Self Esteem and You and Me
By Irene Conlan —
Many of us can still hear Sally Field exclaiming as she received her Oscar for Places in the Heart in 1984: “And I can’t deny the fact that you like me… right now… you like me. Thank you.” It has been quoted and misquoted, and it remains in our minds when we see the late Sally Field on TV or in a movie. Whether or not she had self-esteem issues, I really don’t know, I do know that at that moment she felt liked and being liked is important to each of us. She passed Abraham Maslow’s Love/Relationship category on his controversial Hierarchy of Needs and, according to him, she could now move on to the level of self-esteem.
A look at Self-Esteem
Whether we accept Maslow’s theory or not we know that being loved, loving and lovable is important when we are dealing with self-esteem issues. If we feel that we are not loved by others, it is hard to love ourselves. Conversely, if we don’t love ourselves, it is hard to love another. So we have something of a “chicken and egg” dilemma.
It seems almost like a process of helping each other up the ladder. You take a step up and help me come up there with you. Then I take a step and help you step up to where I am. The more you make me feel loved, the more I feel I can love myself; and the more I love myself, the more love I have to give you.
There is a meaningful Latin phrase, non habit, non dabit—you cannot give what you do not have. So if you can’t give love if you don’t have any, where’s the starting place?
Who loves ya, baby?
Who is in your life that you love? A child? A spouse? A significant other? A friend? A combination of those? How do you show them that you love them? Do you rely on gifts and bribes to keep them coming back or do you give them the gift of yourself—laughter, sometimes tears, your shortcomings, talents, likes, and dislikes?
Can they see who you really are? Do they know that you love them just because? (Just because they are who they are?) Do you make an effort to show them that you love them or do you expect everything to go one way – your way – and then wonder where they are? Are you in the habit of holding back because you are afraid the love won’t be returned? What is the greater risk: to love and be rejected or not loving at all?
How do others show you that they love you back? With phone calls, emails and visits? Sharing meals and time together? Can you accept their offerings and take this in, so you know that you are, beyond a doubt, loved? Do they have to show you or do you just know? Are you expecting lavish gifts or something beyond their abilities to show you that they love you?
Watching children sometimes helps you know more about love and self-esteem than any thing else. Children are amazing teachers.
A story from home
When my grandson was four years old, as soon as he got home from school, he made a bee line to my quarters. Sometimes he gave me a big hug, and sometimes he didn’t. Regardless, I always got the feeling that he had a special love for Gramma. He adored his father–that is unquestionably true–and he wanted to spend time with Dad. But he liked to hang out with Gramma, too. He didn’t care if I’m too fat, too old, or too anything.
Computer games and TV
We played computer games–we both love them, and he sat on my lap as we played. We pretended that the living room is another place. One side had hot water, the other side had cold water with lots of trees in the middle. We always needed a pretend umbrella because it seemed to rain at his whim and he didn’t want us to get wet. (A lot of giggles were connected with this daily pretend game).
We watched Tom and Jerry, Calliou, and Thomas the Train on TV, and we had great long conversations about all kind of things. He was not intimidated by the fact that I have a Ph.D., that I’m significantly older than he is, or that I’ve done or not done anything special. Jack loves me and knows that I love him back. This little boy is quite pleased with who he is and just isn’t concerned about self-esteem issues. When we’re together, we are loved and have the highest of esteem for our selves and each other.
“Sit” with your questions
Sit with the questions and your answers about loving, being loved and esteeming yourself and others. And if nothing else helps you, go find yourself a four-year-old.