Saturday, 16 February 2013

10 reasons why spending time with me is good for your self-esteem

I was recently told that I wasn’t a very good friend, and since I love people disagreeing with me, this gave me a nice thought to chew on. I started reflecting on what is and is not strong about my interpersonal relationships, and where I could be working on the way I treat the people I love.

Largely, my reflection took  me back to a lot of the feedback I've gotten from the people I've known over the years. The reviews I've gotten have varied wildly depending on the person, the capacity in which I knew them, and even the day.

It occurred to me that there are some areas for improvement, for sure, and those are things I plan to reflect further on and learn more about. (When I figure more of it out, I'd like to do another post on that side of things.) But one of the things I realized I'm really strong at is building self-esteem by valuing people. I’m good for my confidence, and I’m good for others’. 

So perhaps just to show the world how good I am for my own self-esteem, I'm going to celebrate myself. Maybe this is self-indulgent and not very useful, but maybe you're able to see some of this in yourself, too, and that will brighten your day just a little. And so here you have it: 10 reasons why spending time with me is good for your self-esteem!

1. I love my imperfections.

I’m weird. Like, really, really weird. I run around with hairy armpits and will eat food that’s well past its expiry date. And you know what? I love that. I love that I’m able to be myself and not apologize to anyone for it. Because someone else doesn’t get to decide what’s valuable about me.

I love wearing sleeveless shirts, because I have beautiful arms. Really, really beautiful arms. Nobody but me has ever told me that, but who cares? That my beauty is different than someone else’s doesn’t mean that it isn’t there. It just means that I’m able to embrace my body on my own terms. And so should you.

2. I’m informed.

I do everything I can to make sure that everything I do is a choice. If someone feels sad every time I say the word alligator, but I don’t know it, then I have no choice. I go about my daily business, and every time I say, “See you later, alligator!” I upset someone I love without making that choice. But if I know that it upsets them, maybe I’ll still bid them farewell the same way, but at least I have the power to make that choice. (If I do keep saying it, I’m probably not a very nice person, for the record.) And in reality, I choose not to. Because now that I know, I can choose to treat that friend with deeper love and respect.

So it’s a silly example. But it’s very empowering to know how your actions impact yourself and the world. To constantly explore that is one of the simplest ways to understand who you are and what you stand for. Then the choice is yours.

3. I’m not afraid.

It can be hard to be vulnerable. When you expose your belly, you run the risk of someone stabbing you, and yet it’s the only way to connect with people. How can I actually expect someone to invest him- or herself in me if I don’t show enough vulnerability and sincerity to earn that person's trust?

I share myself. I share myself fearlessly because I know that being myself is nothing to be ashamed of. Similarly, I feel like shaming someone else for sharing their deepest thoughts is an atrocity. I believe in the power of safe space, and work as hard as I can to create that for both myself and the people around me. Am I perfect? Absolutely not. But admitting that is part of creating a space where imperfections are OK.

4. Judgement has a select few applications.

One of the easiest ways to feel self-conscious is to be in a situation where you feel judged. The thing is, judging people is relatively useless. If you know someone very well, then the information you’ve collected about them is probably enough to make a pretty informed inference about what they mean when they say a certain thing, or what they expect you to do when they gesture a certain way. It’s not judgement, it’s basic communication. When you hardly know someone at all, how useful is it to read into what they’re saying, as though you can decide whether what they’re saying is good or bad? What information are you basing this on? What does it accomplish, anyway? If they say they like a certain musician, is deciding that’s stupid of them really going to help you survive, brighten your day, or allow you to learn something new? I wager the answer is no. And so that’s why I do my best not to do it.

The only thing I know is my perspective, and some days, I’m not even sure that know is the right word for it. Judging other people isn’t productive, loving or supportive. It’s throwing your values onto another person, and the odds of their values being the same as yours are pretty slim. So then, I try to let people do their thing, and live their lives the best way they know how: by their own values.

5. There is always a silver lining.

I don’t care how badly you failed that test, I will find something good about the situation, because you are way too amazing to get nothing out of it. Even if the only silver lining is that we learned something, that is a silver lining. It’s us being strong enough to recognize that we have power over the situation and next time, we can make a difference.

Joy, peace, and hope don’t come from beating ourselves up. They come from picking ourselves up and finding a great path to follow.

6. You and I are one and the same.

Everyone on this earth is different from everyone else, which means that everyone is also the same. We’re so connected in this great web of life that by insisting that we’re so special and different from everyone, all we do is create a vast gap between us and all of the incredible humans around us. None of us is special or superior; so isn’t that reason enough to connect with one another?

I will treat you with the same love and respect that I treat myself with, because we are the same.

7. I’m curious.

I genuinely want to know. When you speak, I listen. If I don’t understand, I clarify. And if I don’t immediately agree, I search for a way to connect anyway. I try hard to truly listen, rather than waiting for my turn to speak.

It’s pretty easy to feel good about yourself when you realize that what you have to say is the most important thing to the other person in the room with you. You don’t feel intimidated or pressured to behave a certain way; it creates space for you to explore your own thoughts on the topic at hand. If that topic is same-sex marriage, great. If that topic is what you think of cherry pie, that’s OK, too.

8. I try to only remember things that matter.

You know those people who remember that one time three years ago that you made a mistake and bring it up every time they want to make a point? Yeah, I try really hard not to be that person.

But you know what I will remember? The time you went out of your way to be kind to me. The time you made me stop and re-evaluate something I thought I knew to be true. The time you shared that side of you that was so fragile and beautiful that I just wanted to wrap you up in my arms. I don’t believe people are evil, ugly or part of a conspiracy. I believe people are doing the very best they can, and that there is beauty in everyone.

9. I know the difference between self-loathing and challenging yourself.

I will kick your ass so hard if you start putting yourself down. Who do you think you are, to question everything that’s culminated in you getting to where you are now? So many things have gone into shaping you (including your choices), and you’re beautiful. Of course you’re not perfect, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy of love, and it doesn’t mean that you’re not powerful. You’re smart and capable. If you’re not happy, do something about it. That’s how you challenge yourself, not by finding all the “worst” parts of you. If I have to be the one to challenge you at first, I will.

10. I’m beautifully complex.

I celebrate the things I know about myself and value the things I’m still learning, and I will encourage you to do the same. I’m tough to figure out. People have told me that I stopped shaving my legs because I had no respect for myself. It’s interesting, isn’t it, that sometimes we try to explain things away when we don’t understand them, rather than trying to dig deeper? I try not to do that.

I can’t be put into a box, and neither can you. And that’s beautiful.


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