Self-esteem. Self-confidence. Empowerment.
These are topics that are near and dear to my heart, especially for young people. So when Steph presented me with this idea of talking about how we imprison ourselves due to low self-esteem, low self-confidence, and negative self-talk and ways to turn that around into total empowerment, I was game!
So I’ll be quiet now and let Steph tell you more. Enjoy!
More people suffer from low self-esteem than they care to admit, particularly because poor self-image points to a painful past that many of us are conditioned to keep deeply buried. Adults who were bullied as children by fellow students — and in some cases, their parents — often find themselves staring down the stark, self-imprisonment that is low self-esteem.
During these formative years, children don’t always recognize that the things that make them both different and the brunt of verbal or physical abuse from their peers, are often the things that make them successful as adults.
Author / journalist Alexandra Robbins called this concept “quirk theory” in her book, The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth. Many of the young people profiled in Robbins’ book are shown in the early stages of their journey from self-imprisonment to empowerment, having been bullied for their unique skills and hobbies by peers with more mainstream interests. Those documented in Robbins’ book accept a challenge to find ways to ply their talents into something rewarding and to rise above the jeers of their peers.
Having read the book last year, their stories resonated with me. Growing up, I was quiet, shy, and slightly overweight. Throughout elementary school and junior high, I was the girl who preferred reading, writing, and spending time with my family to being a sock hop n’ skate-o-rama-attending social butterfly.
I loved English class. I attacked writing assignments with zeal, using them as a creative, even cathartic outlet. I was so excited when I was finally called upon by a teacher to share what I wrote with the rest of the class and read an essay aloud.
I had written about my grandmother, who tried to teach me how to read Tarot cards. Grandma had a psychic gift and did readings for some of the older women in our neighborhood. While I didn’t quite demonstrate as potent a gift as Grandma, I was fascinated by ghosts, psychic phenomena, and all manner of paranormal topics.
Well, when my classmates got wind of that… Whoa, mama! It opened the floodgates to all sorts of taunts. Being a kid, I was naive to the fact that the things I thought were “cool,” were not the norm for most of my classmates — who promptly took up calling me “devil girl” for the remainder of middle school. Soon, snide remarks about my weight were thrown into the mix, too.
I started to view myself and my interests differently and became hyper-critical of myself. I almost let others suck the joy out of the things I loved to do most.
The Turning Point
By the time high school arrived, I had lost my “baby fat” and developed an interest in running that rivaled my love of writing. I even ended up making my high school’s track and field team. While this helped to make me (slightly) better accepted by my classmates, I was fortunate enough to have a strong support system in my family and friends from elementary school. I even made a few new friends who actually thought my interest in Tarot — and my Grandma! — were cool. This allowed me to tune out the negativity.
I started to gain some level of self-acceptance, although the seeds of doubt had already been planted by classmates who still continued to make fun of me from time to time.
The turning point in how I viewed myself came when I was looking at pictures of a party a friend of mine had developed. I noticed a girl with dark hair, clear skin, and a huge, beaming smile in several of the photos. I thought to myself, Wow, she’s a really striking looking girl.
And then I realized that girl was me!
I didn’t take too many photos back then since I was so self-conscious of how others saw me. When I finally saw myself through my own eyes, I realized that the joy that I thought was vacuumed out of my life all the way back in 5th grade had been almost completely restored. I was comfortable with who I was. I was happy and healthy with family and friends who loved me for who I was: a slightly off beat aspiring writer / student athlete with a leaning towards the metaphysical.
How to Free Yourself from Self-Imprisonment
Whether you’re a child or an adult who still sees themselves negatively through the eyes of others, you can still free yourself and walk confidently towards self-empowerment.
- Embrace your differences. Recognize that the world would be pretty boring if everyone was a carbon copy of each other. Even friends who have similar interests as yours are completely different from one another despite a common bond.
- Be your toughest critic and your own best friend. There’s nothing wrong with being critical of yourself, so long as you’re doing so with an eye towards improving the quality of your life and levels of happiness. To do so, start recognizing what you’re good at and work to change the things you may not be happy with.
If you can, start keeping a journal or dig up old journals you may have kept through the years. Reread entries as “an objective observer” to find a greater empathy for yourself rather than wallowing in self-pity. At the time you kept those journals, you may have thrown yourself a pity party. That’s fine! We’re all entitled! You’ll find you understand what makes you tick when you review your life objectively.
- Find a support system. Even if you become your own best friend, no one can be a one-man band. Tune out the “static” of negativity and “tune in” to your own interests. Find a band (support system) that you can listen to instead to drown out the noise that’s not conducive to your happiness.
- Learn to laugh “with” yourself, not “at” yourself. Television sitcoms with flawed protagonists (think Al Bundy from “Married… With Children” or “The Golden Girls’” Dorothy Zbornak) are loved by audiences because there is a truth to those characters that we recognize in ourselves. We tend to laugh “with” them and not “at” them because we recognize that, like many comic characters, we each have good days and bad days with our self-identity. When you learn to laugh with yourself, situations seem a lot less dour.
- Everyone’s “turning point” is different, although it becomes a lot easier to arrive at once you’ve started liking yourself more. Having friends and family who gently nudge you out of your comfort zone and offer support is a huge help in learning to see yourself through your own eyes — or at least a less critical pair of spectacles.
This post was written by Steph Potter on behalf of Psychic Source. Tarot readings, meditation, and a great group of friends keep her balanced and happy.
Over to you…
Ahhh, I think Steph is on to something! In a world full of naysayers, pessimists, energy vampires, misery lovers, and the like, we need to find ways to ensure we keep on keepin’ on with our unique selves and embrace our differences.
How do you improve and/or maintain your self-confidence? Can you identify with Steph growing up with people who ridiculed you because you were different? How did you handle it? Please share!