"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Low Self Esteem

I have been thinking about low self esteem. I don't know when I started thinking about it, but it may have been after the convict bra debacle. It is not that I think I have low self esteem but I hear people throw around that phrase all the time when they are discussing, say, a promiscuous young girl or a man who lacks ambition (aka a bum). Allegedly, bullies have low self esteem (this apparently manifests itself by causing them to pound smaller children on the playground or post mean things about them on the internet). Cheating spouses have low self esteem. People who shoplift have low self esteem.

I would like to slap the person who started that one-size-fits-all low self-esteem theory. Alternatively, I would like to shake the people who throw it around willy nilly not knowing anything about the person whose behavior gives rise to the notion yet they still attribute any "bad" behavior to low self esteem. I think I should slap Oprah while I am at it, on general principals. She and the daily talk shop hosts have done a number on the last two generations who have had access to daytime TV.

Okay, let's talk about the young floozy. There are a zillion reasons why she may sleep around. Maybe she is a nymphomaniac. Maybe she has multiple personalities and doesn't remember that she just slept with a bunch of other people. Maybe she is just a free spirit. Maybe she sees herself as an earth goddess and sex is part of her religion. Maybe she was sexually abused as a child and thinks it is normal. Maybe her friends all sleep around and no one around her sees any problem with it. I'll go further - maybe she's been told it is a good thing and she is good AT it!

Until and unless a young girl has been taught that promiscuous sex is wrong and has internalized it, she is not going to see the down side to sleeping around. That is a value thing, not a self worth thing. If she has been taught that it is wrong and honestly feels that way, yet sleeps around in a pathetic attempt to be liked - THAT might be the result of low self esteem. But if she is one of those kids who thinks that sleeping around is cool, just what part of her behavior is fueled by low self esteem? Absent a belief that promiscuous sex is wrong, sleeping around is not any different than painting her toenails black because she thinks it is cool.

The bum is a little easier to wrap my brain around. Okay, so maybe he just doesn't think he can compete so he doesn't try. Some people are like that. But the guy who won't even go out and sack groceries? In the first place, his self esteem ain't so darn damaged if he turns down jobs because they are beneath him. And what if he just doesn't want to work? What if he doesn't think he needs to work? What if someone else is paying his bills? Until and unless she internalizes that working is important/essential, the fact that she isn't working is not going to be a symptom of low self esteem. If he thinks working is optional, NOT working is no different than the guy who, given a choice, would rather golf than play tennis. The parents of a lot of my clients don't work. And neither does anyone else on their block. They aren't losing any sleep over it. Where they live, work is optional and a little strange, like those guys with model trains in their garage (no offense to my good dog-buddy, Charlie).

The bullies? That is the hardest sell of all. The bullies I see (and I see them all the time) simply lack empathy. And they are mean as snakes. All they they understand is chain of command/pecking order and they abuse it. You can't bargain with a bully. You have nothing to offer him but your OWN lack of self esteem and he can never be satisfied, anyway. It is like feeding a bear. Never confuse meanness and lack of empathy with low self esteem. It is a mistake a lot of non street smart tender feet make. Anyone who tells you that someone who breaks into your home and beats you senseless, abuses your daughter and kills your dog simply lacks self esteem is an idiot. No one ever talked a bully out of being mean by talking nice to them. Keep a bat handy, I say.

Cheating spouses lacking self esteem. Please. That sounds like something they'd tell the spouse once when they get caught and the cheated spouse latches on to to try to explain away his/her fears that the cheater is a cad. Cheaters don't lack self esteem. They lack self control and are thrill seekers. And when they allow their spouses to believe it is a result of low self esteem, hallelujah! Now the cheated spouse will bend over backwards to make sure they praise and support the cheater so he/she won't do it again. What a con.

Shoplifters. Okay, I'll stop now. Do I have to go on?

I have joined a "Dare to be Ugly" Challenge on the HGTV message board. We sent good money to the hostess with the mostess in exchange for some butt ugly fabric that should be used to line a litter box. Those that have seen it, will agree with me. The challenge is to make it into something the cat didn't drag in. That is a challenge for me on most anything but this one is particularly, er, challenging.

I can't show you pictures of it (yet) and I won't be able to show pictures of it in progress because the rules of the game mean we keep it secret until mid November. In the end, all the participants will show off their creations (could be anything - a quilt, tote, wall hanging, trashcan liner) and we will vote on most daring, viewers' choice, etc. There is another category but since I won't win it, I didn't bother to memorize it.

I'll be honest. I don't like the fabric and I wouldn't have bought it. I am grateful that she didn't spend anymore on it than the hostess did and I STILL think she was taken to the cleaners. But I DO like the colors and that is all I am going to say about THAT! I have no idea what I am going to do with it but I will put my thinking cap on and see what I can come up with. It won't be long before I am hopefully packing up my sewing machine and fabric so I better get right on it.

Closed out four cases, today. Well, one of them may re-open but I still feel like I am making progress.

I'm off to go stare at the ugly fabric.

It really is ugly. If it had a consciousness, it would have good reason to have low self esteem.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see the fabric. And what you're going to do with it.

And thank you for making me think about self-esteem today..


Phyllis said...

good post and a very funny closing...poor, poor ugly fabric.

Thearica said...

I am glad you like the fabric I chose...LOL

And who knows...you just might walk away with the prize you forgot to mention. :)

Shogun said...

Speaking as a social worker, I enjoyed reading what you wrote!! Ali

Stephanie D. said...

Good points about the low self-esteem theory.

Anything to absolve people from accountability.