Tag Archives: self esteem

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!

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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.

Self Renovation

28 Jul

I’ve been cleaning and painting a house every day for the last week. It’s my rental house. I have dusted, scrubbed, washed, swept, wiped down and picked at things with my finger nails that I probably shouldn’t have. I’ve taped, cut in, painted and repainted every nook and cranny. I’ve changed light bulbs, put in curtains and air fresheners in every room. The place went from trash to treasure in about 10 days time. To see the change has been nothing short of moving and somewhat emotional.

I was about 5 days in when I began to see the changes really taking place and my first thought was, why haven’t I done this in my primary home? What has kept me from spending money on new lighting, paint and vanilla fragrance in the home I live in every day? It didn’t take much time to convince myself that was what I should do. Another 5 days went by and then I did what I always do, I make meaning. I find a way to relate it to my existence as a human being and learn a lesson. I strongly believe that is what we are all here to do anyway.

If you’ve ever dabbled in any dream analysis and tried to figure out why the heck you keep dreaming you’re late for class, running around naked or your legs won’t work when you’re running from the bad guys, then you may know when we dream about a house, it often represents ourselves. When we explore different rooms in the house, we are often exploring different parts of our being – perhaps our roles as a parent, a sibling, a professional, a creative being and so on. Or perhaps it’s the cynical part, the depressed part, the hurting part, the people pleaser part and the broken parts.

Now back to my task of making meaning and allowing this rental house to represent me for the sake of learning. Before I did the cleaning, the house smelled. It was instinctual to turn away and walk the other direction. Is there anybody that perceives me that way? I’m not asking if I stink, and I’m pretty sure I don’t but I am asking if people are more inclined to approach me or turn away from me at first glance and at first encounter with my energy. Am I positive or negative? Do I attract or repel? And if I did a little more upkeep on my attitude, would I draw more positive people to me? I believe what I put out there comes back to me so it is on my to-do list to refresh my attitude.

The old flooring had stains. It had weird icky gooey stuff. It had years of memories, liquid and otherwise. I picked at some of these trying to clean them up. What kinds of stains am I carrying around? I know when people unknowingly pick at one of my old wounds the feelings come gushing out at a rate that is more than called for in the present situation. In other words, they see me “over reacting.” I’ve been triggered and they don’t know it. I think instead of letting these old hurts continue to embarrass me and cause me to look overly dramatic and then just scab over, I might just try some therapy, some meditation, some healing of the soul. Rumi says the wound is where the light enters so I’ll make sure I don’t make them disappear completely (aka denial) but I’ll take better care to clean them and prevent further scarring.

The most damage and dirt in the house was upstairs. It is also in the “upstairs” of me. It’s in my eyes when I look in the mirror and in my mouth when I say those ugly things about my hair and my body. It’s in my ears when I hear only the negative. It’s in my head, in my thoughts and in the old scripts I’ve repeated over the years. I need a lobotomy. Okay, not really, but obviously it’s time to clear the dust from my eyes and see the beauty in this woman that God created. I will shut this mouth and do what my mother said; if I can’t say something nice (about myself) well then I won’t say anything at all. I don’t know what to do about the way I hear things. I guess I’ll probably encourage those that love me to repeat themselves again and again until I can hear it for what it is. They say I am beautiful, that I am kind and strong and smart. That is worth hearing so I will listen. My brain that has the old scripts is really just that little girl version of me still crying about who knows what. I believe the adult version of me is going to just have to sit her down for a come to Jesus meeting and tell it like it is. I will tell her we’re cleaning house and it feels good.

A New Twist on Old Advice

9 Jul

I heard some great advice the other day. It wasn’t new advice and it didn’t come from a stranger. It was a twist on old advice from someone I greatly respect and get advice from all the time. For whatever reason, on this day, I heard it differently. It was simple really. She said, “You’re behavior is all you’ve got. Hold on to it.” It was a twist on, “You can’t control other people, only yourself.” or even, “You can’t control situations, but you CAN control how you respond to them.” I hear this advice all the time. I give this advice all the time.

This time though, it was more about recognizing when other people’s behavior is out of control or at best, not to my liking, I always have the option to control my own behavior. I can make a conscious choice not to get caught up in their rage. I can ignore their “f” bombs rather than throw in my own. I can hear them escalate and soothe myself rather than join them in their chaotic world. If I can manage that, I might even choose to throw in a little prayer for them or at least a “Bless their heart.”

Behavior is observable. We see it and therefore, we judge it. We decide if it’s good or bad and whether or not we like it. What I have managed to forget is that while I am busy judging, my behavior is simultaneously on display and living in the land of right or wrong for others to see. What would they say? Could I defend myself? Am I modeling appropriate behavior for younger eyes that are watching?

People that push our buttons are excellent “baiters.” They dangle the bait right in front of us and it is all we can do to no jump up and take it. We think we’ll be quick enough to grab it and fool them. Get in and get out and we win! The truth is, they catch us, every time. We are hooked and immediately on the behavioral decline right along side them. How do they do it? I’m curious about that, but I know my time is better spent figuring out how not to take the bait. I think I will tell myself that my behavior is all I have…hold onto it. I’m going to hold on for dear life. I am the only one accountable for everything I say and do. I might even bless their heart.

Unspoken words and Untaught Lessons

5 May

Teaching our children becomes second nature once we enter the world of parenthood. It’s as natural as breathing. We teach them to say “mama” and to tie their shoes. We teach them to wash behind their ears and to say “please” and “thank you.” As they get bigger, the lessons get bigger. “Respect your elders, treat others as you want to be treated and remember that no one can ever take your education away from you.” There are lessons on top of lessons, most of which are directly taught with purpose. I guess what I worry most about is the incidental learning. It’s what they hear when we don’t know they are listening, it’s what they pick up from the behaviors we unknowingly model, and what they read between the lines. Children are immature, and they are supposed to be. This immaturity, while appropriate, allows children to make false connections and assumptions about the world around them. Based on the knowledge they have and their egocentric ways, they often believe they are the cause of most things, good and bad. They are the reason their parents are in a good mood and they are the cause of their parent’s divorce. It’s all about them and it should be. It is developmentally appropriate for children to see the world in this way, in a way that revolves around them. They are sponges for everything we say and do. We teach and they learn.
I cannot begin to imagine all the things that you teach your children. I know while it is natural to you, it is also important. My guess is that you talk to them often and find the teachable moments when you can. I applaud you. It’s hard to catch them all. Even the best parents leave things unsaid and lessons untaught. While we don’t always know the incidental lessons they’ll pick up, there is one lesson I’d like to put on your radar so it will be sure to reach your children. I don’t doubt for a second that they can answer anything I ask them about being kind to their neighbor and washing their hands before they eat, but I wonder what they would say if I asked them… “How do you know you are a good person?”
Being a good person is different than being good at things. So for all the soccer games and gymnastic meets we go too – they only tell our kids they are good athletes (at least we believe they are) and we support their efforts. When we buy them toys and electronics it is because their behavior and their grades are good. If that is the case, then what are we doing and saying to let them know they are a good person? I bring this up to you because it matters, a lot.
I won’t ever forget that feeling when I could not answer the question myself. Someone asked me and I was speechless. I had the best parents. They did everything for me, they supported me, they taught me lessons and they bought me things. Life was good, but was I? I was pretty sure I was. Wasn’t that the message they were sending me all those years? Isn’t that what my mother was telling me every time she bragged about me in front of me? Indeed it was.
Although I didn’t answer the question that day, I can answer it now. The journey has been long but it doesn’t have to be. If your words aren’t exact, it leaves things open to interpretation. Why risk it? This is our children’s self image we are talking about. The question doesn’t have to be so difficult and the response can be automatic if the lesson is taught early and often.
While in that moment, I did not know for sure how I knew I was a good person, I knew for sure there was an unspoken message and an untaught lesson I had to get my children… and fast! Over the years it has now become second nature to praise my children for being good people. If ever they were asked how they know if they were a good person, I believe they’d say, “My mom tells me I am.” When I hear stories about what happened on the playground, I respond with things like, “Wow, you are a good friend. I like the way you handled that.” When I see a kind gesture between my children, they are likely to hear, “You’re a good brother, I saw how you helped your sister out.” If you watch your children closely enough, you’ll find ample opportunity to use my favorite line, “Your heart is so good.”
My advice to you is this…Catch them being good! When you recognize that your child does a good thing, makes a move from the heart, shows kindness, empathy, or concern for others, take advantage of that teachable moment to teach them that they are a good person. It’s an invaluable lesson that is more important than eating our vegetables and remembering to say “Yes sir.”

Commitment: Your Best Investment

14 Apr

The idea of commitment can generate a wide variety of emotions.  It can feel scary like it’s a big undertaking, an obligation that you can’t bail on.  On the flip side it can feel so good to hold on and be secure.  It can offer that sense of safety you always longed for.

When I think about commitment, lots of words and images come to mind.  I see a wedding dress, I see an old couple holding hands after a lifetime together. I think of words like forever, loyal, genuine and true.  When there is a commitment to another human being, there comes a sense of knowing.  Where looks can replace words and body language says everything.  You’re with your match.

Awhile back I was sharing with another person how much I longed for a committed relationship and how desperately I wanted to find my match. I talked about the feelings that I expected to come with it and the sense of peace of knowing someone will always have my back. I imagined that same person will have hold of my heart in a way that no one else does.  I trust they’ll be gentle with it, knowing it had some breaks before they came along.

As the conversation was coming to a close and I wrapped up my thoughts on commitment and how powerful it was, I heard her say, “Yes, commitment to self is so powerful.”  I stared at her, knowing that I had not talked about commitment to myself but rather to another person.  While the urge to correct her came quickly, something else came faster.  The realization that she knew something I did not.  There would be no commitment with another if I didn’t commit to myself first.  Who would invest in me, a person who was not even fully invested in herself?  It’s like walking around with a foreclosure sign around my neck, advertising I couldn’t make it, I didn’t have what I needed to see it all the way through.  In a sense, I needed to take full ownership of myself if I expected someone to commit and invest in a relationship with me. 

Owning certain parts of me is rather daunting.  While there are a lot of things I like about myself, I have learned to disown some of the darker parts.  Some parts of me I have refused to own because society says they are not ok, like my weird, curly hair and the extra weight I carry around my middle.  The other parts, well they are just hard to face.  I have a “victim” living inside of me that whines about not catching a break and having it as easy as other people.  It turns out I also have a “messiah,”  that sometimes thinks I can’t walk away from jobs and people because there is no way they can manage without me, I’m just that good.  If you’re laughing right now, it’s ok, I am too.  I know it is ridiculous, but it is no less true.  I won’t go into the other dark parts of me, just trust that they are there.  Instead I will tell you what I know.  For every dark shadow, there is light.  I will find it and balance out the darkness.  To put it another way, I’m gonna let it all hang out.  I’m going to invest in me.  I will wear the curls God gave me and embrace the volume my hair has that others only dream of.  I’ll continue to nurture my body with the foods I love and know that I am healthy and this is the body that has carried me through everything.  It has never failed me. In fact, it’s the kind of commitment I’ve been looking for all along.  There it is again, that message, that for all the things I am seeking outside of me, I am most likely to find them within. 

 I will commit to me, reminding myself that I am a combination of good and bad, light and dark.  We all are.

Letting Go

3 Jan

So the New Year came and I did what I was expected to do. I dutifully declared my New Year’s resolutions to include the obligatory weight loss goal and I even reached a little deeper and declared I’d get back on my faith walk and refocus my energy on a man who will not disappoint. I call him God.

In the spirit of New Year’s resolutions and hope for change, I did what most people do. I started thinking of all “new things.” I’ve spent days thinking of new ways to change my wardrobe, new ways to manage my time, and new ways to spend more quality time with my kids. I also focused a lot my thinking on new ways to take better care of myself. In the midst of all these thoughts my life began to feel a bit cluttered, and then it hit me. I’m adding all these new things and yet I’ve made no room for them. I had no plan for ridding my life of the “old things”, the things that no longer serve me well, the things that detour me off my life’s path and limit my growth as a human being. For me, these “old things” fell under three categories: thoughts, behaviors, and relationships.
I no longer have room for thoughts that say I’m not good enough, I’m too fat and I don’t deserve true love. I cannot save any more space for the kind of behaviors that lead me down a path of destruction and isolate me further from the kind of people I truly want to be around. And when it comes to relationships, I have to take inventory of who is helping and who is hurting. Nobody is hurting me without my consent, I am accountable, and I know that means it is up to me to let go of people in my life that I have come to love in my own bizarre way. They mean something to me.

I am finding with the help of mantras and writing, my old thoughts are fairly easy to replace with new ones. Even old behaviors are being replaced by new and healthy ones in a short amount of time with some conviction. It’s the letting go of relationships that brings me to my knees. The tears flow and my heart literally aches. I’ve sat and wondered why it is so painful to let relationships go and now I am beginning to understand. Relationships have two people in them, the other person and us. When we decide to let the other person go, we have decided to let a part of ourselves go as well. We are saying, this relationship isn’t working for me and I can no longer do this. I can no longer be that person. We let them go, and we let go of a part of us that no longer works to our benefit. Maybe we are letting go of the part of ourselves that allowed others to take advantage of us, to use us, to hurt us. Even when it is in our best interest to let go of the “old us,” it can be scary. At least we are familiar with the old part of ourselves; we know what to expect in the way of thoughts and behaviors. Change on the other hand, can be terrifying. In fact, letting go of relationships will cycle you right back through to your old thoughts and your old behaviors so make sure your new ones are securely in place before you say your goodbyes. Goodbyes are tough so it helps just a little to acknowledge that you’re not just saying goodbye to the other person, but also to an old part of you that isn’t serving you well anymore.

So with the New Year, I have new thoughts. They come from a place of strength and an in-tact self-esteem. The thoughts about being good enough and worthy of love are here to stay. My behaviors are in check and leading me in a healthy direction towards my goals. I have intimate conversations with my God every night. He is the last call of the day for me. As for some of my relationships, I’m letting them go, and yes that includes parts of the “old me” as well. As necessary as they are, goodbyes are never easy.