Human beings share the same basic structure in their nervous system and a background of similar experiences. From an early age we learn to adjust our behaviours to model those around us. We also have the unique ability to form a perspective that enables us to infer the thoughts and feelings of others. The early experiences, our interactions within our family and how we interpret what others think or feel about us contribute to our self esteem and sense of self worth. If we’ve been raised in a home in which parents have been nurturing we are likely to have a reasonable idea of our acceptability within our family, school, community and later as part of the world beyond.
Self esteem is built across four platforms: academic competence, social competence, physical/athletic competence and physical appearance. Self esteem is the difference between our ‘ideal self’ and our ‘real self’. The ideal self is drawn, initially, by the comparisons we make of ourselves against others within each of those four platforms. At school we may have topped the class and taken home the ‘best in class’ certificate. Now we’re in university and our first assessment result indicates that we’re academically average and placed in the middle of the class. We’ve gone from being top of the pack to being average. Our self esteem and confidence in our ability has taken a knock. There is now a discrepancy between between our ‘ideal’ (top of the class) self and our ‘real/actual’ (average) self. On the academic competence platform we’re not where we ought to be. As we go through life we adjust our concept of self as we measure ourselves alongside others.
Jealousy, professional or otherwise, gossip, competitiveness etc are our measuring our efforts against those of other people. Most of our hands will go up if we’re honest to at least one of these behaviours. It is a mature (and unique) person indeed who is not continually regulating their opinion of their own abilities in comparison to others. When I realised that the constant re-evaluating of my worth in comparison to my achievements was not doing me any good I decided I had to find a way to sort out who I actually am and who I had become. That was when I started to journal seriously.
I picked up a journal and started to answer prompts about my life, my world view, my loves, peeves, hopes, accomplishments, disappointments and so on. I came to know myself in a different way. The me of those days was in my head and largely formed from the reflected attitudes and response of others towards me, they were not always healthy self concepts. If the scales were tipped in one area there was something to negate that achievement, and so it was for most of my life. On the one hand I was this, BUT on the other hand there was this. It irked me that I couldn’t simply be happy to be me.
And so I wrote and wrote and when I was tired of writing I wrote some more. I used prompts as a hook on which to hang honest reflection and upon which to build evidence that countered the inner-critic (the voice of my father). It was painful, it was hard, it was sad, it was happy, it was fun but most of all it was healing. I am not there, nor will I ever be but I am better than I was and that is because of my journal and my honesty. I encourage those who are seeking inner peace and self acceptance to be as honest as you are able. After all it’s between you and your journal and once the page is turned or the cover closed only you and the journal know what vulnerability exists between its pages.
“The more light you allow within you, the brighter the world you live in will be”