Sunday, September 19, 2010

Self-Esteem 101 - Part II: Causes

So I did my Google search. There is a lot of information out there about what self-esteem is and how to increase or build it, though even that isn’t always understandable in practice, but what about how we get in that hole to begin with? Why we are the way we are? Previously when I would experience problems with my self-esteem level, I would focus on how to get out of the hole. This time I want to figure out why I was in the hole and why I so frequently end up in that place. I hope it will give me some clues to prevent future episodes.

Keep in mind, there are many resources out there on this topic, self-help books, tapes, counselors, etc. I just found some quick sources from Google, found a few that seemed like they could be helpful, then the pondering began.

An important note, low self-esteem can be a symptom of depression or other illness. It is recommended that those experiencing this symptom should first consult their physician to determine if there is any need for treatment.

The best resource I found on the web is a pdf developed by the Maryland Community College’s S.O.A.R. Program. This document was developed to assist students transitioning from high school to college.


Although it is not yet known all the factors that contribute to low self-esteem, it is believed that negative emotional responses do play a significant role. For example, failures, criticism, teasing, punishments, abuse and poverty affect feelings of self-worth. Additionally other influences such as the media, our culture, race, gender and religion can all play a role. Essentially, what happens is that negative thinking becomes a habit.

The brain is believed to be flexible and the more we think in a certain manner, positively or negatively, the more that type of thinking becomes our reality. Hence if we allow these negative emotional responses to build up or if they occur repetitively, it is very easy to develop a habit of negative thoughts about ourselves. Soon it becomes all we know and we forget what it feels like to feel good about ourselves. This corresponds with research into how brain pathways develop. This can happen as a child or as an adult. For more information on how the brain creates neuropathways and how our thinking influences this creation, I recommend the following movies.

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

You Can Heal Your Life

I remember how in my junior year of college I had a realization that not all families behaved and treated each other the way my family did. It was an eye opener about how insulated we can be in our formative years. I knew people were different, but I didn’t know that relationships could be so markedly different than what I thought was a very normal childhood and upbringing. Interesting how “normal” means very little these days and “common” may or may not be relevant. What appears to be important now is “healthy” versus “unhealthy” or “nurturing” versus “abusive and/or neglectful”.

Ok, so why exactly has my self-esteem been making frequent visits to the toilet for 3 decades? How does this apply to me? I'm going to ponder this profound problem. In the meantime, does any of this apply to you? More to come.

Permission to Feel Good About Yourself

I am a fan of Jennifer Lee and her blog Life Unfolds. Jennifer is a life coach and has developed products and support for those of us who choose to live from a less analytical place. She has a fabulous post about giving oneself permission to do all of the things that we so frequently disallow. I thought it a lovely piece and apropos given my exploration into self-esteem.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Self-Esteem 101 - part I

I don’t really understand it. I just know that I should have it. And that I should have LOTS of it and it should be HIGH rather than low. Over the past few years I’ve felt my supply of esteem dwindle to near depletion. Feeling good about myself has been a struggle since my early teens. The first obvious signs of this problem was when I became anorexic at age 13 followed by years of sporadic bulimia and chronic disordered eating. The bottom line is that self-esteem is something that I was able to cultivate now and again, but not for long and not on an ongoing basis.

Recently events occurred that led to disappointment. Although disappointed, I was taken aback by how quickly my sense of being and worth plummeted. Suddenly I went from mere disappointment to utter despair. My mind began its assault. Attacking me with comments like, “I’m a loser”, “I don’t deserve success”, “I’m fat and ugly”, “everybody’s life is better than mine”, “I don’t deserve to be happy”, “I’m a horrible parent”, “I suck”, etc. Mean things. The sort of things that I wouldn’t stand by and allow my friends or my child say about themselves, or anyone else for that matter. I know I’m not the only one in this situation. I have too many friends who also feel like this.

The incident got me thinking about how long it had been since I felt good about myself. How long it had been since I felt worthwhile and deserving of wonderful things. I decided that perhaps my true problem lay in a lack of self-esteem and did what any other smart, capable person who wanted to solve a problem would do. I did a Google search.

What I discovered is that there is a lot of information out there, but not a lot of information that is helpful. And before anyone decides to point out the obvious, yes, I have had counseling and read a substantial number of self-help books. I know I’m not alone in this. So I’m going to make my journey through this a series. I know my blog appears to be more about economy than psychology, but really, isn’t the most truly luxurious thing in our lives how we feel about ourselves. How we feel about ourselves cost nothing monetarily, but can be so costly to us when we don’t feel good about ourselves. I think it may well be the most economically luxurious thing anyone can have.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

All About the Pretty

As anyone can see, my blog has had a face lift. I used to think such pretty blog scenes were masterfully created by super talented computer wizards or hired services. Luckily I have found that there are in-between options. Super talented wizards who provide templates to incompetent HTML wizard want-to-bees like me...and they are FREE!!!! I am thrilled to show the results of their talents on my blog. I'm sure there are several options out there, but I'm going to list the ones that I found to have the best selections and helpful advice.

The Background Fairy

Shabby Blogs

The Cutest Blog on the Block

For those wanting to make an upgrade, or just want to change their blogs with the seasons, check them out. And if you know of any other sources, by all means, mention them in a comment.

Is it bad that I keep going back to my blog just to look at it?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

When In Doubt....Do Laundry

Yes, I've been woefully neglectful of this blog. Life got in the way of my blogging and personal goals. In fact I lost sight of having any personal goals whatsoever. Now I'm in a more reasonable place and have been anxious to return to both a personal life and this blog. So, let's get on, shall we.

Over the past several months I've had several competing priorities which culminated in total very little progress in anything. This morning I was thinking how when our lives are feeling out of control, our basic routines and chores can be quite grounding, bringing us back to basics and often having a calming effect if we let them. Although most of us regard laundry as a necessary evil of life, and I admit to experiencing this perspective, it can be an act of meditation, even a commune with nature.

A couple years ago I installed a retractable clothesline on the back of my house. I bought the clothesline at a garage sale for $5 (I had priced them much higher for a new one). My neighbors seemed intrigued by such a device and at a loss as to why I would choose to dry clothes on the line. They concluded that I was going "Green". Truth be told, this is how I grew up. Drying clothes on the line is how we lived, at least during the warmer months. Not only is it efficient and energy saving, but your clothes and linens smell outdoor fresh. Admittedly, I line dry several items in the house, certain delicates that I don't wish to share with my neighbor, or just in general during the colder months.

Doing laundry is a lot like breathing. It is a basic necessity and can serve as an act of grounding meditation. Not to mention it can get you outdoors if you use a clothesline. Next time you do the laundry try thinking of it as a gift you give to yourself and your family, the gift of clean clothes. No matter how crazy life gets, laundry is always there waiting for you.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Measuring Time via the Vernal Equinox

So the weekend has come and nearly gone. With it, has gone the vernal equinox. In years gone by the equinox has been used to measure time and inform people of the seasons long before Farmer's Almanac became available. Even now many use this special moment where light and dark spend equal time inhabiting our day to mark the passing of time and to determine their progress in both agricultural efforts as well as personal goals. Personally, I use it for the latter.

So where am I on my personal goals? Exhausted! Sadly that is very true. I had hoped to have more forward momentum in my year than has come to pass. Sometimes I think that it is the result my needing to be here, right where I am, on this path rather than making what I consider to be progress. Then sometimes I wonder if perhaps I am not trying hard enough, if I'm not focused enough, selective enough, persevering enough. To take responsibility...meaning to be able to respond appropriately and be accountable is perhaps an act of realism and objectivity that I am not capable of. Self-judgment is such a slippery slope. I know few who can apply it with equanimity and equipoise to appropriately gauge progress. Rather many of us fall into the trap of unreasonable expectations of ourselves, self-loathing and disappointment.

Although I feel somewhat at odds with my progress by this first quarter's end, I have taken time out to enjoy being in the few days of sunny warm weather, noticing the new buds on the trees, the rapid progress of the crocus as it rose through the ground one day and bloomed the next, the magnificent sidewalk chalk art of my neighbors, and my dog stealing my neighbor's basketball when he unwittingly invited her to join the game (never offer my dog a ball you're not willing to lose). I even sat out on the bench swing in the sun eating ice cream with my darling daughter enjoying the warmth and displaying my white legs to the golden sun. No matter what our agendas and to-do lists, or how quickly our personal measures come at us, to let the transition into spring pass unnoticed may well be more detrimental to our well-being than sticking with our plans.

So how have you experienced this transition into spring whether on the actual day of the equinox, or just a lovely day that felt like spring to you? Do you have any rituals by which you welcome this time of year? Do you use the equinox to measure events in your life? If so, how?

May this new season bring us all many blessings in addition to the abundant new life we are now witnessing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Guess Who's Coming For Dinner!

Picture courtesy of and Mireille Guiliano

Of all the blogs I read, many of those authors are fans of Mireille Guiliano. I was very excited to discover today that she is publishing a cookbook. Sadly there was no content info on Amazon and I've seen no mention of it on her website. I didn't even see a release date. I'm certain I'm not the only one to be excited by this news. Anyone else out there excited to see what this will be all about?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

More Luxury for Less

I feel pampered when I have a soak in a hot bath and a pedicure. Unfortunately my current bathtub is very shallow making it difficult to enjoy a good soak, but I still have my pedis. I do the pedi myself, always have. I know a lot of people pay to have them done, but ultimately, it takes the same amount of time and energy to do it myself, without the added cost.

I started doing pedis in 2004 after I kept hearing my mind say "paint your toenails red". After hearing that for the umpteenth time, I decided I might as well do it even though I'd not painted my toenails since I was a kid. Surprisingly I was thrilled with the results. Now don't go getting all freaked out because I did what the voice in my head told me to do. We all have chatter in our heads. What is challenging, and most rewarding, is when we are able to separate our inner guidance (helping us to live our best lives) from our monkey mind (incessant chatter directing us away/distracting us from our path). I like to think of it as my soul directing me. Showing yet again that joy and happiness is something we can create for ourselves.

Regardless, pretty toes are a great way to start the week. :)

How do you feel most pampered? Is it indulging in a high end or pricey item or service? Or is it something you do for yourself? Or when have you listened to that little voice in your head that kept telling you to do something you thought was odd, but when you did it gave you loads of pleasure?