Four years ago those items were what I prepared for myself on Thanksgiving 2007; one of the loneliest days I have experienced. Before then I have no memory of a major holiday spent fully alone and certainly never a Thanksgiving. In 2007 there were two invitations to join others for dinner that day, but I declined knowing the self-prescribed time alone was a dose of the remedy I needed to swallow; the bitter cure I had to ingest.
At the time I was about a year into serious recovery from depression, trauma and compulsions. There was a very painful divorce I was still grieving over and was only beginning to become accustomed to my own company. Previously my “me-alone-time” was limited to no more than a day or two and frequently a few hours was all I could stand. Any more was usually acutely uncomfortable. Why? Because so much of how I felt about myself came from outside me in what psychology calls “other-esteem”.
When the majority of esteem came outside myself I had limited control over how I felt about “me”. I gave control away to the things and people I relied upon for “other-esteem”. Like a puppet on strings and someone or something else was always pulling them and controlling me. What a wild ride it was to be so in pain and yet not know how to take responsibility and control for myself.
When esteem inside was lacking, the strong tendency was to fill in the void with people, things and whatever would temporarily give me a “fix” and help me feel better. Those were the days when “other-esteem” came from money, possessions, sex, accomplishments, relationships and things I could “possess”, or at least thought I could. Such things outside me made me feel better for a little while, but only temporarily. My need was never sated for long and another fix was needed…then another… and another. Constantly I needed more and more and yet got less and less from all those external things.
The killer of self-esteem is self-loathing and it is something like a virus. If exposed to low self-esteem in our families, we catch it from them as we grow up. My parents caught it from the people who raised them and before them this way of living was likewise passed down from generation to generation. There is no fault to place today on my parents. They did the best they knew how. As an adult there is nothing good to come from the blame game. Rather, better emotional health comes only when I shoulder the responsibility for me as all mine.
Low self-esteem is a stage of grief that has not healed. The message to myself was I did not deserve better and as a grown up I subconsciously undermined me. It was the thinking I used to keep me from ever having what was wanted and needed. My thinking always flashed “UNWORTHY” in big red letters. Being deprived and undeserving is a downward spiral I spun in for years until I finally hit bottom and decided things had to change.
Quick definitions for Clarity’s Sake
Self: unique being; individual.
Other: contrary; alternate; reversed.
Esteem: regard; value.
Using those meanings:
What I used to have: A contrary, alternate and reversed regard and value of myself (Other-Esteem).
What I needed: An individual regard and value of myself as a unique being (Self-Esteem).
My esteem today is mostly of the “self” variety, but being a work in progress there is still plenty of the “other” variety I do battle with here and there. The slow but consistent progress I have made has allowed the happiness I enjoy now. What is won with the greatest difficulty is usually valued most. Attaining a corrected view of my self turned me inside out and was a highly painful process, but worth every ounce of discomfort. I am grateful!
Only as high as I reach can I grow,
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see,
Only as much as I dream can I be.
For a quick indication of where you stand with your “self-esteem” go to the link below and take a short ten question quiz that uses the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale developed by Dr. Morris Rosenberg. http://www.wwnorton.com/college/psych/psychsci/media/rosenberg.htm