Do you realize your power? Do you?
I was just a little girl enthralled with playing with dolls, but I was listening to you. I watched your every move. I memorized everything you said and did.
And you thought I wasn't listening. Ha!
On the contrary, I hung on your every word. Three decades later, how they haunt me.
You see, you set the gauge for my self-esteem way back then. You owned my self-worth. It was you who determined if I was a worthy human being... or not. As I wrote in my article How NOT to Raise a Narcissist published in a popular parenting blog, "As much as they may feign indifference, your child values your good opinion more than you'll ever know. Your opinion of them forms the basis for their lifelong self-concept and self-esteem."
You watched me. Critiqued me. Criticized me. No wonder I was nervous and jumpy in your presence.
I was just a little girl, but you had a barbed tongue. Oh, you always couched your cruelty in humour. As if comedy was a disinfectant that redeems meanness. Time and again, I asked Mommy, "Please, tell Daddy to stop teasing me. It hurts my feelings." But you wouldn't or couldn't stop.
Over the years, there really wasn't one facet of me that didn't meet with your disapproval. On the outside, you disapproved of everything from my hairstyle to the way I walked. You watched me. Critiqued me. Criticized me. No wonder I was nervous and jumpy in your presence. Then you criticized me for that.
My insides didn't meet with your approval, either. My heart, my emotions, even my spirituality were your playground. You labelled me "so emotional." Apparently, my tears were emotion, but your hot temper was not!?!
You made me dump my friends. When I introduced you to a boy I liked, I got branded an almost-whore. Easy. Cheap. It'd be 17 years before I made that mistake again... and yes, I was terrified when I introduced you to my fiancé.
When you weren't criticizing me, you were criticizing others. Mom. Relatives. Colleagues. Neighbours. Strangers. I was taking mental notes. Ream after ream of "notes" on how not to be. It's a burdensome tome I still lug through life.
Did you mean to destroy me? Or were you just carrying on the legacy because, long ago, your parents destroyed you?
And yet, I was still your little girl. I worshipped the ground you walked on. Hung on your every word. Until now...
How stupid could I get!?
Yes, you praised me and were proud of me. Proud of what I accomplished. It reflected well on you.
Yes, you hugged me... hugs that became more strained, awkward and reluctant the older I got.
Well, now I'm starting therapy... again. Oh, I have a great life! But I can't blissfully enjoy it because I feel like shit. I loathe myself. No matter what I do, it's not good enough. No matter how much I accomplish, there's still more I could've done. I'm in therapy because my self-esteem is non-existent.
Dad! Did you know your power? Did you mean to destroy me? Or were you just carrying on the legacy because, long ago, your parents destroyed you?
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Trying to live up to or exceed someone else’s personal best is a losing game. As the saying goes, “How boring would it be if we were all the same?” Focus on being the best you that you can be.
Either by looking in the mirror and saying something you like about yourself or writing it in a journal. Many times, we’re quick to compliment others on their success but hesitate to do the same for ourselves.
Exercise at least 30 minutes of exercise several times a week, to strengthen muscles and to burn calories. Improve your physical strength, and you may feel a sense of empowerment that can dramatically enhance your self-esteem.
The mere act of smiling changes blood flow to the brain and can actually makes you feel happier and relieve tension. A smile sets off chemical and physical reactions within your mind and body, releasing endorphins that boost your mood.
Forgive yourself for mistakes and focus on the positive by celebrating your victories. Consider writing them down so you can review and reflect when you’re feeling down and need to renew your confidence.
Join a weight-loss support group, like TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly), a nonprofit weight-loss support organization, which can help you to stay on track to accomplish your wellness goals. Fellow members will help keep you motivated.
Are you generous? Kind? Write down at least ten positive qualities about yourself and return to this list as often as needed to boost your morale.
Even if it’s in a small way, do something pleasant and rewarding, like catching up on your favorite television show, taking a walk to the park, or indulging in a bubble bath. Or treat yourself to something small that isn’t a food or beverage, like a manicure or a new piece of costume jewelry.
Pay attention to your food choices and nourish your body. Buy healthier foods and prepare well-balanced meals that will help give you energy and feel like your best self – not sluggish and overstuffed.
Whether it’s a side job, hobby, or as a volunteer, pursuing your passion in even a small way can lead to a sense of purpose and significantly improve your overall happiness and quality of life.
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