Chapter 1January 1Even though time be real, to realize the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom.
Most of us measure the realities of life by time. Without our even being aware of it, the context of time directs, defines, channels, and limits most of our thought patterns. Concepts like past, present, and future divide our lives as neatly as three acts divide a play: One begins where the other ends, until the play is finished. That is the outer world.
But clock ticks and calendar pages don't control the action in the inner world. As we develop the inner awareness that develops self-esteem, we get in touch with a different reality. In the kingdom of our own minds and hearts we discover a self that is neither old nor young, neither beginning nor ending, but just being.
In this world there is no such thing as before or after, on time or late. There is only the peace and serenity of now
-- the now that was, is, and will be.
The healthiest people have dual citizenship: They live in both worlds. When they are saddened that some prized and precious time is passing by, they are also comforted by knowing that the richness of human experience is timeless. All that was good lives on in the inner world -- not lost, not wasted, not past. In the soul there is only the eternal present.Soul making has nothing to do with time as the world measures it.
January 2Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Self-esteem is not static. Within boundaries, depending on the ebb and flow of the tide of our lives, our sense of well-being naturally fluctuates. Many of our low points, however, have not so much to do with a particular problem as they do with the state of mind we bring to that problem.
We may not always have control over certain fears. If we were once badly burned, for example, we may always have a residual overreaction to fire -- and there are, of course, many kinds of fire. But we do have control over the fatigue and loneliness that set us up for fear attacks. Of all the efforts we may make to bolster self-esteem, avoiding such fatigue and loneliness may be the most important.
Is it always necessary to work as hard as we do? Can we never take a break or a little nap? When was the last time we took a vacation? And how often do we set aside time for a good long conversation with a friend? Sometimes "alone" is not a healthy place to be. Especially if we're also tired. Those are times when our fears find us most vulnerable.I will avoid getting too tired to feel good about myself.
January 3Comparisons are odious.
Sir John Fortescue
Talk about a setup! What are we really doing when we compare ourselves with others? Are we simply gathering information -- or are we actually gathering evidence of our own inadequacy? If that's our game, we're sure to win by losing every time.
Maybe we first learned to make unfavorable comparisons as a form of self-protection. Perhaps our tactic was to put ourselves down quickly -- before "they" could do it for us. As children, we may have used self-effacement to deflect even worse verbal abuse. But we're not children now. And those bullies who lurked in the bushes aren't there anymore -- unless we've internalized and generalized them into everybody who isn't us.
Do most of the people we know seem better, smarter, handsomer, more interesting than we are? If so, that's a sign that we're still playing out the same old self-defeating pattern. Out of fear, we're volunteering to be "worse" so that those who are "better" won't want to hurt us. After years of practice, self-effacement has become Our habit.
But we can form a new habit if we want to. We can begin by refusing to idealize people who are in fact the same mixed bag of strengths and weaknesses that we are. We can stop making comparisons to put ourselves down and start taking a look at the worthy people we really are.Today, I don't need to vandalize my self-image by making unfavorable comparisons.
January 4The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Some truths are harder to face than others. Yes. I eat too much and lose my temper with the kids. Yes, I tend to be selfish sometimes and manipulative, too. But no, I don't remember much about my childhood. I guess it was as happy as most people's.
Sound familiar? Many people working to improve their self-esteem identify themselves as Adult Children. To their great credit, they've joined forces for mutual comfort and support. But many Adult Children still spend a lot of energy fending off the past instead of accepting it. Understandably, they have more trouble than most in coming to grips with yesterday. Their yesterdays were a nightmare.
Perhaps their parents were practicing alcoholics or religious zealots or simply unavailable emotionally. Perhaps there was constant fighting, or demeaning remarks were made. Who wouldn't want to forget such misery? Yet that misery really happened; it is an important part of the Adult Child's personal truth.
Only by acknowledging and accepting that truth can Adult Children be done with it and get on with the task of making today everything it can be. Only then can healing and restoration of a positive self-image begin.Denial ties me to the past.
January 5Each is given a bag of tools,
A shapeless mass and a book of rules;
And each must make, ere life is flown,
A stumblingblock or a steppingstone.
R. L. Sharpe
Who would try to nail boards together without a hammer or change a flat tire without a jack? To deny our need for tools would be ridiculous, wouldn't it? Yet many of us have trouble accepting that we need tools to repair our damaged self-esteem.
Sheer force of will won't lift a car so that a bad tire can be replaced -- and it won't lift a heavy burden from our spirits either. Insight and knowledge of carpentry can't pound a nail -- nor can insight and knowledge, without the help of tools, pound the dents out of our battered psyches.
It isn't weak or shameful to admit that a human finger isn't a screwdriver and a human eye isn't a microscope. Why do we resist the idea that spiritual work, like physical work, has its own set of tools? Reading, sharing, praying, attending our support group's meetings -- these are the tools that help us do the job. They aren't optional niceties or crutches. If we need to lay a new foundation, we need to dig a big hole. And if we need to dig a hole, we'd better be willing to use a shovel.My willingness to use the tools determines the outcome of the job.
January 6No one may abuse the truth with impunity.
R. Duane Joseph
A person's integrity is his or her own truth. To live honorably is to abide with the truth we claim as our own. Self-esteem is the sister of integrity; it's the natural result, the by-product, of honorable living. That's why both integrity and self-esteem are affected when we wander from the honorable path.
When we have affairs, go back on our word, tell half-truths, exaggerate to get approval, we chip away at our integrity. And any chipping away at our integrity undermines our self-esteem. This is the reason that even the smallest dishonorable behaviors are so destructive -- no matter how we justify them.
If we're involved in any activity that violates our moral code, that runs contrary to our own value system, then we're in self-esteem trouble. All the psychological maneuvering in the world cannot and will not restore serenity to the soul if this involvement continues.
Is there a basic decision, a letting go, that must take place? Although it may take heroic effort, that turnaround decision will give wings to our self-esteem.Peace with self is a treasure beyond measure.
January 7We live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. The great task in life is to find reality.
Taking on impossible missions is the best of all possible ways to lose status with ourselves. Yet there are those of us who are powerfully attracted to the Superman cape, no matter how many times it failed to flutter before. Something in us keeps forgetting how short a trip it was from the roof to the sidewalk.
For the sake of our self-esteem, we need to remember how hard the sidewalk is the next time we're tempted to take on a task that can't be done. If we're trying to think for other people, resolve their self-made messes, or rescue them from their own willfulness, we're guaranteeing ourselves another hard fall. And the pity isn't that our attempts keep failing; the pity is that we hurt ourselves trying to do what no one on this side of heaven is allowed to do -- save other people.
The purest, most noble intentions in the world won't make the Superman cape billow. No matter how loyal or devoted, we are still and only human. Steadfast love and encouragement are the best we have to offer our troubled loved ones. If we want to salvage our self-esteem, we need to accept ourselves and our loved ones, limitations and all. And we need to hang up the Superman cape.Even in a good cause, my grandiosity is self-defeating.
January 8Procrastination means paying twice the price when you eventually must act.
T. A. McAloon
The relationship between procrastination and self-esteem is not coincidental. The reason is that self-esteem slips whenever integrity is sacrificed, and procrastinating always demands the offering up of a tiny piece of our integrity. Heavy-duty procrastination is also a first sign of depression in many people.
Suffering people say that when they are depressed they feel overwhelmed, overburdened with so much to do there's no hope of ever getting it done, of feeling powerless in the face of insurmountable odds.
Whatever the specific cause of a depress...