Monday, September 18, 2006

Esteemed, I'm sure...

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-esteem lately, and this afternoon at M’s preschool class this was the major topic of discussion. Why have I been thinking about self-esteem? Damned if I know. I know I’ve gained a lot of weight recently, so this is affecting my self-image…but not enough to really get serious about losing the weight. I still like my food, and my late-night snacks…so it’s a vicious cycle. I gain weight, I feel bad, and so I eat more junk. Nice.

But I’m not writing about my weight. I’ve done that.

I’m talking about self-esteem. M seems to be full of it. And I try to make sure I do as much as I can to build it. I say things like “are you beautiful?” Yes, Mommy! “What about smart? Are you smart?” Yes, Mommy! (At the same time rolling her eyes but smiling with pleasure.)

But then I have those bad moments when I say something I shouldn’t. I can’t even type what I have said. It’s only happened once or twice, but really…am I the adult or not? And I worry that even those one or two times when I say something hurtful and her little face crumples into tears that I have just ensured years of necessary therapy. I am the worst mother.

I truly never remember my Mom losing it with me. Not once. Maybe she’s a better person than I, or maybe I just don’t remember it. I sort of hope that I just don’t remember it, because that would make me feel like less of a failure.

Because failure, failure people, is not good for your self-esteem.

Growing up, my self-esteem grew and the bubble burst several times. I started school when I lived in New York. On Governors Island…we’re talking P.S. 26. Okay, well first was preschool at the chapel on the Island. One of these days I’ll write about that too.

Although the teachers were hard-lined New Yorkers, and yelled at us kids as much as they taught us whatever it was they were teaching us, I had great self-esteem. In first grade I devised a plan with a friend of mine that we would help the teachers keep the Kindergarteners in line (literally) and even made up little report slips. I had tons of friends. I went to so many birthday parties I couldn’t even count that high.

The teachers wrote in my report card: Heather needs to stop her non-productive talking ie: to her friends.

Then we moved to Minnesota. By all accounts, Minnesota is a wonderful place to raise your kids…if they are like the rest of the kids in school.

I was not like the rest of the kids. I talked funny. I wore strange clothes that I thought were cool, because that’s what we wore on GI.

Mind you, I was in 3rd grade when I moved to Minnesota. And that’s when I stopped talking in class. Oh and pretty much at all.

No, I talked, just not much. It wasn’t worth getting teased about.

Heather needs to speak up more in class. Heather needs to CONTRIBUTE more.

Long after the New Yorker left my speech, the quiet kid remains.

In Junior High I got a little more outgoing, but by then I was tall and gangly. Boys were interested, but not the ones I wanted to be interested.

Then I met Chad. Not the previous Chad that I mentioned here and here and not the other Chad that I was to spend waste 4 years of my life with. This was a Chad that I met by chance at the county fair. He was volunteering for Gold Cross Ambulance Service, or something like that. Wow, to me at 13 or however old I was at the time, he was one hot guy. MMMM. Yummy. Looking back at his picture I see nothing but a sort of weird-looking kid, but at the time…I can still remember how it felt to just look at him.

I’d gotten his name and that was it. But I searched through the phone book through every spelling I could think of for how his last name sounded. Eventually I found him. And I called. We talked on the phone for hours. One time he walked across town when it was very cold just to see me…then I made him stay outside because I didn’t want my parents to know who he was…(I don’t remember my reasoning). I can still see his cheeks, bright red from the cold. Another time he picked me up in his truck and we drove around the outskirts of town. We ended up on top of a grassy hill in his truck, just talking, well, maybe a bit of kissing.

NOTE: This is not the truck I just wrote about but I thought I’d throw this photo in the mix since I know how guys like a photo of a nice truck.

We were never really dating. (Er, he had a girlfriend already…) But we talked a lot. And he did a lot for my self-esteem without having to do much. And I’m sure he has no idea.

I went on and made some bad choices in boyfriends, but eventually my self-esteem won out and I was no longer a doormat for anyone. (Well, mostly.)

But I never had anyone even offer me illegal drugs…and I was around kids who used regularly. They just knew I wasn’t into that. I’m choosing to consider that a sign of my self-esteem as a teen.

Sure, we as parents can build a foundation for self-worth in our children, but life happens to us all. We can’t shelter them, nor should we. I would have been angry at my parents had I not been allowed to make mistakes. That built my esteem as well, making mistakes and finding I could live through them, and grow stronger for them.

We (parents of young children) might as well let them make some mistakes now, while they and their mistakes are small. It’s laying the foundation for getting through those bigger mistakes that are eventually going to come.

I’m still making mistakes, but I’ll get through it. Eventually I’ll do something about my weight for real and I’ll be stronger yet.

So I guess my point is that we can try to build our children’s self-esteem, but in the end they find it where they (and you) least expect it. Posted by Picasa

6 people like me!:

Waya said...

It must have been one of those days here too. And I had photos to prove it. Very brave of you to tell all like this.

Sandy said...

Here! Here!

Your post basically summed up my feelings about self-esteem, and managed to answer the question I had about "over doing" it. Seriously...why aren't YOU leading the class?

Sandy said...

Oh, and that photo of you and M is absolutely adorable!

Jennine said...

Normally I would try to think of something funny and witty to say in response, but in all seriousness, I have found the only way to increase my self esteem is by doing something nice for someone else. It's the "Random Act of kindness" thing and it works.
Getting my mind of myself and serving another human being has brought me out of deep depression on several occassions.

This was true when I was 125 lbs overweight and when I was at my "goal" weight.

I try to teach my kids the same thing. And when I mess up...I just put a quarter in their therapy jar.

Harmonica Man said...

It sounds to me like you'd like to try to improve your self-esteem, otherwise it wouldn't be on your mind so much. Maybe if you found a support group of other people who are interested in losing weight, that would help. Otherwise, I know of one group who will support you for sure - US!

Keep positive thoughts Heather and don't get discouraged. You'll do great!

Kara said...

Hey, when our group starts the discussion on this topic on Monday, why don't you just read this blog entry? :)

My parents let me fall on my face a lot on high school. I think it was mostly my dad's idea. You are right, though. It makes you stronger to have to pick yourself back up!

Self-esteem is built into everyone.... it's part of the package deal.

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