I am about to say something that is not really allowed, well - is not politically correct. For those that know me, this will be no surprise. For those that don't, feel free to shake your head in embarrassment for me. For you see, I do not really fit the mold and I have often said some taboo stuff. I'll admit, at times it is for the reaction, though I try to be sensitive to those around me. But I have some pretty strong opinions and some of my opinions come in the form of "this is not something you should waste your energy getting mad about". So consider yourself fair-warned!
I, Sarah Bethuel, have high self-esteem. Oh yes, I said it.
And you know what else? I do not have it because someone built it for me. I have high self-esteem because I had to work hard as a kid. I was forced to complete tasks that were hard. I did it. I felt good about myself because of the things I worked hard to accomplish. I also have high self-esteem because I was taken seriously, my concerns were listened to and not discarded as "childish." I have high self-esteem because there were times when I was growing up when I was told to entertain myself. So I learned to be in control of the world around me, instead of just waiting for life to happen, and growing upset at the world when I discovered I had been missing it as I waited. I have high self-esteem because I wanted it, so I went out and got it. I have high self-esteem because as soon as I was tall enough to reach the buttons, I did my own laundry. Because as soon as I could reach the drain, I did the dishes. Because I was expected to finish the things that I started, even if that thing was simply a board game I was losing. And I lost, a lot. I have high self-esteem because I was always told I could do anything I set my mind to. I was told that there would always be people standing in my way and that there would always be people cheering me on. I also knew that if I sat around on my behind all day whining, that those same people would tell me to get up and work for the things that I wanted.
From the time I was small, I can remember not wanting to be famous. I am not entirely sure if that was a true desire of mine, or if it was just a rebellion against an insignificant friend that wanted fame and fortune. I remember thinking "if I am someday rich, I want to give my money away or I will become someone I don't like." Now, I am not saying this to toot my own horn. And I want you, dear reader, to know that none of this post is to do that - nor is it about anyone or to prove any kind of metaphorical point. You see, I have found that in this society it is really common to put yourself down. I believe that more people have high self-esteem them admit it because if you say "I hate my life! I hate myself!" that people will tell you that you are just fine, that you are a wonderful person. That "everything will be ok and to hang in there." But if you say "I love what I have done!" you are criticized for not being humble or compliant enough.
I would like to take a moment and disagree - ok, not really disagree, but perhaps take a stand. It is ok to like what you do. I will go out on a limb and say it is a good thing! It is ok to tell people about an accomplishment and accept the compliments as genuine. It is ok to go out and strive for what you want. It is ok to take a stand for what you believe in. It is ok to look in the mirror and smile, happy at what you have become because of your hard work.
But you see, there is another side to this. And again this is the side that we don't talk about.
It is not ok to be lazy. It is not ok to constantly talk about your dreams and never do a damn thing to get there. It is not ok to put others down in order to feel ok about yourself. It is not ok to put yourself down in order to receive compliments. It is not ok to look in the mirror, disgusted at what you have become and feel completely powerless to change that.
Alright - I am a pretty direct person. So I am going to go one further - ready?
It is ok to feel like your life is not going anywhere - but still be working towards your goals. It is ok to be frustrated with where you are, so long as that frustration does not define you. It is ok to have dreams you know you will never achieve, so long as you also have ones you know you will. It is ok to look in the mirror, disgusted at what you have become and then look yourself in the eyes and claim "this is not who I want to be, and I intend to change it." And DO it.
I was listening in on a conversation recently about the Dugger family - you know, the one with a million kids? Well I will admit, I have never really seen their show. I know very little about them. But someone who I do not know started going on about how "it is impossible to spend quality time with that many kids." Now, I come from a bigg-ish family. Not 19-20 (how many kids does she have?) by any means. But there were 5 kids which made it 7 in the house. I heard this comment and, know-it-all that I am (that is another thing entirely from high self-esteem and something God and I are working on) I had to chime in.
My answer was that we as a society are far to concerned with high self-esteem. Sure, spending quality time is important as a family. But I personally believe is has been very over-exaggerated and as a result has created a lot of damaging guilt. Think about it, in the old days (for lack of a better term) there was no time to "spend quality time." You simply lived life together. You baked bread together, you jarred fruits and veggies, you worked the earth, you cleaned the house, did the dishes, folded laundry, took care of the animals. You celebrated together when the tree you planted together produced it's first fruit, you danced together in the evening when the day's work was complete.
My beloved 4 year old has had a hard time lately with her chores. I will ask her to do even a simple task and I hear "but it is going to be hard for me!" Well, yeah. Life is hard. But you know what? If I sit with her, hold her hand, tell her how amazing she is, how special she is, how proud I am of her and how "this is easy!" as she sits on her bed and pouts. Then one by one, help her to put her toys away - at the end she has an inflated view of who she is and has not accomplished diddly squat. So call me a harsh mom. But I KNOW she can do this on her own. You know how I know? Because if she is told she can have icecream as soon as the toys are put away it is done in 3.5 seconds. But there is not ice cream everyday. Some days she just has to do the hard work. And while I will tell her that she can be hard worker if she chooses to be and I KNOW she can do it, she gets no pity or praise from me until the work is done. And the work gets done, and she does it all by herself because in life there are no short-cuts. And I know, she is only 4. So I will be there when she needs me. I can make suggestions ("are all your books put away yet?") when she gets stuck. I will have a smile (most of the time) as I tell her that "I know the work is hard, but I also know that you can do it if you work hard. Here is a hug and a kiss, now go do the rest of the job I have given you" And when the work is done, I cannot tell you the joy that is on my little girl's face and she runs out of her room, shouting "Mama! My room is all clean!" And oh we celebrate together!
THAT my friends is how you build self esteem. And you know what? It works on grown-ups too. We may fuss and pout and stamp our feet, yelling to our Daddy God that "It is not fair!" and "This is going to be hard for me, it is going to hurt!" And you know what God says?
Yes. It is hard. It is going to take everything in you. But I will never leave you, I will never forsake you. Now quite whining and go get dirty. Because there is not ice cream everyday. And this is the job I have given you.
There are no short-cuts. No shoving our junk under the bed is allowed. But oh when the job is complete? I cannot even tell you the joy. The REAL true God-given joy. He runs as fast as he can and he celebrates with us!
28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
American Standard Version (ASV)
But the labor comes first...