you'll find terrible doubts lurking in the place that should be celebrating wonderful talents.
    Last night I was watching the Grammy's and as I was considering the glorious, magnificently talented, dazzling Adele, I mused about Karl Lagerfeld's much-reported criticism of her weight which appeared earlier in the week. Seriously, could any thinking human being look at that perfect woman, much less hear her sing, and fixate on some perceived flaw? And yet, there must be many that would as the item was featured in countless newspapers. (An aside, did any one get a good look at Karl-baby before running with his comments? Just askin'? Should the headlines not have read, "Freakish looking old guy spews nonsense!") Anyway, point being, the pressure is everywhere and insidious and while not, by any stretch, restricted to having to look a certain way, I do believe it informs a good deal of how a lot of us see and relate to ourselves.
    When my daughter was born, the circumstances of her birth were quite dramatic...touch and go for both of us...and I could see very early on that she was here because she was meant to be. From her earliest days she claimed her space. So I made her promise that I wouldn't do that that we do to girls...I wouldn't rein her in rather I would step aside and let her find her way. Don't get me wrong...I'm a fanatic for good manners, worked to instill compassion, insisted on respect for the important...but for the most part, I've let her lead. It wasn't always easy. I really became aware of how we subtly shape female behavior and how we are always judging it and surprisingly, how sexist some of my own views were. Not so surprisingly as she's always had a core belief in her self and her very "rightness' if that's the correct word, at 19 she gets up every day armed with an anticipation of what great thing is going to happen today. She doesn't waste a second wondering if she's going to measure up, she just tells the universe, "Bring it on!". It makes my heart sing...And just so I'm not accused of any conceit, I take no credit for her confidence beyond having stood as buffer, when required, between her and the expectations society would and does saddle us with daily. I feel for women who's inner voice betrays them thus and would share a bit of wisdom that deeply impacted me...


    "You don't have to be pretty. You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked "female". ~Diana Vreeland

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    1. I so admire this, Annette: your attitude to your daughter's personal growth and your own grasp of the delicate thing that is our self-awareness. I too embraced the whole let-the-girls-do-what-they-will, and they turned out amazingly comfortable in their skin -- but sadly, thanks to (to your point) all the images out there and pressure, it's not always so cut and dried. I keep hoping that if we keep talking about this, if we support each other, if we always stick to our truth and don't let others' opinions hold us down, then in the end, we will get to that place of self-love and peace and balance. PS LOVE the DV quote. Just perfect.

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  10. Ugggghhhh....here we go, ok:

    The whole self-esteem thing? Been there, done that, gave it up, it came back, now-and-then-it-still-comes-back-to-bite-me-in-the-&^%$#$%^&^%R$^

    This might sound EXTREMELY petty, but a crystal-clear example of self-esteem cruddiness happened to me in high school. My now ex-boyfriend had just broken up with me (over a MySpace message, not joking) and of course, I was feeling awful. Not even A WEEK later and he was hanging all over the girl from school who had...*a-hem*...a reputation, let's just put it that way. And she was pretty. Like I said, had a reputation, but I will give her credit in that she was very pretty.

    I felt AWFUL about myself...oh gosh, I'm not pretty enough, I haven't slept around enough, I haven't done this and that and XYZ! This went on for too long, but, eventually, I came to love myself. And I still do now.

    Like my sister said, academics can sometimes drag me down. After getting back a particularly ridiculous test, it's REALLY discouraging to see a sea of A's and B's around you and you've received a D. Has happened to me way more times than I care to admit. It sucks! I'm still working on trying to see myself better after situations like that, but it's hard. It's really, really hard, especially when your GPA takes a beating and you have to reconsider future plans.

    Ok, now that I've written a novel, I think YOU ALL are awesome! :)

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    1. Argh, Holly, breakup ickiness. And yet obviously a relationship that was not meant to be -- for your greater good. So much more common to blame the end of a relationship on someone else's "better looks" than to go "Nope, that one obviously wasn't worth my time/love." Thanks for the "novel", a gripping read!

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    2. And, of course, you are AWESOME!!! xo

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  11. Oh boy…what a topic…. I think the whole idea of self-esteem is foreign to me. I am way too shy and often too different to be confident in myself in any given situation. I have found it’s easier to write rather than speak so I guess I have a little confidence there. Plus you all are so kind and positive here, which helps tons : ).
    I have always considered myself to have a dreadful social life, and I have just never considered myself pretty so I often fall back on my smarts. I have confidence in my intellect but only because I have proof. I can’t have graduated with a 4.0 and not be smart right? But the social aspect of life beats me every time. I struggle to try and keep any confidence about myself when the people and world around me keep working against me.
    But that’s where you all come into the picture again. Always here ready to lift up each and every one of us here. An online family full of love and encouragement! <3

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    1. Kelly, take a look at garedican's response to Becki (points up) -- I think she gives us an amazing and simple way out of the HABIT of feeling invisible. Being smart is a wonderful asset (and as you can see from many of the comments, for some people this is an issue too) If you can, try not to think of people "working against you" -- this always self-actualizes. Think of them not being a good fit for you. If you keep working on your confidence, more and more people will be attracted to you and surely from there, you'll find your true pepes. As I said, if you can stay away from obsessing about how "horrible" you are, the world will open up again. But you are a great writer and so obviously have lots to say (that people will want to hear -- like here!). xo

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    2. ahhh : ) you guys never fail to bring a smile to my face. Thank you : ) <3

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  12. Oh lordie. Can open, worms everywhere!

    My grandmother told me my brother should have been born first, because boys were supposed to be the older ones.

    My grades in school were perfect until freshman year in high school. I got a B+ in biology. On parents' conference night, my mother went to see the teacher and asked what I could do to bring it up to an A.

    In college, I didn't drink, and saw it as a flaw in myself, as though that was why I remained basically friendless. There is one woman (woman! she's my age, but I still think of myself as a girl), who sends me a Christmas card every year, and I still can't figure out why.

    I was working full-time, bringing in the only paycheck, while my husband was a full-time dad. He's never stopped criticizing my parental skills, and threatened to "rake me over the coals" if I fought for custody when we split up. My daughter's 17 now, and I've yet to do anything right by her, according to him. (The supreme jackass is wrong in that regard, and he can go fuck himself as many ways as possible.)

    Why do Colin and his co-workers CARE? I'm a virtual stranger. There's nothing in it for them. I needed more psych help than I ever knew about. I was pathetic. And they CARED. They didn't, and haven't, run. On the contrary, they've embraced me, literally. That continues to blow my mind, and I think it always will.

    When I was in my therapy group and was having a particularly rough day, one of the counselors would sit with me in an office and the first thing they'd ask me is, "name something you do well." It took a few of these sessions to start acknowledging that I'm a good writer and I'm funny. I'm loyal and determined and not afraid to go anywhere on my own.

    It really is hard to believe other people when they point out all the good things they see. (Accepting any positive comments about my mothering took a particularly long time, but now my daughter calls me to ask for advice, usually about her "friend who's a boy." I'm divorced twice, and she's asking ME. LOL But I don't judge or criticize, I just let her talk and try to give advice or put a different spin on it in her head. Her father and step-mother are too judgmental, and she gathers herself, steels herself for what may come, before going into the house. It's not abusive, it's just not helpful or encouraging.)

    Are we taught not to draw attention to ourselves? I think so. I also think it's because it's always been thought that we'd be drawing NEGATIVE attention. Bad things would happen if the wrong person paid attention. It never occurred to the people who told us not to draw attention to ourselves that there is such a thing as GOOD attention, that not everyone's out to hurt you.

    (Btw, this is exactly what my ex thinks will happen to my daughter, because ALL guys think with only one brain, and it isn't in their head.)

    There are a lot of things I don't let bother me, like having people looking at me, or hearing me. (My mother's always trying to hush me. "Ma, I'm 44 years old. You should know me by now.") I fear very little, and what people think of me doesn't matter much. The exception is what Colin and the guys think, because I don't want them to think I'm crazy in the wrong way, or just plain dangerous. That's when I try (TRY, that is) to edit myself. I don't always know what's "too much," and this is the one area I don't want to damage.

    The rest of the world can see a loud, boisterous woman who really doesn't appear to give a shit. Inside, I do, but the inner voice is starting to say, "Know what? It's okay to be who you are."

    Someday, I'll believe that.

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    1. Dawn, the way you impress me with your journey -- and I'm sure the boys are responding to all these -- is that a) you're working to get yourself better, b) you're not holding them accountable, and c) you just ooze positive energy (how you manage to do this is amazing) and this is the best positive-energy magnet there is. It's so great you can look past the traumas inflicted on you by judgmental eejits and stay true to your own truth. You're AMAZING and I hope and wish you'll be secure in that knowledge one day.

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    2. Totally awesome and perfectly okay to be yourself, is my description of you : ). And I have got to say, I LOVE your opening line. I agree that is exactly what I was thinking when I first read this post origionally...can of worms everywhere! I just couldn't come up with a fun way to put it into words like you did : )

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    3. I have to say, it's a lot easier to try and bring someone else's spirits up, to tell them about how many awesome things they do and are, because it's objective. That's just the way it is. It's tough to turn that mirror inward, because we are our own worst judge. The more people tell you something, and the more you tell yourself, the easier it is to believe. I was told to try that "Look in the mirror" thing, and all I could say was, "bullshit." But that doesn't mean I'm WRONG, necessarily. That's just not what works for me. But I can look at my first response to this subject and say, "Yeah, I like the way that came out. It was a quick, easy, natural write, and I'm good."
      Find what you are comfortable telling yourself, and work from there.

      Barb and Kelly, thanks so much. That's the sort of thing that works on my ego just fine. :)

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    4. Yup, totally get this (quoted you down there *points down a few*)

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  13. It has been interesting to read all of this. I've always struggled with self-esteem. I still do. I'm an average person, if that. Long ago, when I was in high school, I was curvy and didn't realize how pretty I was at the time because I had a stick thin sister (she still is). My siblings were always voted for most talented, most witty, most handsome and such and I couldn't even get a date to a stupid dance! The guy I finally worked up the nerve to ask out turned me down.

    Somehow I got my dear husband, but I'm no longer thin and curvy. I'm over-weight. I think he sticks with me because he said he would. I can't understand why else he'd stay. For 13 years I've done nothing but stay at home and take care of the kids. I'm not sure how great I am at that even. The kids are pretty good, but that's because they just are. It's not me. I can't keep a clean house, although I try, but I've given up on that mostly. I can't compete against five kids, with my youngest being something of a tornado. I have no skills. Everything I try is either mediocre or it fails. I have such great ideas and can't seem to make any of them work out successfully. We just moved and I have no friends now where I live. But who would want to be friends with me? I'm overweight and everyone else is thin. I'm just going to move again in a year or three. Why waste your time on me?

    Yeah, this is something I struggle with everyday and right now I'm losing. Sorry about all that. I'd better go. The kids just got home from school and it's homework and dinner fixing time.

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    1. oh Molly please take a minute to see the wonderful family life you have created : ) I completely understand your struggle with making friends. Most of the time I would rather be alone than bother to try and make friends too. But never forget the wonderful things you have surrounding you. I guarantee your kids would be totally lost without you. You are an essential and wonderful person : )

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    2. Molly, you weren't ONCE pretty -- you are beautiful. Being a mom to 5 kids usually leads to exhaustion, and exhaustion leads to low self-esteem. People don't care about your weight, they care about what you radiate. If you can somehow get past all the exhaustion and endless chores, is there some way you can nurture your way back to that balance? Of course you should try and reach out to your new community: think of it as a fun dance -- you don't confine yourself to one partner for the whole night, but swing your partners round and round, engaging with different and interesting people, opening your life-experience. I mean, is this the same Molly who brought children's theatre to her 'hood? This woman ROCKS!! You're not stuck in failures, this is the exhausting rut of life -- that you have to try to get out of if you can. If you can think of yourself as vibrant, that's what people will see. Including your husband. But it's got to start with you. And all the ingredients are there. Oh I wish you luck!!

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    3. My goodness 5 kids, 2 are driving me insane. There is nothing more beautiful than a mother so loving and devoted to her children. You have given the world the sum of everything you and your children will every accomplish. I'm in awe that you brought a children's theatre to your neighborhood what a wonderfully giving thing to do. I'll second Barb's "This woman rocks"

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    4. 1. YOU are a MOM! That is something to be proud of accomplishing, girl! Those kids are lucky to have a mom that cares for them the way you clearly do. Embrace mommyhood for as long as possible. (I'm not a mom, but I do have a mom, so...yeah...)
      2. I hate the word "overweight." You are not overweight. How can anyone be OVER weight, weight doesn't have a starting or stopping point so people just have weight. You never hear anyone say "oh, I'm overheight" if they are tall.
      3. I'm guessing your husband is with you because he LOVES YOU! Don't doubt it.
      4. You have skills: you are a mom (see #1). That requires skills. You keep those kids alive and thriving. That is huge! Teachers only have them for a part of the day, you really have them 24/7/365.
      5. YOU ROCK!!! DON'T DOUBT YOURSELF!!! YOU ARE FAN-FREAKIN'-TASTIC!!!

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    5. Hey...your post nearly made me cry.
      I think you are pretty amazing, because wow you raise(d) five kids. That's an awesome job. And don't tell us that the kids were born this way...you helped them a lot! And being a mother is a full-time job.

      People, who don't like you, because you are not as thin as them, are stupid. They don't deserve you!

      *hugs*

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    6. Molly,

      I think your dear husband is lucky to have gotten YOU. You've given birth to and are raising his five (FIVE!) children, who are healthy and happy. That can NEVER be taken for granted. It takes the efforts of a wonderful mom to teach love and nurturing. They can NOT be okay "just because." Believe me on that. Also, if your house isn't quite as neat as you might like it to be, then good for you. Your priorities are your family, anyway, not whether all the towels are folded or that glass is still in the sink. (If I may, you can teach the younger ones to "help" you by putting things in the dishwasher. For the older ones, just stop bringing the foods (snacks, that is) that they want, and only the essentials and fruits, until they can learn to wash a dish or two, too.)

      I know it's tough to get out and meet new people, and I'm not going to push ideas that I've been given but haven't tried yet. :) I do want to point out that this board is a social setting where your presence is enjoyed, appreciated, and respected. Don't knock that at ALL, because it got me through a LOT of tough times and "solitude."

      Give yourself for ONE thing. Just one. Is the room decorated the way you want? Did you choose that end table that looks wonderful there? Was the spaghetti cooked to the right tenderness? (Don't knock ANY of those things. I make chewy spaghetti, when I try, that is.) ANYTHING can count. You got out of bed. With five kids, I might be hiding under the covers. Be proud of what you do. So many people admire that you do it.

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  14. You two ladies continue to amaze me with your posts. Thank you !!

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  15. I was just thinking about my self esteem issues roughly 10 minutes before reading this blog today. It's a bit of a 2 way street for me. In the sense that internally I sometimes feel like my esteem is too low, adversely it's the opposite when seeking out potential mates(I just can't seem to find anyone available that I deem is 'good enough' for me, no matter how conceited that may sound) I just refuse to settle for a jerk. My low self esteem kicks in when it comes to interviewing for jobs. I just don't fully commit to any real level of confidence in my work abilities that my interview doesn't go well. I should try to work on practicing the exercise that the cute, sweet woman you met and the little girl in the video have themselves do. It might help, and it certainly wouldn't hurt anything. -Apey

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    1. Isn't that weird when the energies coincide and you hear what you need to hear right when you need to hear it?! I would love to hear that you've tried the mirror talk, Apey. But it'll probably take lots of practice too so don't beat yourself up if it doesn't click right away ;) ! As for guys, oh no, can't ever ask you to settle for a jerk just to find love. That's a slippery slope (and you know it already, so I don't need to stress this too much). Good luck with the self-affirmations! who knows -- they might just help in attracting that great guy one day too.

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  16. I still fight to keep my confidence and self-esteem up and recent events have led to feeling a little bit like falling down the rabbit hole again. I fight it with every ounce of my being though and won't ever let myself reach the same levels of utter defeat I have felt in the past.

    I may be feeling a little blue lately but it is tiredness and stress and I recognize that the things that are bothering me are not my fault. I also realise just because I can't do anything about those things I'm not a bad person.

    I think my journey with low self-esteem started long long ago, going back to the nights of a 10 or a 11 year old girl who would cry herself to sleep because no one seemed to remember I needed something from them. When your sibling is disabled it is inevitable that your needs get shunted to the back burner, add in my parents own health problems and I seemed not to matter.

    I had no one at that age I was tormented daily in school and came home to concerns which made mine seem inconsequential. I had no one and it brought me down to a terrible level.

    Come high school I was determined not to be the kid that everyone thought it was ok to pick on. I became hard and unyeilding no one saw a single piece of me, I hid behind a mask of indifference. To look at me you would have thought I had amazing self-esteem. I didn't though I'd just learnt how not to cry and to act as if nothing and no one matterred.

    Of course it did and by the time I was 16 I was suicidal and still I let no one in, my confidence was at an all time low and no one had any idea.

    I sat on the train tracks after work one night, the headlights of a train in the distance. I sat and I stared at it for what seemed like an eternity. I let my foot slip of the clutch and the car rolled back. Seconds later the train passed. I'd forgotten about that, I think that was my absolute lowest moment and also when I first made a commitment to change how I felt about myself.

    I don't think I've ever told anyone that.

    I did have one friend though, one who made me feel special and beautiful and worth so much more than I believed I was. I don't know why he was different why I let him in or let him see the real me but I'm glad I did. I finally asked him to be my date for my high school grad and we've been together ever since. I owe a bit part of saving my life to my husband.

    I've found a lot of confidence in the years since and I'm honestly proud of who I am and what I've done in life. I may have lost some of that self-esteem recently and could certainly use a boost but I don't think I could ever get as low as I was as a teen. I now know better than to hide it away and ignore it. Ignoring it doesn't make it better. I may be a little kooky and a little weird but I'm me and I actually happen to like me these days.

    So in the words of Stuart Smiley "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it people like me"

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    1. Congrats on finding your light in life. I know how hard that struggle with depression and high school can be, and even further more to tell your story or to let someone in on what is swirling around in your head. I found myself junior year of high school sort of 'drafting' my suicide note over and over in my head throughout the day. I am so happy for you that you can now be happy and proud of yourself and your accomplishments. Way to go Girl <3

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    2. Awesome comment, Erin. It's honest in its heartfelt way, but also affirming and hopeful. CAn't imagine how awful the train moment must have been, but I think adolescence is probably the most traumatizing for self-esteem -- and often, but not always, sets the stage for our adult responses. It's wonderful that you found your way to strength, now keep going! No one said it would be easy -- especially when there are soooo many obstacles to it along the way.

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    3. Being kooky and weird is a good thing! The "normal" people are the ones to watch out for!

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    4. Steph's right! I have to believe that, or I'm in serious trouble. :D

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  17. I'll weigh in here later -- just wolfed a few slices of pizza and am now off to Quantum Physics (imagine that said with the low booming voice). Deb is just out of reach of internet today and will weigh in just as soon as she is able. Wanted you all to know she was neither "lazy" nor "having too much fun to weigh in". (...methinks a little esteem levity was worth the share, Deb :) )

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  18. I knew you ladies would pull out something good for this high pressure pre-Valentines period. Turns out I was right, you have not disappointed!
    (I say "pre-Valentines" but here in the future (NZ) it's already Valentines Day!! :) )

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  19. I'm watching Joan Rivers' "reviews" of the best and worst-dressed at the Grammy awards. I KNOW I look better than so many of those women, and I could (and would) dress much better than those "ladies." Makes me feel better to see a woman in a pink gown with fake Uzis stuck to it and know I look better in my nightshirt than that. :)

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    1. So funny. This is definitely in the "to each his/her own world", right?

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  20. Wow I read the topic and felt a sick feeling in my stomach. This one is very hard for me and it may take me a while to open up. But I will say straight up, I have always hated myself. If that's too strong at the very least disliked myself. God's honest truth I have always avoided mirrors, I find it difficult to make eye contact (always have) and I am very awkward when meeting people and in a room full of people. I feel judged when I walk into a room and instantly start putting myself down as you can tell the self confidence is zero. I wish it wasn't true and I envy and admire those who have great confidence in themselves. God Bless those of you who do and are happy in your skin, often in my prayers it is peace I pray for. The worst sin of all is I'm afraid that at least to some extent I passed that lack of confidence on to my kids and I'm not proud of that at all. : (

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    1. Oh, so hard, isn't it??? I don't know if you've read any of the comments, but I hope you might try some of the suggestions here to building your sense of self (taking up your rightful place in the world). Dawn points out that it's different for everyone -- and she really needed something specific for her, but she found it! And these other small "tricks" that re-train your brain to start feeling more positive really do work. The mirror exercise, the greeting (or at least smiling at) strangers. The other thing is that you have to expect that not everyone will respond, or respond in a way that you like maybe, but many people will, and pretty soon the positive responses will outweigh the negative. It's a retraining process. It's building emotional muscles you maybe never had, but have the potential for. It's baby-steps. You've made us so happy here, so you have it in you in spades to connect in a positive, special and meaningful way. Good luck and love!!

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    2. You're here, and you are brave enough to let that all spill out here. There are fantastic people here who, I'm sure, have similar stories that they've also been afraid to tell anyone. It may just inspire someone to tell someone else how they feel. You may never know, but it's something you may take with you, if you can believe in it. You are incredibly strong, because you're still here, and something in you still wants to communicate with the world, you're trying, and that's a BIG Something right.

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  21. I think I will let a passage from my own writing (a little known, shelved novel NOT in process at the moment) speak for me: It's one of those sections of fiction that is based on utter truth. Self-esteem is a state of mind. And unless we "wake up" and notice what that reactive and resident state of mind even is, we are captive to it, because it springs from our past, from what we've experienced or been told, or from faulty assumptions left over from childhood. We have a choice: we can focus on how we feel separate and small, or we can rewire ourselves to re-connect to the whole and remember that we are like a drop of water from the ocean--made of exactly the same stuff as the sea, separated only by the borders of flesh. The following musing from my own work expresses what a struggle it can be to choose to lift out of the mud of conditioning.

    "On one hand, she appreciates that out of the whole world of possibilities, there are so many things that she is interested in, so many threads that curl around each other into connections in her mind. On the other hand, there are many times when the threads snarl themselves into loops that become torturous, circuitous paths, making the inside of her own head a hostile and uncomfortable environment.
    It doesn’t take much for her to fall into the pit of overthinking. A funny look from someone, an indecisive moment, an insecurity can send her spinning her own thought wheels in the muddy waters of self-doubt. It’s a habit that is shared by her husband Michael, so she knows how much it can annoy people, how obsessive it gets, how narcissistic. Today, sitting on the floor with the contents of a lifetime strewn before her has been both a good thing, and a trigger. She loves the feeling of cleaning out clutter to make way for new spaces. But there is something in it that also sends her into a reverie where the past rises up to meet her like a brick wall, where all of the objects seem to grow hands and fingers and pull her back into old thought patterns, old habits, old tapes that block out anything she’s learned to keep herself moving forward."

    In order to transcend the pull of old, destructive thought patterns, we must learn to replace them with self-love and more important, self-awareness.

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    1. Oh, that sounds very interesting. Keep on writing! :)

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  22. Wow, Lori. Beautiful. I don't want to push you on the novel thing, but I would sooo read this book! And it always comes back to the need to re-wire, to not step in time with our bad habits, but to constantly be breaking them and stepping upward. Away. To the light. Thank you so much.

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  23. Barb--thank you always for your beautiful replies that extend the conversation in my own head and honor me with your very present attention. It's posts--and comments like yours that keep me coming back over & over again to your very substantive and interactive blog......xo

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  24. Hi everyone, I don't know if any of you will read this comment as we have moved past this blog now but I was in Halifax and having issues with the internet in the place i was staying. I am in awe first of all that these same ladies with self esteem issues are the same witty bright interesting gals who's comments I read every day. Although I said I have the put down moments, that is all they are moments and as I get old they get less and less. In the end of this after reading all the comments I would say one thing-Why not opt to love ourselves? Why not?? What can it hurt? All it can bring us is love. And love will build on love until we are exactly who we wish we were. xo Thanks for sharing your innermost thoughts. It has been a privilege to read them.

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    1. well said, Deb, well said!

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  25. Oh, this was amazing, Barb. You know... I have historically had very different self-esteem in different domains. I am a compartmentalizer by nature and I've known since... I was maybe 10, that I was smart. (now I'm not SUPER smart, but I actually was never AWARE of THAT--I just knew I got math easily and had the easiest time with school of the kids I wanted to hang out with--which, at that shallow age, was the cool kids). I was NEVER the boy magnet though. At least not before I left home. And then I learned a really tricky fact. My weight roller coasters--college was MOSTLY but not ALWAYS good that way--controlled food supply, daily running. And when I weighed what I liked my self esteem would sky-rocket and I got hit on a lot... but the same weight, if it was RISING made me down and sad and nobody hit on me. So I learned that self-esteem lesson early, though perhaps with a few really sleazy strings of trying to make up for the lack of attractiveness with plain old sex... I ALSO find I am treated as more attractive when I am WITH someone--because I am not TRYING to impress--that insecurity thing--the counterpart of low self-esteem...

    It's been a long time since I had self esteem problems, but I think where I am unusual is in my 20s I said to hell with the 'everyone' metric and have not tried to compare myself to anyone in any domain since. I still hate my weight, but that is about me and what I know I can look like. And I know it doesn't make me a bad person, or less talented, or less smart.

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