I have struggled with self-esteem issues since my teens, but it’s clear in my first long-ago diary that I didn’t start out that way. I acquired my low self-esteem. I learned it. I learned to play down the fact that I was smart, to bend over backwards so as not to “intimidate” people, to feel ashamed of the fact that I read so much and had an odd-for-my-age vocabulary (and mispronounced words), to feel ashamed for reasons I couldn’t pinpoint or articulate. What’s more, it was good to have low self-esteem; anything else was to risk a big head, and who would like me then? Confidence did not endear me to my peers. Insecurity did.
Part of the problem had to do with my undiagnosed ADD, or the fact that I was growing up right-brained in a left-brained world. The right brain – holistic, intuitive, creative – has no sense of structure, details, or time. I could do things that other people couldn’t (write novels, ace certain subjects without bothering to attend class, get a black belt) and yet barely function on a day to day level. I was so disorganized and scattered that when a boyfriend once asked me, “Justine, how do you get through daily life?” I had no honest answer.
But I would say another, equally big part has to do with the innate human tendency to rise or sink to the level of expectation the culture holds for you. We like to claim that we’re not influenced by the world around us, but truth is we’re hardwired to adapt to the herd (which is why choosing your herd is so important). As a girlchild in the early-to-mid 1980s, I wasn’t expected to like math. So I stopped liking math. As a young woman, I wasn’t expected to have high self-esteem. As an older woman, I’m not expected to have high self-esteem either, but I’ve learned to say a cheerful, Fuck that.
If you’re a woman (or man) with high self-esteem, what would you do that you’re maybe not doing now?
I have an answer for that:
You would trust yourself.
You would take good care of your health, for one thing, because you value your body too much to trash it. You would honor your strengths and talents – and also your weaknesses, your limitations. Instead of feeling threatened by your imperfections (and other people who might point them out), you would learn how to work around them and form partnerships with people who complement you. You would feel the fear but do it anyway – because you would know, come hell or high water, that you can handle it. You would go after the goals that are worthy of you. You wouldn’t worry so much about what other people think. You wouldn’t confuse their voices with your north-star inner voice. You would say no. You would say yes. You would bring all of yourself to your work, to your life, because you would recognize that every so-called vice has a virtuous flipside, every shadow contains a glint of gold. You would honor your relationships. You would seek your place in the bigger picture. You would empower others. You would look in the mirror and see the cellulite on your thighs, the sag to your breasts, and recognize that you are still innately fascinating; you don’t have to be “born beautiful”, as Diana Vreeland put it, “to be wildly attractive.”Lots more in that post: http://justinemusk.com/2013/07/03/the-art-of-thinking-highly-of-yourself-without-being-a-totally-obnoxious-narcissist-or-something/
About the author: http://justinemusk.com/about/
And a whole bunch of delicious reading, a lot of which is focused on writing (at least at first scan) but a lot of which will speak to your soul: http://justinemusk.com/sitemap/