I’m reading bell hooks book, Rock My Soul: Black People and Self-Esteem. Even though this book is written for Black people, lack of self-esteem is a universal issue. In the beginning of her book she turns to the work of psychologist Nathaniel Branden. His definition of self-esteem is “Self-esteem, fully realized, is the experience that we are appropriate to life and to the requirements of life…Self-esteem is confidence in our ability to think; confidence in our ability to cope with the basic challenges of life; and confidence in our right to be successful and happy; the feeling of being worthy, deserving, entitled to assert our needs and wants, achieve our values and enjoy the fruits of our efforts.” He goes on to share six pillars of self-esteem:
He says, "Without self-esteem people will begin to lose their sense of agency."
I have found that growing my own self-esteem has required me to stand in my grown-ass self and take responsibility for it over and over again. I once heard a comedian say that his ex-girlfriend was yelling at him because she said that he had ruined her self-esteem. His response was it is called SELF-esteem. 😂
This taking responsibility for myself sometimes happens in little ways, like sending my food back at a restaurant if it wasn’t what I ordered instead of eating it anyway. And sometimes it happens in big ways like choosing myself and being clear about what kinds of relationships I want to be in, with people, with groups, and with organizations. This may require me to step away from people (even people I love), it may require me to refuse jobs that are not in alignment with who I am. But it always requires me to not abandon myself. To trust that I get to choose and so do they. That is what it means to be in right relations.
As I was pondering this I wrote the poem below:
I Choose Me
I choose me
I get to be chosen I said, I proclaimed, even with a shaky voice
I will not settle for relationship by default
I wanted/needed real consent
First I had to choose myself and then it was reflected back to me by the outside world
Then I was chosen, when it was okay to not be chosen, and it forever changed my life