SELF-ESTEEM, WHAT’S LOVE GOT TO DO WITH IT?
By Valerie McIntyre
Most of us, in some form or fashion, male or female, struggle with self-esteem issues. I believe it is systemic in western culture, in perhaps an embarrassing way. In other parts of the world, where people are fighting just to live, low self-esteem takes on a whole other color. But for those of us who have grown up in a fairly stable environment, it’s a shame that we struggle with this monkey on our back, but we do. I grew up in a house without a father–mostly. My dear Dad was in and out of jail for white-collar crimes, such as embezzlement. He just couldn’t help himself, literally. His absence didn’t make for a secure home life, and it bred in me a constant sense of fear and anxiety. I never knew what the future would hold, and I had a suspicion it might not be nice. My mother was a wonderful, creative woman who did her very best to keep it all together, and she did. Both sides of the family pitched in so my mother didn’t have to work when we were growing up (my father’s family was wealthy). But when I was 12 they got divorced and I never saw my father again, he died when I was 18 and out of the country with no chance to say good-bye.
In a society rife with divorce, I know my story isn’t rare. Plus, there are a myriad of reasons why the west struggles with low self esteem, everything from guilt (we have too much), or shame (I have too little), broken homes, or a media that tells us we will never live up to that image we see in the magazine. Seamus Heany, the historian, wrote that in ancient times gold rings were the symbol of power—today it is sex. In addition to all the obvious issues I faced, I was also a hyperactive child, so there was a steady stream of negative reinforcement. I was ALWAYS in trouble, and I was an excellent little Pied Piper, which meant I had most of the neighborhood following my mini acts of mischief. I was constantly zinging between fear and outright rebellion. It was a dizzying mess. And yet there were incredible times of peace, mostly when I was outside, in nature, often alone daydreaming, thinking up stories and schemes for the life I would live one day. I had plans, things were going to get better.
Well, many, many years later things did get better, but it’s been a long haul and it’s clearly not over yet. Being recently married I’ve had to deal with a new host of self esteem issues (there’s a new boss in the house and it isn’t me.) But here’s something I’ve discovered recently. All along, through all those crazy years, heartbreaking times, disappointing moments, I knew that deep down inside I was someone worth loving, because someone did love me. I was created in someone else’s image, someone perfect. And he loved and loves me. He has my best interest at heart, and he has my back. No one and no circumstance can take that away from me. When I was about 10 years old and I was having a particularly bad day, I lay down in the grass and looked at the sky and I knew that someone much bigger than me knew exactly how I felt. I knew that one day we would be together forever and every tear would be wiped away, I would be fully known and I would feel fully loved. That truth has never left me. That is where our self-esteem should live, not in a good body or a six-figure job, but in the loving hands of someone who loves us more than we can even imagine.