"First of all you have to stop thinking people are talking
about you all the time. You have to stop paying attention to that. You have to
hold your head up. But to hold your head up you have to get an education from
your ABC's to your multiplication tables.
math and English well. Learn how to speak. Learn all of those things and then
put yourself out there as number one because now you know the decent language.
You know how to hold your head up as you walk. You're going to incorporate all
of these things and say I'm going to be counted. You're going to say I can do
anything anybody else can do and now I love me. You have to learn to love you.
from nothing and I'll tell you, I felt like I could fly after I found out who
I was and where I had to go. I'll continue flying. I will just zoom. I feel like
I can zoom every day, every minute, because now I know who I am, where I have
to go and where I'm headed. I just want to take many people with me. I'm teaching
them self worth first. Loving is the best thing in the world. Learn how to love
yourself and just apply that love everyday for you first. And then for everybody
"There are two kinds of self-esteem in a way, one is the sort
of root self-esteem, which comes early, should come early, and is not related
to accomplishment. It's a sense of being a good person regardless. It comes from
being loved. That's how we know we're lovable. It comes from being listened to.
That's how we learn we have something to say. It comes from being treated like
a unique individual, because there is a person inside every baby. Everybody who
has ever met a baby knows there is a person already in there, and yet, if we are
treated like we're supposed to be just like uncle Harry or we're a stereotype
of a girl or a boy, or a racial stereotype or in all the ways people are treated
as not unique, then you come to believe there must be something wrong with this
true self that's inside of you. Core self-esteem comes very early and has to do
with being an intrinsically ok person and a unique person. The upside of being
human is that we're adaptable because that's what has allowed the species to survive,
but the downside is that we're adaptable so we absorb the outside world's estimate
of us. So, it's very important that we're treated in a way that makes us know
that we are valuable. Not more valuable than anybody else, but not less either."
"Situational self-esteem comes later and is attached to how
well you do math or how well you do sports, and is more comparative. Of course
these two kinds of self-esteem are like water in a river, once they're together
you can't really separate them. But the first kind is much more important because
in it's absence, or if it's damaged, the second kind can become addiction. No
matter how well you do at sports, no matter how much money you have, not matter
how well you're treated, you think, those people just don't have good judgment,
or that's not enough. This hole inside you left by an absence of core self-esteem
becomes a bottomless pit that just sucks in accomplishment praise and nothing
can ever be enough if developmentally you haven't got the first kind. That's not
to say that we can't go back when we're grownups to the place we were as children
and mend that sense, but, we can't make up for the lack of core self-esteem with
nothing but situational self-esteem."
"If we have a terrible self image and we're wonderful at sports
or dance or something, we may end up being anorexic, bulimic, or just being miserable
for various reasons. On the other hand, if we have a sense of ourselves, we may
love the game and just have a good time even if we lose. We once ran a story in
Ms Magazine called "Singing on the Bus" about female basketball players who had
a male coach and the coach was driven crazy by the fact that even when they lost,
they sang on the bus on the way back. He kept saying "How can you sing? You lost."
And they said, "Because we love to play."
On writing a letter to yourself as a child...
"I put a chapter in my book called "It's never too late to
have a happy childhood" because it isn't too late. You can always go back to those
emotions and brain cells in the child self that is within you. If you sit and
just meditate or breathe deeply or let memories come up, whatever you want to
call it, you can re-find that child and you can actually imagine your grown-up
self sitting next to the child and becoming the parent or the support, or whatever
that child needed and didn't have."
"Alice Miller, who is a writer and a wonderfully wise woman,
said that if you have only one person in your childhood who treated you as a unique
and good person and said bad things may be happening to you, but it's not your
fault, that even the presence of that one person means that you have a chance."
On nurturing self-esteem...
"There are lots of things we can do as an individual. Find
a book that speaks to you, whether it's poetry or specifically about self-esteem
or about racial prejudice, or child abuse, etc. They can be greatly helped by
a book in which there are voices of other people who had similar experiences.
Sometimes meditation and spirituality help, but in my experience,
what helps the most is other people. Say to yourself, I am only going to hang
out with people who make me feel good, who make me feel competent and smart, better
about myself than I otherwise would. Make sure you have some access to people
like that at least once a week, that you make a place where a group of girls or
women meet. They used to be called CR groups or rap groups. Sometimes they're
now called book clubs or talking circles. We are communal creatures. We are adaptable.
That's our strength and our weakness, so we need to surround ourselves with people
who support us. Usually it's a group of women who support each other and share
a place where you can tell the truth or share versions of similar experiences.
It might be a group who have the same body image, or are going through divorce,
or moms who are feeling a sense of really being deprived because they're home
with little kids all day long. It may people who are sharing a very specific similar
experience or it could just be people who make you feel good. We need that."
mom always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to. She was so strong
and serious that eventually,I started to believe her even though they were telling
me otherwise at school, putting limits on me. There's a lot of limitations put on young women; I'm sure it's
more so for women of color. Society puts limits on girls saying they can't do
this or that, and I never understood that. I did whatever I felt that I should
be doing and I always stood up for myself too to be able to do whatever it was
that I wanted to do.
I was very active
in school. I was always involved in something. When I was in eighth grade, I started
arm wrestling and I could beat every guy in the entire school. The football coach
would have me line his players up and I'd put them down one after another just
putting them down, I guess. That was thrilling because I was stronger than anybody;
that in itself gave me a lot of self esteem and self confidence being the strongest
person in the school.
Sometimes I just feel this inner strength and power and
it's so wonderful. It just comes from within or beyond, a spiritual connection.
In high school there was this woman, a friend of mine, that
was really pretty and the most popular girl in school; she was also the nicest,
to tell you the truth. She got to try out for cheerleader but they wouldn't let
me try out because they kicked me out of pep club the year before for throwing
some boys down the bleachers. They were out to get me any way; they didn't want
me on that cheerleading squad. So, I didn't get to be cheerleader. Then, they
voted for football homecoming queen and of course Bethany got it and everything
else I thought I deserved and wanted. She got the warriorette that year. I guess
it was the first time I experienced jealousy in my life and I thought I hated
her. I never thought, at that time, that it was a bad thing to feel like that
about somebody, especially since she was my friend and so nice. But I hated her
that whole year and tried to talk bad about her to other friends; they said, Oh
you're just jealous because she's so pretty.' By ninth grade year I didn't want
to be jealous of Bethany. I said all I've got is what God has given me and all
I can do is the best with what I've got. If that's not good enough for anybody
else, then it should be good enough for me. I went to her the next year and said
that I was sorry, that I was jealous of her. I also said that I'll never be jealous
again and I wasn't. I was never jealous about what anybody had, how anybody looked.
You can't do anything about it if somebody's better than you or has more than
you. You just need to work harder."
Beautiful Inside and OutsideÖÖ
is a mantra I tell my four year-old daughter. Youíre beautiful inside and outside.
Youíre beautiful inside and outside. Our culture doesnít tell girls that the inside
is correlated to the outside and that joy and self-realization and physical self-love
radiate and are attractive. Instead itís all about weights and measures, very
external. Itís very objectified. We encourage girls to think of themselves as
objects that can be compared and are interchangeable and there is one at the top
of the hierarchy and how do you measure up to it. When
youíre interchangeable you canít feel that good about yourself. When youíre interchangeable
and Vogue magazine always looks better than what youíre valuing yourself for,
thereís no way you can feel the feeling that is ground of self-esteem, that Iím
unique, that Iím irreplaceable, that Iím not in competition with anyone else,
that Iím precious inside and outside. We need to transform our culture so that
no young woman becomes essentially addicted to the kind of short term superficial
boost to her self-esteem that she gets by losing five pounds or by getting breast
enhancement, to create a world in which a girlís self-esteem is so thoroughly
grounded that they know thatís truly not where their value lies.
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