Ten years ago during the end of January, I was sure that I would be hard-pressed to find anyone around me with worse circumstances. Sitting on some old firewood with sleet falling on my face while I hid from cops, thinking, this can't possibly get any worse.
Here I am ten years later, and I am convinced that I would be hard-pressed to find anyone around me with better circumstances. Anyone more fortunate and blessed couldn't possibly exist without their head exploding. My circumstances, as far as I'm concerned, can't get any better. I think a mixture of hard work, patience, guts, and love got me where I am. Which by the way IS SWEDEN.
I finally feel like the suffering I endured as a child and teenager wasn't for nothing. I finally feel ...normalish.
So that smile you see there is completely candid and not forced or fake at all. That's saying something! What more could I want? The family I au-pair for is completely perfect and wonderful. I have this feeling of unity with them, plus a four year old and a two year old I can cuddle and love on just about any time of day, as well as the princess-y, regal bedroom I always dreamed about having as a girl. I am a short train ride away from my absolute favorite city on earth and all that it has to offer, I have a plethora of friends I never got to see before who are now at my disposal whenever I want, and one of those friends is now my tall dark and handsome European boyfriend!
For this blog, I wanted to just mention how grateful I am for not only my life, but the opportunity I have to actually live it. Sometimes due to depression I don't even see this miraculous setting and events, so I'm really trying to hang onto these positive feelings and savor them in a way that a Swede savors the sunlight (ha, ha. I am now ok to make jokes about Swedes, right?) but I also wanted to mention my self-esteem journey a little as well, since I've been mostly silent since making my New Year's Resolution to
"Faith in Oneself is the Best and Safest Course." --Michaelangelo
1. Stop Being An Asshole, Inner Voice!!!!!
This was really an eye-opener, because I had NO IDEA how horrible I treated myself on a minutely basis before I took simple step one. That was to stop thinking negatively. I vividly remember a moment after New Year's where I was going to step in the shower, and had to out-loud tell my inner monologue to stop being a dick and calling myself fat and ugly and stupid. Seriously! All in the span of less than three minutes I had insulted myself to the extent of a moronic internet bully. It hit me then....I let that bully get out of control. No wonder I was miserable. Now it's more often than not that I catch that negative voice and tell it to fuck off kindly somewhere. You'd be amazed how much stopping it helps.
2. What the Hell Is Your Problem With Me, Me?
After getting used to telling my inner-bully to stuff it, I felt like I could finally dig deeper. Why did I hate myself so much? What the hell did I do that was so terrible? I wanted to know, so I thought about it a lot. People don't just hate for no reason. Not themselves, or anyone else. There had to be some motivation. What I discovered with my poking and prodding to my innermost being (and asshole bully) is that I DON'T hate myself. That was a huge surprise. It's more of a defense mechanism; i.e., I don't want people to put me down about my paintings. So I convince myself that I'm no good at painting. But I go overboard and say, wow, you fucking suck at this you piece of shit, why do you even bother? It may have at one point worked to have me avoiding negativity from other people, but it backfired horribly as I became less and less comfortable with my ability to do anything, to make anything, to be friends with anyone, or girlfriend, or co-worker, or ANYTHING. Honestly, knowing this came as a relief. I don't have to go through the probably horrifically complex process of un-learning hatred. I just have to tell that overzealous protector/critic to shut the hell up because she's ruining life.
3. Pretend You're A Friend.
At some point in my self-esteem research I came upon an amazing quote that suited me perfectly. Reason being is that I am a fierce, FIERCE friend and protector. I love my loved ones well, and they hopefully know that I would die for them any day if I needed to. That I will always be there to punch THEIR bully right in the face. Anyway, the quote was: "You almost have to step outside yourself and look at you as if you were someone else you really care about and really want to protect. Would you let someone take advantage of that person? Would you let someone use that person you really care about? Or would you speak up for them? If it was someone else you care about, you'd say something. I know you would. Okay, now put yourself back in that body. That person is you. Stand up and tell 'em, Enough!"
4. Find SOMETHING To Like....and Be Encouraged
The timing of this whole thing has been really great; it's not like I chose when to start liking myself based on the stars. It had gotten to a point where I scared myself with my suicidal desires, when I actually tried to open a window to jump off a balcony. (Thanks window, for being too complicated for my simple little American brain to figure out.) But since I came to Sweden I've had this overwhelming choir of support, from friends at home and people here in the country. I think the thing that means the most is that people I never would've expected have called me things I never thought they would think of me: brave, crazy, free, a badass who does whatever the hell she wants. They may not know just how profoundly all of those things affected me, because that's all I've ever wanted to be. Free, brave. An adventuress. For all intents and purposes I have succeeded in a way I've never been able to measure before.
And that teensy little ray of hope has made me realize that all it takes is wanting to be someone, wanting to be a certain way. If you have that want--to be kinder, to be more bold, to be calm or supportive or hilarious or whatever it is--all you have to do is want it and work toward it, and it can happen. So often it seems like we are who we are and damn anyone who thinks different. I know I feel like that, anyway. But I think ourselves can be whatever we want it to be, and that's a good thing. I want to be someone who is inspiring, and funny, and helpful and yes, a little crazy in all of the best ways possible. I want to be a loving friend and beneficial to society as a whole, I want to make a difference. I can do those things, they're not impossible. They just feel like they are sometimes. I don't have a novel written out on exactly the kind of person I want to be, but I feel like now for the first time in my life I have a grasp on my potential. And if I am that person I want to be, then confidence will come naturally.
So, there you have my processes so far. I am really looking forward to what else lies in store for me. So share your processes for self esteem with me, all you narcissists. I need all the help I can get, still.