Self-esteem was not a big focus when I was a child. Parents were metaphorically patting themselves on the back if they provided food, housing, clothing and education. How things have changed in recent times. There appears to have been a strong movement, even beyond the psychology of childhood experiences to positive psychology. The focus these days is more on how to become a happier person. Less dwelling on the past, looking for causes of unhappiness, and more focus on how to nurture yourself. After all, the experiences we have gained, both good and bad, have shaped us into who we are today. Many of the difficult experiences I had as a child have shown me something about myself and what I’m capable of.
My mother always talked about people being ‘insipid’ as if it were the worst thing in the world. Being an introvert, it was not very natural for me to seek the limelight and I still feel quite uncomfortable being centre of attention. I found my wedding ceremony most difficult with the emotions running high; trying to keep my beautiful make-up from smudging; and all those people looking expectantly at me to do the right thing. The relief of the service being over is blatantly obvious in the photos.
It was probably one of my greatest fears as a teenager and young adult to be boring or insipid. These days I’m certain that I may seem boring to many but also interesting to some. Last year when my highlights either grew out or wore out, I was referred to as a ‘librarian’ at a children’s party by the magician. Not that he’s someone I’m really trying to impress but it tickled that fear of being insipid once again and galvanised me into the salon.
I cut alcohol out of my diet a few years ago. I’m not an alcoholic although it does run in my family. I cut it out because I felt it was not serving me. My health started to deteriorate about three years ago after a traumatic event and has steadily declined. I have a wonderful book called Healing Foods by Margaret Roberts which discusses the links between health problems and the food we eat.
Being individuals, I believe that some foods just don’t sit well with some, but have no effect on another person. My husband can glug back litres of milk which would make me gag. There are, of course, foods that are harmful to everyone. The danger foods in the book for almost all conditions are sugar, fried foods, processed foods, alcohol, caffeine and sometimes refined carbohydrates and dairy. I cut out alcohol because I just didn’t feel good and I believed it to be affecting my already fragile health. So that may make me more boring socially but I don’t regret it and I don’t miss it really. Well, apart from a nice port in winter!
My six-year-old is also an introvert although she’s very friendly and confident. I think it was her third birthday and we had a big party at our house. Everyone gathered round and sang a hearty happy birthday. Once she blew out the candles, she asked me quietly if she could please go to her room. She retreated to the safety of her bedroom and emerged about ten minutes later, having recovered from the intense attention.
For years I feel that I’ve been neglecting my needs and prioritising other people’s needs. This is probably rooted in my childhood where we were raised with a strong focus on consideration for other people. I also embed this in my parenting because I think it is a quality that is rare today and endears one to others. However, I will also ensure that my children know when to care for themselves. As mentioned in my previous post, making sure I have some fun in my day is medicine for me, particularly now. I’m starting to say things like “Mommy also needs some time for herself” to make sure they realise I’m not only here to serve them, and also to embed in them the idea that it’s OK to care for yourself.
Does your self-esteem need some repair? Some books I’ve read ask if you’d keep yourself as a friend considering the way you speak about you. It’s something to think about and a worthy exercise to pay attention to what you tell yourself. When I look in the mirror I usually think ‘You look tired’ and I quickly try to add something like ‘but happy’ at the end when I catch
myself doing it. I’m paying attention to what I eat, particularly as my thyroid slows down (yikes!) and to how I am nurturing myself in this recovery period.