Having passed people-pleasing on the rung below me, the rung on the ladder of life, I am now on a new rung. A new rung does present new challenges, however, I feel ready for this rung. For I saw this quality in myself some time ago and shared these thoughts with friends.
I shared with them how, ever since I was a little girl I wanted to save the world, yet my parents had to remind me twice a day to brush my teeth. I reminisced about friends who had “slipped into the trenches” and how, although my motive has been to help a friend out of the trench, after a while what I really found, was myself down in the trench with my friend. Not fully knowing how I wound up there or how to get out, one thing I did know – I could not just leave someone I care about, down in the trench.
And then, thank God, I had a great moment of growth.
Never before could I fathom the heartlessness required to be able to walk away from someone in the trench. Thank God I was wrong. For heartlessness is not what it takes for me to leave the trench. What I need is my own worthiness. This requires self-esteem.
Self-esteem used to seem so elusive to me and I could not figure out why. It just seemed that a girl like me ought to have good self-esteem. There seemed no reason not to, I mean. And then I learned that self-esteem is not too concerned with looks. Being tall and thin does not necessarily produce self-esteem. Nor does talent. A top-seeded tennis player in high school, I was, and self-esteem still eluded me. I just couldn’t figure out why a girl like me couldn’t seem to get it – good quality self-esteem. It bothered me, and as a result, I did some pretty stupid things.
Then one day I was discussing this topic with friends, and I heard something that would totally change my life. My friend Kerry said, “Someone once told me that self-esteem comes from doing esteemable things.” I was like, “What? Say that again?” Something clicked inside of me, and although it seemed way too simple, I knew it made sense. Something else inside of me wanted to argue it, though.
I do esteemable things, I thought, so that can’t be all there is to it, my brain said to my soul.
The thing is, my soul responded, I also have to stop doing non-esteemable things.
So yeah, there is more to it. I would have to stop rationalizing, justifying, minimizing and exaggerating, if I wanted good self-esteem. I would have to do the things I tell myself I am going to do, like eat better or exercise. I would have to stay out of situations and conversations that are none of my business. I would have to stop telling business that is not mine to tell. I would have to stop trying to change things I can not change.
I decided every single day to make it a priority to do esteemable things whenever possible and to stop doing non-esteemable things. I set my alarm to go off three times a day to remind me to examine the day thus far, correcting any non-esteemable acts I had committed. Most of the time, this meant calling my mentor to tell her about it. And in no time, for the first time in my life, I found good quality self-esteem.
Having self-esteem has changed my outlook on many things, including my relationships with other people. When I feel worthy of stepping out of the trench, then what my friend does or does not do, is really not a factor for what I do. But when I am harboring hate, guilt or some other negative emotion, then my soul knows I am not worthy of stepping up. When this happens, it is much easier for me to say, “I can’t just leave my friend here in the trench!”
Today I can see that stepping up a rung on the ladder of life is not the same as leaving a friend behind. A friend who feels left behind, simply may not be ready for such work. To this friend, I say, “Rest assured, my friend, I am not leaving you. It may seem dark and grey where you are, but it doesn’t have to be. When you are ready, holler, and I will be there to help you step up, out of the trench. And then you will see a sliver of sun, starting to shine on you.”