An Unlikely Pair: Low Self-esteem and Pride

5 Mar

I’m not sure why these two even hang out.  They don’t appear to have much in common and the way they stick together is nothing short of dysfunctional.  Stick with me while I attempt to describe them and their co-dependent relationship.  

I used to have an opinion that Pride acted like somewhat of a bully convincing Low Self Esteem how much he (Pride)is needed.  Then lately, I decided that maybe it is Low Self-Esteem that is driving the train. 

Their conversation may sound something like this:

Pride:  Look at you Low Self-Esteem, just look at you.  It is clear to me and everyone else that I should step in here and help you out.  You couldn’t defend yourself if your life depended on it.  You are weak and empty and you need me.  If I don’t step out in front of you, then people are gonna see you.  They may laugh or maybe they will end up feeling sorry for you but they definitely won’t choose to be with you.  I’m all you have.

Low Self-esteem:  Well ok, Pride, but make us look good.  Be loud and proud and cause a big scene.  I am pretty sure if you are loud you will be noticed.  If you raise your hands up for emphasis when you speak, it will appear we are really sure of ourselves.  Hold your ground no matter what because we have nothing to lose.  We aren’t worth much value to anyone.  Never have been, probably never will be.

What these two need is an intervention.  They need a third party bystander to step in with some perspective.   I know just what they need.   Enter Spirit.

Spirit:  Hello pride, may I kindly speak with you?  I’d like to point out that while you may believe you are what Low Self Esteem needs, I believe you are making things worse.  In fact, you are not only attempting to cover up Low Self Esteem, you are hurting me in the process.  You see, Low Self Esteem doesn’t need to hide behind Pride to rise up. In fact, you aren’t fooling anyone by making such a ruckus.  Everyone can see right through you to Low Self Esteem.  You are transparent.  I think it is time for you to step aside and let someone else be with Low Self Esteem.  I have been trying for a long time to introduce Low Self Esteem to Self Love.  Take a hike Pride.

Self Love:  Hello Low Self Esteem.  I have been trying to get to you for a very long time.  I am thankful for the Spirit for letting us come together.  I think you are amazing and I can’t wait to see what we can do together to rise up.

Low Self Esteem:  You’ve been waiting to get to me?  But why?  I’m nothing.  Now I am all alone and vulnerable.

Self Love:  This is the perfect time to set Pride aside and focus on you.  Tell me what you need and I am here for you.   We have the Self in common and we will go far together.  And now that Pride is out of the way, your Spirit can be whole again.

Lesson:  Listen to your Spirit.  It is the essence of who you are and knows what you need.  Rid yourself of the all that is not Love.

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What’s wrong with these emotions?

10 Feb

Here’s a quick rundown of the emotions that society tends to refer to as the “negative emotions” or the “bad emotions”.  Take a minute to see why in fact they are not “bad” and discover the functions they serve.   Author Pia Mellody reminds us of the most important thing to remember.  Feeling healthy emotions is a positive experience.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of our emotions, as long as they are expressed in a healthy, functional way and not an abusive one.  As part of the equipment we need to live life fully and functionally, each of our emotions has a specific purpose.

Anger gives us the strength we need to do what is necessary to take care of ourselves.  Anger enables us to assert ourselves and be who we are.  We can use healthy anger to our own best interest by facing it and expressing it in non-abusive ways (either to ourselves or others).

Fear helps us protect ourselves.  When we feel fear, we become alert to the possibility of danger in our environment from which we need to protect ourselves.  Healthy fear keeps us from getting into situations and relationships that would not be in our own best interest.

Pain motivates us to grow toward increasing maturity.  Normal healthy lives are full of pain-producing problems, and feeling the pain produces growth.  A functional person uses pain as a means to work through problems, heal from their effects, gain the wisdom that comes out of painful situations, and continue in the maturing process.  Repressing the pain and not facing it or medicating it in some way keeps us injured and immature.

Guilt is a healthy warning system telling us we have transgressed a value we consider to be important.  Feeling guilt helps us change our behavior and get back to living up to our values.

Shame gives us a sense of humility that lets us know we are not the Higher Power.  Healthy shame reminds us that we are fallible and that we need to learn to be accountable and responsible.  Shame also helps us to correct our areas of fallibility that impact others and society adversely.  This process helps us to accept the rest of our imperfection as part of our normal, healthy humanity.  We can also relate to a Higher Power in a healthy way that is necessary to live as a responsible mature adult.  We experience shame whenever we notice ourselves making a mistake or being imperfect.

There is purpose in everything we feel.  I encourage you to feel the emotions and use them the way they were intended.  You are not experiencing any feeling that hasn’t been felt by countless others.  Instead of running from it, ask someone else how they moved through it.  Seek guidance from your higher power and get ready to grow.

Little Children Come Out to Play

26 Jan

It would be nice if they would ask our permission, but they don’t. Our little children come out to play without any warning at all. I’m not talking about our sons and daughters. I’m talking about that outer child we all have. the outer child that protects the inner child inside of us. Sound confusing? Maybe but you know the one… they are always causing problems for us. They get in the way of happy, healthy relationships.

One little comment to a grown up can come off one way but once the outer child hears it, it becomes quite the problem. Not because the comment was anything big and not because the outer child is overly dramatic. It is solely because the outer child feels the responsibility to protect the inner child also known as the wounded child. And they are hurting – always. They lie beneath our surface and wait. When they hear anything that sounds remotely like the hurtful words of our parents or they see something happening that reminds them of the hurts and fears of childhood, they call on the outer child and well let’s just say it is downhill from there. As adults we can no longer see clearly or think rationally. We are overtaken by the tantrums and fits of our outer child. We operate from a place of hurt and start moving further and further away from healing. Who knew these little people could do so much damage?

The bad news is the inner child and the outer child are a part of us now and forever. The good news is they are not strangers to us. We know them well and they are close enough to call on and speak directly to. First you have to make sure you recognize your outer child is there. Go back to a previous blog called Identifying Your Outer Child and see if you recognize yours.

The next step is to get to know them a little better when things are calm. Start talking to them now before they jump out and yell at your partner on your behalf. The irony is they think they are helping. They go into attack mode to try to defend because they are protecting the hurting child inside of you. It gets even more complicated because as it turns out, they weren’t really yelling at your partner at all. They were fighting with your partner’s outer child. Now we’ve got multiple children who have come out without permission and they are really getting into it. It can be ugly.

The best way to get to know your inner and outer children is to start talking to them. Be kind, because they are typically in a state of hurt most of the time and only have the reasoning of children. Be patient when they are immature and not listening to you or your partner. Then… lay down the law. For example, I had to start by explaining to my inner child that she is safe because I am a grown up and I will take care of her. That job belongs to me I will never abandon her. I am here, always. I tell her that I understand she needs attention and that I will work hard, in a grown up way, to get it. I explain that fits of crying and sarcastic comments from the outer child will not help me and my partner. I tell my outer child that she needs to stay quiet and let the grown up part of me take care of my relationship. I tell my inner child that I love her but that I’ve got this and she is not to send out the outer child and start causing problems. Most of the time she listens and the grown up side of me gets to stay happy and healthy.

But there is something else that is really important. It’s not enough just to see your own inner and outer children. You must recognize that there is a wounded child inside your mate. That child was told ugly things and hurt in ways you may never fully understand. You don’t have too really you just have to keep your outer child at bay when dealing with your mate’s “children.”. The grown up in you can step up and soothe their inner child. You can say kind things to build them up or calm them down. See the child, be the grown up. You would never yell at a hurting child on purpose but that is essentially what is happening if we are not clearly seeing who is standing before us, our grown up mate or their outer child who has come out without permission.

Those Who Dream…

31 Dec

There is a difference in those who dream and those who don’t. It’s more than a case of optimism versus pessimism and it definitely does not have anything to do with those who hold low expectations and prefer to be happily surprised when something goes their way. Dreaming is about something much bigger.

In true Amy fashion, I was the first one into the courthouse this morning to file my Assumed Name Certificate. I opened a business. While the physical doors built into the brick and mortar, have not opened, the dream has begun. It’s been building in my heart and in my head for years now. While it is great to be an American and live in a land of opportunity where I can own my own business, I still see there is something greater at work. There wasn’t exactly a line out the door of the courthouse, yet every American has the same opportunity that I have. What gives?

As I saw it from a business standpoint this morning, I often see it from a relationship standpoint. What about those friends of mine who have given up on love or decided there isn’t anybody who wants to love them in this lifetime? They’ve lost the dream. But why?

Whether it is matters of business or matters of the heart, the difference between those who dream and those who don’t comes down to just one thing. Those who dream believe they deserve to. At the core of their being, they feel worthy of what they dream for – a business of their own, a love greater than they can even imagine. It should be rightfully theirs because they are a valuable human being who deserves nothing less.

My research isn’t formal but I find that the higher the self-esteem one has, the further into the future they can see their lives. They are willing to go there because they are hopeful it will be decent if not great. They dare to dream.

Just like everybody else, I’ve been knocked down and had my dreams fall apart in more ways than one. There were quiet years in my life where I moved forward but just got by. I’d lost some of who I was and was afraid to dream. Getting hurt can do a number on most of us and a common response is just to be content where we are, maybe even hide out in place of safety and a state of complacency. No dreams allowed. If you find yourself in this spot, take some time and see if there is any connection to your beliefs about who you are and what you deserve. If that turns out to be the case, I don’t know what they told you about yourself, but it isn’t true. You are worthy of your dreams.

Now to tell you to go forward and dream big wouldn’t be fair. It’s like telling you to start on 1st base without recognizing that the dreaming starts at home plate. Believing you’re worthy of your dreams must come first. Weed through the junk and find your way back to you. Believe in yourself and then chase the dream until it is yours.

In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Good luck. I’m rooting for you!

Look Both Ways Before Crossing…

23 Dec

I know you’ve heard those words of wisdom, at least in reference to crossing streets.  I’d like to put a new spin on it for you and encourage you to look both ways before crossing your partner.

Remember first that you are with them for a reason, hopefully many reasons.  One of the reasons is because they get you.  Most of choose someone who understands us, and knows us like no one else.  Sometimes they can see us when we can’t even see ourselves.

I’m the first to admit that I am stubborn and I usually start off every argument sure that I’m right and it is just a matter of proving it.  In my head it sounds like this… “Once I state my case I can go on my merry way of doing things the way I do them.   They’ll see that I was right all along.”

I have often fallen into the trap of preparing my evidence rather than listening to the other side and the perspectives of those who matter to me.  Listening can be difficult when I’m on a mission to prove myself right.  And I find the hardest thing to do is to stop talking and hear how I am being perceived by those I love.  But eventually I do it and I call that looking both ways, my way and their way. 

I know their way matters.  I respect their way of seeing things, it is one of the reasons I chose them to be in my life.  They are smart, observant and they shoot straight with me.  Yes it hurts.  The truth always does.

It’s not in my best interest to cross them and walk around being right all the time.  It’s not in yours either.  Look at the loves in your life.  How and why did you let them in?  Is it safe to be you?   When they call you out on something is it out of love and their hope for you to be accountable and be your best?  For you to grow and be more of who they learned to love in the beginning?  If so… look both ways before crossing your partner.

Undo It

6 Dec

“I want you to undo it.” That’s all I could think to say in the midst of my pain. I knew it was not a fair request. I knew it could not be undone, but it’s all I had left. I was grasping just trying to stay in the moment because I knew what was coming next. It’s the act that always follows me getting hurt. In this act there are three scenes.

Scene 1: Self-hatred. The beating begins. The other person caused the pain but I take the beating. What’s worse is I do the beating. “How could I be so stupid? How did I let this happen? How did I get fooled once again? If I were smart, I would have listened to my gut.” The questions and the self-loathing go on for days. I usually stop about the time my eyes are ready to swell shut from all the crying. It’s then that the last harsh words are internalized, the curtain closes and I wait in anticipation of the next scene.

Scene 2: The lesson. So help me God if I don’t learn something from this pain. I cannot and will not just get hurt. There has to be a lesson in here somewhere. And the meaning-making begins. This part lasts even longer which I guess is a good thing. The lessons are always different and the experience changes with every hurt but I can tell you what happened this time. With the drop of the last tear my head cleared and I heard my own mantra… “This is what it means to be with me.” Here was an opportunity to say it again, the chance to be authentic knowing that every person has the choice to take me or leave me. I began the conversation in my head, gathered my thoughts, my questions, and challenged myself to stay focused. The most genuine and heart felt talks followed. It was the kind of “real” I have always wanted. As time passes and the play continues, I am learning to be a much better communicator. I can articulate my values and my deal-breakers in one breath. You’d be surprised how few people can do this. I can disagree without raising my voice. This is huge. I used to be a class act yeller and I hated it. There were lots of long nights and sore throats in the past, but not anymore. Now I can be bold and ask for what I need. Best of all, because I know myself so well, I can really listen. I don’t have to prepare my next argument while the other person is talking. I get to listen and really try to understand where they are coming from. What I have found is that when I practice empathy, it rewards me with a level of knowing someone that does not come any other way. We talk, we bond and the curtain closes on scene two.

Scene three: Thank you. Without the pain I would not know joy. Without the test, I would not study myself. Without you I would not grow. Without you I would never know the magnitude of true love.

It took a while you know. This play used to only have one scene, and after enough years of beating myself up I figured there must be a scene that followed. There had to be more.
And so as all good stories go, this one too, has a happy ending. I’m grateful for the lessons and grateful for the silver lining of this and every other dark cloud that has hovered over me in this lifetime. I am ready for an encore!

The more….the UNmerrier

11 Nov

I’m so glad you’re reading this. It can only mean one thing, that I had the courage to finish writing it.

It happened again. There I was in a group of people. There were all so nice and we had something in common. There was laughter and friendly chatter and I could not have felt more alone. Why does this keep happening to me?

I tried to fight it with everything I had. I answered questions, I nodded my head, and I even initiated conversations and attempted to tell funny stories. It worked pretty well for a while and then I got quiet. I recoiled back into my own world inside my head where I feel safest. At first I was applauding myself on the accomplished task of socializing. And then I saw the lady I had been talking to, turn to someone else and start a new conversation. Was it me or was there relief in her eyes that I’d stopped talking and acting awkward? I watched the two ladies talk with ease. I laughed on the side when they laughed as if I could relate, but honestly, I don’t even know what they were saying. I was lost inside my head again. Finally I just got up and went to the bathroom hoping to kill more time until we could leave.

I’ve been reflecting on the experience and wondering what why being in a group triggers feelings of loneliness inside me. I know some people that can’t stand to be alone because that is the setting where they feel the loneliest. For me, it is clearly the opposite. I prefer to be alone and it is the group experience that often unnerves me. It’s yet another way that I’m different than other people. Am I really the only one who feels this way?

I really didn’t want to keep writing about this feeling until last week. The universe always has a plan… I just happened to meet someone that said she feels this same way. She wasn’t commiserating with me. I had not shared my feelings with her. But I knew what she was going to say before the words ever came out of her mouth. She said, “There are all these people around me but it’s too much, it’s like the more people that are around me the more I feel…..lonely.” I mouthed it as she said it. I knew she would say it. It was like we were meant to meet. I also knew then I had to finish writing this blog entry for her, for all the others (there must be more), and for myself.

Knowing what I know about Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development and how our childhood experiences can greatly affect our adult life, I went digging. I dug into the childhood memories to see what came up for me and why I felt inadequate in a group of people. I landed on a birthday party of mine from my elementary years. I found myself right back in my back yard getting ready to play a game with all my friends around me when my older brothers showed up. In a matter of minutes all my friends were playing whatever game my brothers had instigated. I was standing there in front of everyone in broad daylight yet I had disappeared. Even on my special day to celebrate me, I wasn’t enough. I know in part it was this moment that changed things for me; one because I remember it so clearly, and two because my eyes well up and my heart hurts every time I recall it.

When I’m in a group of adults, the thoughts sound like this… “I won’t be interesting enough to keep them engaged, someone better is about to come along to entertain them, I’m inadequate.” So guess what I do. I disappear before I can be outshined. I may not get up and leave but I disappear inside my head where I am safe. I find lately, that people don’t sit near me when they have other choices. Actually, it’s been going on for years I’m just recently admitting it. They look my way and choose somewhere else where people are talking and perhaps looking a bit friendlier. I think I am sending off the signal that I am unavailable. In fact, I’m sure of it. I always believed in my head that I was making myself unavailable to be hurt but now I know I am making myself unavailable to connect. Human beings are hard wired to connect. In a sense I am going against nature to protect this little girl inside of me. Something has to give.

I have to believe that while I disappeared on that day, I have had every day since then to show up in the game of life and it is now a choice for me to disappear with no one to blame except for myself. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the work ahead and that I’m not afraid to shush the voices that tell me I’m not enough, but I’m going to try. I want to feel merrier than I do right now.