Self-Esteem

I try to take Rufus on daily walks. He gets pretty stir crazy from being inside all day while I’m at work, and my ass is usually sore from sitting at a computer all day, so a 2-mile walk in the evening after dinner tends to make both of us pretty happy.

Lately, because it’s been so hot, I’ve been taking us by a large fountain in the super fancy neighborhood that bumps up to mine. At first, even though it was well over 100 degrees even at 8 in the evening, Rufus wasn’t interested in getting in the fountain, which is about the size of a swimming pool. So I began just pushing him in, and eventually he took to it. Now he happily jumps into the fountain and trots around in it and refuses to get out when I tell him to. The other day I had to remove my running shoes and go into the fountain to retrieve him.

Yesterday we arrived at the fountain to find a chocolate lab and his owner already there. We’d seen this lab at the fountain once before, and Rufus was happy to have a water companion. She taught him how to plow forward through the water in order to reach a toy, and now he does it like a pro, albeit rather awkwardly because his legs are so freakishly long.

The lab’s owner is a nice guy about my age. His parents live in the fancy neighborhood, and he’s staying with them while he works on this particular leg of med school, since it’s taking place in Fort Worth, and they’re closer to it than he is (he lives in a suburb east of Dallas). We chatted about various things, just friendly talk, and then he asked me about my weekend plans. I told him I’m going to Austin and asked about him. He said he doesn’t know yet.

By now it was getting dark, so I got Rufus out of the water with some help, and as I was wrangling a very wet dog, trying to get his collar back on him, Lab Owner asked me if I’d like to hang out sometime next week. I’m not sure if I hesitated, but I said, “Sure. What do you have in mind?” I guess I was hoping it could be friendly. I don’t know. I don’t like to say no to men, even when I want to. He said dinner, maybe, or drinks. That’s a date. But because I’d already said yes, I gave him my number.

The thing is, I love Boyfriend. We’re in love. I’m very happy in the relationship. I don’t want to date Lab Owner or anyone else. But I still said yes to him. So on the walk in the dark back home, I thought about why in the world I would accept a date I have no intention of going on.

That’s when it hit me. I have spectacularly low self-esteem.

I know. This probably isn’t surprising to anyone but me. Even the readers of my blog whom I’ve never met in real life already know this. Everyone knows it. Even I know it. A couple days ago a friend of mine who’s recently become quite skinny asked me why I was going on and on about how my body is hideous. She said she thinks I have a body perception problem. “I think that’s called low self-esteem,” I joked. I knew it. But I didn’t know it. Knowing it means knowing what it meant and means. Knowing how destructive it’s been and will continue to be if I don’t do something about it.

Over a year ago, my therapist told me that I find my esteem in the love of men. I took this in when she said it, and it kind of blew my mind, but my frame of reference at the time was focused completely on one man in particular. I thought, yeah, I do find my esteem in the love of A MAN. I never considered that this has been going on for a long time. And that it’s still going on.

I’ve always dated any man who expressed interest in me regardless of if I had interest in him, which I usually didn’t. On antidepressants, though, things were different. When I met Boyfriend, I’d been on antidepressants for several months. I felt pretty and confident and capable and strong. I very much was interested in him, so I went and got him. And I haven’t had the impulse to go outside the relationship for my esteem because I had it inside of me.

In short, I’ve been happy. With myself and with Boyfriend. We’ve been happy.

But since quitting antidepressants, my perception of myself has been awful. I feel lurchy and unattractive and overweight and incapable. I’m back to never feeling good enough, regardless of what I’m wearing or saying or doing or writing. So when a stranger expressed interest in me, I leapt at it. Because that stranger did make me feel good enough. Good enough to hit on, anyway.

For some reason I never put self-esteem and depression together. I remember reading about the symptoms of depression when I was beginning to realize that I probably was depressed. I read about feelings of poor self-worth. But since I couldn’t remember actually saying to myself “I am worthless,” I thought that one didn’t apply to me. It never occurred to me that saying to myself “I am never good enough” is, yeah, pretty much the same thing.

The antidepressants treated the symptoms. But they certainly didn’t solve the problem. It was waiting there for me this whole time. And now it’s trying to ruin yet another relationship and the happiness I found when I was feeling healthy.

But the difference between before antidepressants and after antidepressants is my self-awareness. Before, I never asked myself why I did these things. I just did them. Last night I asked myself, and when I learned the answer, I cried. Then I told Boyfriend. He asked me what we can do.

I’m not sure how deep these negative beliefs about myself go. Deep enough that I accept them as the indisputable truth, so true that when anyone says anything to me that contradicts them, I think that person is either lying or is wrong. Boyfriend says to me all the time, “You are beautiful,” and I usually either say “no” or look down and shake my head.

This weekend when he says it, I’m going to challenge myself to raise my head, look into his eyes, try to accept that he’s not lying, that he’s speaking the truth, and say, “Thank you.”

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16 Responses to Self-Esteem

  1. Kylajoyful says:

    Woman – I love reading your blog, and all of your posts are good. This one, however, is great. My favorite part is that last sentence. Do it, chica. Say “thank you”. I hope you’ll soon start to believe it, because it’s absolutely true. It’s a great thing to admit to oneself how loved we are.

  2. Kathleen says:

    You can do it, Spring! You’ve already come so far. Being aware of what’s going on is a huge step. You truly are one of the most beautiful women I know. Accepting compliments is hard, but saying thank you is all you need to do.

  3. D says:

    Food for Thought: I went to a women’s conference at my church recently. The message was about women constantly comparing themselves to others and finding themselves lacking. You know that I have batteld with body/self esteem issues for a long time, so I really listened, hoping to discover something new.

    The speaker said that women are not perfect, we never will be perfect, and we weren’t made to be perfect, but that Christ’s sacrifice makes us worthy. Worthy of love, worthy of respect, worthy of our place in life, regardless of our perceived flaws. To know this but continue to strive for a worldy definition of perfection comes from pride.

    This gave me quite the epiphany, because when I examined my own heart and looked at my life-long obsession with being skinny, I saw that it really did come from pridefulness. I am not satisfied with being healthy, happy and drop-dead sexy in my husband’s eyes. But I should be.

    This is something I’m trying really hard to change. I pray that it changes for you too, because here is TRUTH: you are beautiful, vivacious, sensitive, captivating and above all, worthy.

  4. Ryan says:

    How about just stay on the anti-depressants? You know my family’s policy – “better living through pharmaceuticals”

  5. Deb, I so appreciate you and your lovely, kind comment. However, I’ve come to think that maybe the church is part of the reason my self-esteem is so low. We were taught over and over growing up that we’re unworthy of love. It only makes sense that we’d come to believe it. And I think it’s an extremely damaging lie.

  6. D says:

    I’m sad that you think that. I never believed I was unworthy of love because of anything I was taught at church, in fact the opposite is true for me. I know we are in very different places when it comes to what we believe, but I’ve always felt I could still be myself with you and speak what’s in my heart. And that’s all I was trying to do: uplift you while being honest about my own experiences. I understand that we disagree.

  7. Love, I do very much value your input! And you know you can always be yourself with me and say exactly what you think and feel. I’m so sorry if I made you feel attacked with my comment. That wasn’t at all my intention.

    I think maybe we just interpreted what we were taught in two different ways, which is kind of interesting. I always have been rather literal. 🙂

  8. D says:

    No offense taken. Clearly an important topic to both of us. 🙂

    Sending you a virtual hug!

  9. Most importantly, I am so happy that you’ve found something that works for you. I know how you’ve struggled with this just as I have. Love to my oldest friend. 🙂

  10. Katy says:

    I really like this verse, and it’s been in my head a lot lately. Maybe it’s there for you! Just thought I’d share.

    “The King is enthralled by your beauty. Honor Him, for he is your Lord.” -Psalm 45:11

  11. BFF says:

    So, I agree with you that the church sets us up to fail from the very beginning. Perhaps, that is just a reflection of the church being made up of broken, faulty people. We are taught from a young age that we have to earn the love of God (not Biblical) and the love of those around us. God made us to love us, and we can do nothing to earn or not earn this love. We cannot even stop the love that God bestows upon us – even if we want to. Therefore, my dear friend, you must seek to love yourself as God loves you. To love yourself as you would love your BFF or as your BFF loves you. And when you figure out how to do this – then you must teach us all. 🙂

  12. nic says:

    I agree with your BFF. 🙂

    And I think you’re hot.

  13. jc says:

    What a powerful and honest message. When you write your first book, there will be many of us waiting to read it.

    So, I am married to a beautiful woman who has always dismissed my praise of her beauty. I have never understood her behavior. Your writing may have delivered a clue.

    Thank you.

  14. Courtney says:

    Also start saying to yourself, “Damn I look good today!”, even if you don’t always feel it. Saying it outloud – Rufus won’t tell anyone you do this – makes it more believable and can make a difference. And it’s okay to flirt with a handsome stranger, just next time say, “I’m in a relationship but we should get our dogs together again.” =)

  15. Pingback: #reverb10 Day 10 | Remedial Blogging

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