Self-esteem’s a bitch. A whore who sleeps with everyone– seduces and charms, but chooses favorites. If she loves you, you bathe in the luxury of her love; you sleep well and wake feeling strong and beautiful. Those who she shines favorably on don’t necessarily notice their good fortune. Like a well-loved child takes approval and love for granted, those who bask in the warmth, take social ease and confidence for granted. If you’ve got good self-esteem, you probably don’t really understand those of us who don’t. If you are not wrapped in her love, self-esteem is a bitch who laughs as you chase her, as you beg to be noticed, as you work at fixing it, while sending anxious prayers up to a seemingly empty sky.
Armed with strong self-esteem, a person does not constantly fear that they have angered someone, said the wrong thing, done the wrong thing… that it, whatever the it may be, must be their fault. They don’t worry about rejection or second-guess intentions. They don’t worry about how to fix, fix, fix it.
Ironically, is it strong self-esteem to think that it must always be your actions that make things happen, that you can actually fix everything? Or narcissism? And there it is again: even the act of blaming myself for things that aren’t warranted, become another judgment: labeling my fears as narcissism, for questioning whether I’m being self-centered, or just a failure.
How can I explain the struggle to not judge myself? For each positive word or compliment sent my way, my own demons whisper a counter-attack, constantly hissing in my ear. I wear Teflon as armor– a sarcastic sense of humor is always in my pocket, as I allow the good to slide off, but the sticky, nasty bits cling and must be scrubbed off, wearing away the finish. Bits and parts that were broken or damaged early in the game, don’t heal completely, never exposed to the air– but hidden beneath the Band Aid of fear and defensiveness, self-doubt and self-recriminations.
Words, careless actions, slights… they burrow deep and cause further internal damage. I lie awake replaying conversations, scenes from a dispute– what did I do wrong? What should I have done or said differently? Even when the healthy part of me can see that it is someone else who owes an apology this time, or has blurred the lines, I struggle to make it right, and absolve with little regard for my own injury. “No, it’s ok… don’t worry about it.”
Figuring out all of those blurred lines is like swimming in honey: despite the sweetness it will still suck you down and drown you. Your body will tire as it fights the thick, gooey depths.
And yet… as I work on me, as I work on moving through it all, as I woo that bitch, I embrace the fact that she smiles in my direction more often than she once did. She winks; she smile; she throws me a crumb. She flirts and I notice her glow. That brief bit of light, that sweet glow, allows me to lick the honey from my skin, as I continue to swim.
Are you a confident person, or do you struggle with self-esteem. Do you cringe at compliments? Deflect them and move on? Or do you accept them graciously and say thank you? Share your thoughts in the comments. I welcome constructive or positive feedback.
I wrote this piece at the writer’s retreat last weekend. Since then, I came across this wonderful post on body image, and ultimately: self-esteem. I love Katrina Anne Willis’ writing. We have joked that we must be sisters… this is a particularly powerful piece of writing; check it out.
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