Isn’t it funny how we are so driven by the way others treat or perceive us?
Think about this for a minute. Someone says something offensive to you, and you feel anger or resentment toward them. Or, a friend comes along and tells you that “you need to update yourself”, whatever that means. Often parents tell their children to “smarten up” or that they “need to behave”, because they perceive their kids as being annoying to others. Or worse, you are in a relationship where you feel unloved, unworthy and degraded.
Alternatively, if you are given a compliment, or a thoughtful “just because” gift, it brightens your day, even just for a few moments. If your parents tell you that you are beautiful and smart, you soak it in and act accordingly. You BECOME beautiful and smart. You feel like a million bucks when other people care or show you admiration.
Why? Because someone else says so, that’s why.
Self Esteem is a precious and delicate matter. It is one of those traits that can come and go, based on other people’s words and actions, if you allow it. It can also remain inside of us, fluctuating like gas prices, from one day to the next, based on how we feel about ourselves, or how someone made you feel.
Mostly, over the years, my self-esteem has been highly dependent on other people. This is something I have always struggled with. It is so much easier to listen to the words of others than to dig deep within myself to find my Value and Worth. Maybe this is part of human nature, or perhaps it’s just me. I am no expert on the matter.
The Day the Gaslighting Turned Off…
The term “gaslighting” has been a theme in my life, for as long as I can recall. There has always been someone in my life who has manipulated me to the point of questioning my sanity, my self worth, and my value.
That is, until now.
I found my sanity again, by stepping away from a toxic environment. I have written many stories about this, so if you want to check out my stories, please do.
Today, however, I am writing about rising from it all, and re-finding a portion of my self-esteem. I am beginning to feel as if the ashes are beneath me, finally and I can see the sun more clearly.
I will say, however, that finally shutting off that “Gaslight” has made me endure some time for healing, re-finding who I am, and analyzing where all my self-esteem went. It has been a rocky road, but worth it, for my own worth.
As it turns out, my SELF has been with me the entire time. It was just buried under a pile of damaging poison, that I now need to purge from my soul.
I am a work in progress.
The Flower of Your Self Esteem
Self-worth and self-value are much like a finicky flower. It requires daily care and observation to keep it growing. Your self-esteem also needs to be cared for, not just by you, but in how you handle other people’s perception of you.
Let’s look at Orchids for a moment, and compare them to your self-esteem, as orchids are one of the fussiest of house flowers.
Once an orchid is in full bloom, it requires little care and attention. You just sit back, let it do its thing, and give it a tiny dose of love and water when the roots become dry.
However, when the orchid is NOT in full bloom, it needs nurturing. It may need some plant food, extra water, and a trim. Once you have trimmed it, it is nothing more than a stick, looking drab and boring in a pot full of its own roots and waste.
Your self-esteem is much like the stick, or stem of an orchid. You have the choice of allowing it to be drab and boring, or you can work on it and encourage it to bloom. You can look at the stem as nothing, and toss it away, or you can see it as future growth and beautiful, long term, blooms that gain praise and adoration, simply by existing.
Grow Your Own Self Esteem
In order for your self-esteem and self-value to bloom, like a healthy flower, you need to take the time to work at it.
First, you NEED to work on shutting off the negativity of others. A very dear friend of mine taught me a neat trick for this. She calls it the CANCEL approach.
Say that word out loud, and get used to hearing yourself say it. Say it with me right now, “CANCEL”.
Now, every time you say something negative about yourself, or if you hear someone else saying or feeling shitty about themselves, say it out loud. CANCEL. By doing this, you have not only alerted yourself to what has been said or done, and that it is negatively impacting you, but you have also attached a defense mechanism to it. This defense allows for a clean slate.
Does your spouse or partner tell you-you need to go brush your hair? Say out loud, “Cancel” and go about your business. A stranger at the grocery store gets angry with you for taking too long at the checkout? “Cancel”, and just do you. Remember, other people’s opinions of you may be said, but the way you handle it is entirely up to you. Learning to cope with other people’s views of you with one trigger word will help you tremendously.
Another variation of this, if you are an “imagery” person, is to picture harmful words or actions on a chalkboard, and brush it all off, allowing for a do-over. I find saying the word, “cancel” is quicker and easier, and doesn’t require imagery.
Another tool for your self-esteem arsenal is to actually LOOK at yourself. Look in mirrors, or photos of yourself, and see the beauty of your own image. Ironically, this is where most people see their flaws. We see wrinkles, or zits, or moles, or weight gain when we look at our own images. This is where you need to check yourself.
With this exercise, you need to CANCEL all of the negativity. In my experience, it’s easiest to start small. Find ONE thing in your reflection that you love. Perhaps it’s the color of your eyes. Maybe it’s the way your hair shines. Focus on that one attribute, and walk away. Say it out loud if you need to, “I have nice eyes”. Smile as you carry on with your day. Good job.
The next time you see yourself, try and see yourself the way someone else has. (Only if it’s positive because you have cancelled any negativity). Maybe your child said you are beautiful, or perhaps your spouse called you “pretty”. Take a moment, close your eyes, breathe in that moment and look for that in yourself. The mirror looking back at you will reflect how you felt in that one moment of compliments and love, and you will see a new glow.
A third practice is to look at yourself and talk to the person in the image. “I am worthy”, or “I deserve happiness” are excellent self-talks. No one knows you as well as you know yourself. Use a few seconds every day to see your own image and your own self-worth. You deserve to feel amazing. We all do.
It may take a lot of practice, and time, but it’s worth it, because YOU are worth it.
Self Esteem and Self Worth Come from Your SELF
The thing with feeling degradation or negativity from others is that it is exhausting. It makes us feel lifeless, hurt, and simply tired.
No one likes to feel beat up emotionally all the time. We all want to feel light, happy, and carefree. There have been moments in my past where I felt like a horse with a broken leg, just lying on the dirt, waiting to be “put out of my misery”. That feeling is my OWN doing, for allowing myself to let someone I trusted take up unwanted space in my heart and brain.
So, how do we shut off the dark tunnel of other’s words and actions? How do we ignore and cancel what others make us feel?
By being SELF-ish. Being selfish doesn’t mean that your entire world is based on YOU. That is unrealistic and egotistical. However, there is a difference between coming across as arrogant, versus taking care of your SELF.
But, where do we start?
We start by eliminating people from our lives who encourage our self-esteem to diminish. If someone in your world looks at you without value, they aren’t worth the struggle of proving yourself as otherwise. This has been one of the hardest lessons in my life, yet I have learned to do just that.
Then, something strange happened.
Once I got rid of the toxic relationships in my life, people who saw my value and worth, began to come forward! People who I haven’t spoken to in years came back in my life, congratulating me for ridding myself of past shame and sadness.
And, you know what? Those old relationships came back, but I saw them differently.
With all of the work I have been doing on my own self-worth, I learned to see opinions and actions toward me in a different playing field. I won’t say I became “guarded” as old friends came out of the woodwork, yet I felt as though the chance to become friends again was like a clean slate. I saw them as strangers from my past.
An acquaintance reached out to me and said, “I couldn’t stand by and watch the way you were being treated”. Another old friend said, “I wanted to be close to you, but couldn’t handle your relationship and how you were treated”.
This was a double-edged sword for me.
Did those people come forward, simply because they knew I was no longer involved in a toxic environment? Or were they just curious about why I was no longer with him? The big question, however, was why was I not worthy of their kindness, when I may have needed it the most? To say the least, I found this concept very enlightening, yet confusing. It solidified my reasons for extracting myself out of the poison, however, it made me question the opinions of others toward me and my worth. That, friends, is a risky game to play.
Now, I have developed my own self freedom, based on the experiences I have recently have. I am starting to find out WHO I am, and where my self-esteem lies. Spoiler alert, it doesn’t come from the opinions of perceptions of others any longer. I can no longer base my feelings of my own value and worth on words of affirmation or negativity of others. My Orchid will not grow and bloom, based on the reflection others see in my mirror. Only I have control over that.
As much as I love to feel like others see me as beautiful or pretty, or to hear words of praise and affirmation, I know better now, than to use it as my crutch or Bible. I have put in the work, I have practiced the advice, and I have sucked it up and faced myself, to find my own worth. It took some time, but the blooms have begun to surface. They may be tiny, but with care and attention, they will flourish.
Get to know yourself. Love yourself. Be true to your self, and be SELF-ish.
It is the only place where you will find your own value and worth. Other people’s views of who you are can change with the weather. You are the only constant evaluation of yourself. If you find your self-esteem and confidence, others will migrate around you and feed it with you. The most empowering effect of having your own self-worth and self-esteem is that it oozes and attracts people who will see your value. They become like bees to your flower. They find your sweet nectar and want some for themselves.
Self-esteem and self-worth is an attractive quality that draws the same from others. It is contagious.
Even if you stand alone, you always have you, your reflection, and your self. No one else has the gift of YOU. You may be able to share yourself with others, but in the end, you are the only one who has ALL of you. Cherish every moment of time with yourself. You are blessed.