Self-esteem: Article in Progress, responses requested

Hello again…I’m working on my first Taurus article, which will be content-shared with Planet Waves Astrology News and Chronogram magazine. My readers tend to have truly insightful thoughts, and I would like to put this one out to you, since I think you may hold some keys to understanding this issue.

I am building toward putting this into the context of the “say no” messages of the past 25 years, associated with programmed ignorance about sex and our society’s current frenzy with compulsory heterosexual monogamy. (Taurus-Scorpio stuff.) Technology is a factor: it can be incredibly alienating. I would like to hear your thoughts. What you type here, I may use in my article and will credit by your first name, i.e., “a reader named Cindy wrote…”

Thank you.

If we look back honestly on this phase of history, we’ll see that one of the most profound issues of our day is a pandemic-scale crisis of self-esteem. We don’t need to look far for the manifestations of this, or for the causes. As my editor Brian put it, he’s noticing it most in people feeling like they are going insane because the world doesn’t appreciate who they are or what they have to offer.

To describe something as a crisis of self-esteem is to use a byword covering a great many situations. These range from depression (literally, feeling pressed down) to the challenges of adapting in a world that does not seem to be the same place from hour to hour. Adapting takes energy and being in a constant process of adjustment can consume nearly all of our energy. Another way to consider a self-esteem crisis is being out of equilibrium with one’s existence. Our society has been speeding toward total imbalance for a long time: indeed, it’s the history of the post-World War II world.

In practical terms, the pain we associate with self-esteem crisis can show up as any of the following: the feeling of being worthless or useless; having no sense of purpose; feeling like one’s life is totally out of control; feeling unworthy of love; hating oneself; walking around thinking everyone hates you; obsession with relationship in order to defend against any of these feelings; constantly feeling lonely or overwhelmed; and many, many cousins of these thoughts and emotions. Two others are: being terrified of intimacy or feeling like relationships are prison cells.

24 thoughts on “Self-esteem: Article in Progress, responses requested”

  1. Thank you so much for covering this topic, and to all those who have commented.

    Clearly a chord has been struck that resonates with many people, myself included.

  2. Yup – agree with comments re that article you wrote today Eric. I am also sending it(alongside invitation to join PW), to a few folks for whom I know the content will resonate – like a pebble dropping from space and quite by chance pinging the side of Big Ben.

    I have Mars in Libra and Pluto in Virgo in the 2nd with Saturn and Chiron in Pisces in 8th. Saturn is currently traversing 2nd house this year and it’s been tough. That combined with Venus in retro, and Uranus position yesterday I think encouraged my long lost ex to contact me with a legal pursuit to get me out of my home, the one I used to share with him. A place that he had prevous walked away from leaving me with a pile of debts. He’s now decided (actually, I think his new wife has) that it might be quite nice to get some money out of it. and having left me alone for over 3 years, fairly amicably, he is intent on bullying the fuck out of me. That is if I let him. I neither want to be bullied or homeless. I will stand up to the bullying however, from the homeless point of view, the law is not on my side (saturn, pluto conjunction). And there are many issues that are simultaneously boring and incredible relating to the issues of the property I live in, that prevent either the purchase of it or the sale, but it won’t stop Virgo ex who has got bee in bonnet. So I could be homeless within weeks.

    But while this has been a tricky week, my self-esteem, for I know it’s in there, and my intuition (it’s mother and best friend, when heard) is going to see me through. Saturn has laid the challenge and I intend to take it and learn, without falling through the floor. Love to all as ever, H.

  3. I wish there was an edit button…..I guess what I was saying in the last part was that it is not enough to “fix” ourselves, we have to make damn sure we don’t mess up another generation or perpetuate the cycle of neglect as well.

  4. Eric,
    Please excuse the randomness of this, ideas were coming at me faster than I could put them together!

    The sexual repression you have so often written about (and that is often perpetuated by religious fundamentalists of every religion) is at the very center of the every-man-for-himself ideology that we have been saturated with in this society. On the one hand, we are pushed to repress a basic function of every species (sex) while being told on the other hand to be an individual. Doesn’t the ideology of individualism imply the ability to decide on sexual matters without consulting anyone else except the person with which we wish to engage in the act (consent)? To put it another way, how is it being an individual if we allow another person of group to decide for us what we do sexually?

    We are sexual beings even in the womb, yet we are often raised to think of our own sexual urges and feelings as frightening and unnatural; something to be controlled and devalued. The message we get is that we are to despise ourselves for needing sex or wanting to procreate or feel pleasure, despite the fact that our whole bodies are programmed from conception for pleasure and reproduction. This message is the driving factor that makes us hate ourselves and not value ourselves; it is this message (among others) that underlies low self esteem.

    American individualism and independence is fine but these don’t mean we can ignore our fellow human beings even as we fall into lock-step with some group. Interdependence is a better ideology to embrace if we are to continue as a species. Competition is not a survival tool, it only helps the few survive and as everyone should know, in the business of species survival, the fewer the individual species members, the closer to extinction that species comes. Sexual preference, in all its forms, is at the heart of that interdependence; we can be individuals and others can be individuals and we can come together for mutual purposes that satisfy us with mutual consent. When you control people’s sexuality, you control the most basic need they have other than survival. When we allow others to control that, of course we are saying that we value their decisions and values over our own; isn’t that another way of saying we have low self esteem?

    I always asked myself, why would anyone want to give over their freedom of choice to another by elevating that other person’s values over their own? A lot of it is in the messages we receive while growing up. Everywhere we see posters almost screaming “be yourself!” yet when we do, we are socially punished at very young ages. The message is loud and clear; you cannot “be yourself” or even “think for yourself” without risking social ostracism which at a genetic level we know used to mean risking our survival. Humans are herd animals; we evolved and survived because we found that banding together allowed more of us to live. Yet this also causes us damage when our natural instincts and feelings are belittled and crushed under the “group think” that happens in groups.

    I once overheard a psychologist say, it is important to ask what reward does it give the person that is giving up their power? I realized what the reward is; people that allow another person or group to dictate to them their sexual (or any personal behavior) do so because it allows them the luxury of not having to think for themselves and for not having to be responsible for their actions to some degree but most of all, it ensures them a place with the group and survival. They can always secretly blame the religion or the preacher, or whoever it is that they are “obeying.” Most often they do it because they have been raised to value others’ opinions and beliefs over their own. This can be seen as a cycle; self esteem issues are perpetuated from one generation t the next, much like the cycle of domestic violence and abuse is passed on generationally.

    You mentioned about how all of us have been raised neglectfully. I have been thinking about this issue for a long time. I wondered if the “me” generation might have happened as a direct result of the awakening awareness of a generation of people that began to see the neglect and decided to get very narcissistic to counter it? The problem continued when the folks that swung to the “me” extreme in order to “find themselves” and “feel better” were having children and, like the cycle of violence we see in abusive families, the very neglect that caused them such pain was now visited upon their children. Very few people grow up to be aware enough to stop the cycle so it continues and kids grow up to be unhappy adults with self esteem issues.

    In my lifetime, I have see that my generation and the ones after have not fared well in the grand experiment of separating kids from their parents by the use of parenting substitutes (see Mary Eberstadt, “Home Alone America: The Hidden Toll of Daycare, behavioral Drugs, and Other parent Substitutes”). This separation is happening in order to accomodate the adults in the situation, not the kids. Even now, every time I see an article about self esteem, my radar goes off because in looking at this issue, we hear that we need to “work on ourselves” but we never hear the children’s side of that. How will us “working on ourselves” affect our children? It may sound good to encourage people to work on themselves and their damaged self esteem but too often it ends up that as we “work on ourselves” we again neglect our children! This issue still smells of self absorbtion. I hate to say it but in our chronically adult-entered society, maybe it is time we remind everyone that though we have self esteem issues, we are ADULTS and as such, we have to find ways to deal with that without perpetuating the very same neglect on our children that was done to us.

    In other words, every article I see written about self esteem is written for the adult that is experiencing it or the adult who is dealing with it in their children; how many are written from the children’s point of view? Too many times we hear that what makes US happy makes our kids happy but this is has been found not to be true; children are, for good reason (survival), self absorbed and as such, really do NOT care as much about our happiness as we do. The ideology that what makes us happy makes them happy is yet another adult attempt to foist upon children adult feelings and ideology and it sure makes for a real feel-good excuse for the adult to again be self-absorbed at the expense of the children in their care.

    Yes, we have to figure out how we can help ourselves in the self esteem issues, but we also need to do so with our children’s needs in mind, not ours. As adults, we are supposed to be able to handle difficulties because we have the brain power and abilities to manipulate our environments to a greater degree than any child will ever be able to. Children are dependent on us, we are not dependent on them and as such, we have to do what THEY need while sometimes delaying gratification for ourselves.

    I am not saying we should not work on our self esteem issues, I am saying we need to be always mindful of our children’s needs first. What is so interesting to me is the huge backlash I always seem to get when I tell people this; they get really angry with me as though they are still children themselves that don’t want to hear that they have to think of others or share. They seem to transfer their anger (at their parents or society for the neglect they were raised with) on to me because I am saying they must deny themselves the free-for-all in self absorption they so desire. They see me as a parent telling them “no” again. It is as if the neglect they endured caused them to freeze in time and not mature; they never grew up enough to delay gratification or to handle issues while considering others.

    Sorry to write so much but this issue has so many layers that it is really hard to express myself without writing a “book” on it! :::laughing:::

  5. You’ve touched a very raw nerve with me, Eric, and I’m lost in overwhelm. I’ve been told ASTROLOGICALLY that I should have “buckets” of cash as I’ve got a 2nd house Mars in Aries (albeit opposite Neptune in Libra) and I’ve never quite put together why it is that I’ve bankrupted myself time and again. Here I was thinking/praying that it was ego preventing me from knowing abundance.

    So much to think about here. I’m not sure what I do with this (esp as Sun is opp my natal Neptune and Neptune sits on my Sun) but I am moved.
    I bow to you, Eric & Co.


  6. Thanks for mentioning that second house thing. I have Saturn there & I’ve always understood my troubles with money, but I never connected it to the confidence crisis. Considering it in this new way really opens up another dimension of that work & maybe also why I’m so driven in the whole personal growth realm.

    Great piece. I want to send it to everyone I know.

  7. I just read your article – thank you Eric. I think being a reader of Planet Waves for all these years has helped me a lot with self-esteem. I made mistakes with my kids and spouse that I’ve worked to correct over the past few years.

    Your thoughts about the death connection is very useful. I’ve spent the last 2 years visiting a nursing home every week and death is the one thing that binds the residents together. Within the walls of every nursing home are the rich & famous, as well as the poor and not so famous. A former mayor babbles incoherently calling for his dead wife; a teacher calls on students over and over; a truck driver makes passes at the old women (heh-heh old habits die hard no pun intended). We reap what we sow.

    My husband was shot down in Viet Nam in 1967, badly injurred but recovered fully. His ability to relate to even the most pitiable poor souls was probably what attracted me to him. He wasn’t a bleeding heart by any stretch of the imagination, but we always had different people in doing a little work, or he would take a wayward teen and try to teach the kid a skill. He worked with the boy scouts when our kids were in school – and the boys who are now 35 still talk about how he wouldn’t let them win in any of the competitions with him. They had to earn it.

    I don’t think that most adults realize just how much influence they can have over a person’s life, good or bad. I still think about the nun who took me to church and donate rgularly to the Sisters of Charity for their selfless work with orphans.

  8. I hadn’t intended to contribute to this post. I find the subject so interesting but find it so hard to form my thoughts let alone my words. I guess I am taking a kind of social view which may or may not be helpful or relevant. For me we now seem caught in a vicious cycle of ‘stuff’ versus self.

    So much of the technology and consumer goods we surround ourselves with – all the stuff we gotta have – is a substitute for what we really need – intimacy, a sense of connection with others, through which we develop the self. Ironically I think we also fear the thing we need the most. Fear that intimacy will somehow consume us, that we can’t control it and so instead we invest in (form relationships with) stuff, TVs, clothes, bigger cars, faster internet connections etc, things we can control, things we can dump easily when they fail to please or amuse or stop being useful (don’t get me started on the inevitable environmental consequences of this – there is a larger game of destruction going on here which mirrors the destruction of the human soul). Or we objectify others and turn them into ‘stuff’ that we can control.

    Intimacy and connection (of which sex is a part) are not things we can own. We can’t hold them in our hands. So often, particularly in the first flush of a relationship you can’t even define what that connection might mean or where it might lead. These qualities have a life of their own that is unique to every relationship. They are not tangible, yet they are the only thing that is real. They don’t always give instant gratification either.

    The technology/stuff we use as substitutes are tangible – and designed for instant if temporary gratification – but not very real. We wear it like a suit of armour. Stuff protects – or so we think – the soft centre from the daily sucker punches that life can throw.

    The link with self esteem is that we learn to believe that we are nothing without stuff, without the right kind of stuff and without enough stuff in comparison with others. The greatest gift in the world is to be seen and to be loved for who you are – minus the stuff. But in the post WWII world stuff defines us but it also provides a protective barrier that keeps us from connecting with others effectively. In many ways it stops us from even trying. The overriding message is you can never have enough stuff and without enough stuff you can never be good enough and therefore never be loved.

    Intimacy and relationships take time and space. But the post WWII world is all about faster and faster. While we think of stuff as inanimate and neutral in fact stuff is very demanding. It TV needs watching, computers demand input, cars and other gadgets need maintenance, designer clothes need to be showcased. Stuff eats into the time it takes to simply sit and connect with someone else. It also takes time away from that needed to form a proper relationship with your self.

    I don’t think we can look to culture to sort this mess out. When the energy is this powerful we need to ask what it is asking of us. We can’t buy our way out of it with different (greener, more spiritual, more ethical) stuff; I doubt that politics can even touch a process that is so deeply internal. It is a personal, individual challenge that is being sent to us that speaks to developing new qualities of self-esteem, finding a new roadmap that will lead us there, saying good bye to people and places and patterns that feed our low self esteem – no matter how painful that may be or how scary the great big hole that is left may first appear. Our whole society our politics, our commerce, our relationships (sexual and otherwise) is rooted in and propped up by personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem. Imagine a movement of people saying no to that. Taking that inventory in their lives and taking action to value self over stuff. Imagine what that might set in motion for us as individuals and as a society and for the way we relate.

  9. my mother tells me this tidbit about how she held me up as an infant and made a commitment to herself and to me to raise me as a person with self-confidence. she has done an excellent job as a mother, but i still struggle with this.

    from all outward evidence, i am well-loved and even, daresay, admired within my circles, for my music, mothering, and just general humanity.

    i walk around most of the time feeling as if i am a total fake, never good enough, at anything that i do.

    this is silly, and my brain knows it – but my heart and my physical body have a harder time processing this paranoia. but i continue to work, and take chances, make changes, and do my best to push my own limits, and finally (someday?) accomplish what it is that i want to accomplish, so that i can feel good about myself.

    i have to make real effort to take stock, look back, and see how far i have come on all kinds of levels, because i am very accomplished at seeing what i have done “wrong” and what i have “failed” to do.

    as for the element of sexuality and how this all plays into everything – i find that everything about me is infused with my sexuality. if people knew what went through my head, they would blush. yet, i have very little human contact of any kind in my life at this moment, with exception of snuggles with my son. in fact, i tend to avoid it in certain situations, namely, through my deejay circles. while these men are those that i have the most connection with, i feel as if it would be a professional faux pa to become involved with them, often for fear of being seen as “sleeping my way to the top.” (because i will be at the “top” someday…)

    why is this? any man in my circles can sleep with whomever he wants, no biggie. there are very few female deejays around, and i am often the only one. it is a strange reality to navigate, and i want folks to take me seriously – and sometimes i wonder why it is i think that they cannot or will not take me seriously even as the sensual being that i am.

    wow, much to ponder. i think i may have come in too late for your writing, but i appreciate the request for input. sometimes just talking or writing gets me to a better place.

    muchlove to you all.

  10. With more time to think about it, I realize self esteem is about my relationship with myself. Our culture encourages us to be defined by our relationships with others (especially romantic relationships), not by our relationship with ourselves. I had a crisis of self esteem at about age 30 when I realized my partner did not value me because I didn’t value myself. I set out on a 3-year solo journey of self exploration and self discovery that led me to a place of self acceptance and self love. I cleaned house and found the garden of my inner goddess. This is a place I continue to inhabit, where I connect with my center, my core awareness and my inner radiance.

    During my solo adventure I visited Mexico and saw how the virgin Mary is revered there. I found the Goddess, still vibrant and colorful, unlike the Mary of my catholic childhood, all pale and dried out. She lives! That was a vital part of a reclamation of self and spirit for me. Just last weekend I was with friends for an easter egg hunt and we were musing about the Christian co-opting of pagan celebrations. We realized that the core pagan celebration is the only part of these holidays that still has any meaning for us.

    Recovering my self esteem has been a spiritual process that is grounded in the appreciation of my physical body and rooted in a reverence for the earth.

    Pondering all of this is a part of parenting my daughter. I am committed to encouraging a healthy relationship with her self so that she relies on her core instincts, knows her own value, and maintains her wholeness.

  11. I think to some degree it can be relative to ignorance.

    When I read some, quite a few actually, of the posts here I am so humbled, and at the same time I feel so ignorant, that I’ve no idea what, for instance, Fe is talking about. Post-war scenarios? Industrial Age? Huh?

    And in some of these posts my self-esteem takes a great hit because I can’t converse, I can only listen and try to learn. I feel so far behind, though, that’s it’s overwhelming sometimes.

    In my own experience I can look back into the past and see where my sense of value and worth was tied up to what I was doing, how I looked, and how I appeared to others – what others thought/perceived of me, how much money I made, etc, and how this was reinforced by outside influences. These are very very impermanent and fragile places to find one’s sense of self bound to.

    Now I see the utter importance in developing sense of self-esteem relative to how I treat others, how I relate to others – can I relate, do I care, will I take action, how do I fit in, who are my role models, what are my values and can I stand behind them, do I live those values, am I honest, can I be honest — things of this nature. I think these are things that can be leaned on, will hold strong, and in that way self-esteem becomes more solid because it’s built within, it’s internal, not reliant upon external objects or opinions.

    It’s in answer to ‘who are you’. Does the answer lie in internal or external form? I think that greatly plays into self-esteem… true self-esteem, the kind that doesn’t crumble.

    So perhaps there’s been a quality of mass superficiality that lends to individual self-esteem in all the wrong places and what is needed is a development of (I first put ‘return to’) character that will lend distance to consumerism and similar outside influences on a person’s sense of worth.

    Anyway, that’s how the topic of self-esteem came into focus for me.

  12. A tree is tree, and sometimes a tree is a poem. When is a tree a poem? When the tree is really a tree. — a paraphrase from Suzuki Roshi

    Learning/awareness seemingly is an ever expanding cosmos, except that it is not. In my limited experience, it starts and stops with my own ability to live the words I speak, listen to the words spoken to me, and really mean what I say. So, it is not an overwhelming state of affairs, rather quite simple.

    When I falter during any of those activities, I start to feel “bad.” Self-esteem is not ‘out there’ as known, but ‘in here.’

    For every situation in which someone lost sense of themself, there is another person who made it through intact. Why? I feel because they thought before they spoke and they were willing to put themselves on the lie to “die” a metaphoric death or perhaps real for their values.

    Values change as awareness changes.

    A tree is tree, and sometimes a tree is a poem. When is a tree a poem? When the tree is really a tree. — a paraphrase from Suzuki Roshi

  13. When I was a teen and dating, the boy ordered your food if you ate at a restaurant. It was one of the things that the women’s movement worked to change. People in this generation are clueless about how good they have it. It is no accident that girls can now hold nearly any job, play school sports, wear ‘pants’ to work or whatever.

    When I left high school in disgrace (teen pregnancy), the boys, girls, teachers, social workers, priests, et al, were quite vocal about my crime. A woman in my church told me that when she was having her baby (during high school), the nurses put her in a room by herself and when she cried for the pain the nurse said, “maybe now you will think about what you have done!” The social workers were abominable. To tell the truth, an old nun who picked me up to take me to church on Sunday was the most kind person I met during the entire pregnancy. She would take me for a ‘Sunday drive” after church so I didn’t have to return to the ‘home’ right away. I was a real fish out of water in that protestant-run home. I bring up the religion too, because it was a big deal as well. There was a rich college girl in the home who never failed to say something derogatory about Catholics while we were eating dinner, and the woman in charge of the place would have entire conversations about how awful catholics were! When I found out my daughter that I gave away for adoption had so many health problems, it was hardly a surprise. I must have been living on adrenaline in those days and it didn’t occur to me to complain to my mom and dad. They were upset enough as it was.

    I was nearly 50 years old before I regained any confidence. Now looking back, I can see that the people doing the controlling were also being controlled by someone or something – to fit in and succeed I guess. If you have many dealings with institutions, you quickly learn that these controllers are still out there. If you have a family member who is schizophrenic, you find out all you want to know (and more) about the quality of people’s character (they mostly have none) in your church, the schools, hospitals, neighborhoods, and nursing homes. There again, the people from whom we least expected help were the people who helped the most – the police, the lawyers, and the local judge. My mother could always call the judge for help anytime, and the police still check up on her and actually stopped my sister in law one day because she was entering the house at the front door instead of the side door. A local former prosecutor has a radio talk show that is quite conservative, and even he refers to ‘the least of the human beings’ with empathy to callers that want to complain about money spent on certain groups (former prisoners). There is an entire underworld culture that is most likely the result of low self-esteem, don’t you think?

  14. BTW, I meant to add that my sun’s in Taurus at my midheaven (12:04pm), with Neptune opposing in Scorpio at my nadir.

  15. The word that keeps coming to mind is “distraction”. It’s as if our attention is constantly being distracted from our true selves…by the “just say no” messages (huge denial of self there — see Maya’s excellent comment on narcissism); by the rigid mores around sexuality and relationship in general; by consumerist bombardment through advertising and society at large; by addictive use of technology, substances, and behaviors; by the very fluid and changing world around us.

    I agree with Thaddeus Ethelred about the nature of our society. So much of it is about selling. The focus on *consuming* just might be a distraction from a vital piece of the truth, sort of like blaming the victim. Now, I do believe we consumers are responsible for our consumption, but so are the sellers.

    The just say no message really messes with our boundaries. Because necessarily we’ll get the other extreme somewhere. Just think about how big the porn industry is, and take a look at how hyper-sexed our “entertainment” is. We get the yes/no, do/don’t extremes all the time. Women in particular get the madonna/whore symbolism dumped on us. Is it any wonder so many of us don’t know how to find our authentic boundaries? I feel exactly as Eric put it: terrified of intimacy AND feeling like relationships are prison cells.

    As long as we’re distracted, we can’t really know ourselves and understand that there are other ways of being in the world that don’t match up with what we’re being sold.
    Think of the culture of fear that was so brazenly stoked over the past 8 years (and more; think of the Cold War, for example). Keep someone afraid, and you keep them docile and preoccupied.

    The energetic print of self-esteem that Maya talks about is right on. You just have to be quiet and in tune enough to recognize it. I can say for myself that I couldn’t really get a handle on it until I removed sugar and refined grains from my diet and healed some brain chemical imbalances. Truly, these substances so messed with my physical, emotional, and psychological bodies that I could not sort out my real issues from the phantom ones that surfaced as the result of biochemical imbalance. “Food” companies that push sugar (high fructose corn syrup, anyone?), white flour, and alcohol are majorly complicit in maintaining and exacerbating this crisis of self-esteem.

    Oh, and one last thing… If we addictively “use” and keep using (substances, behaviors), our emotional maturity is stunted. That’s another way to keep us from our true, mature, confident selves.

    Communities like Planetwaves, with such great resources and dialogue, are a big part of the antidote to all of this toxicity. While we’re distracted, we’re not forging strong communities. And it’s in community that we grow and get/give support and remind each other that there are myriad ways to be in the world. We can raise our vibration and shed some light in our extended community as we’re doing so in our own personal dark places. We also take responsibility, for ourselves and for our community.

  16. Hey Dear Heart:

    I sent this to you as an e-mail, but thought it might be important to share here in this thread now:


    Want to pitch a story idea to you that’s bubbled up while doing the Uranus-Pluto piece on marijuana. That piece brought up other historical aspects that we have taken up as common wisdom as was the stigma to marijuana, which we are still living out today.

    That other aspect is the concept of marriage and family.

    The post-WWII era ushered in the nuclear family, and the social and economic and cultural support to produce children under a “stable hetero marriage” scenario.

    Is that same configuration relevant in the same way as it was post-war when Americans needed to re-establish community and economy?

    Are the geopolitical, social and environmental factors supportive of a similar scenario?

    It was the Industrial Age that introduced the concept of pubescence in American society. It also accelerated the class system.

    What is/will be the new social dynamic for the changing world?

    It all makes me think Uranus-Pluto is like a pack of C-4 under a combustion engine. The more you spread it around, the more it makes explosive.

  17. I would like to also add that beginning this type of discussion and with all of these insightful comments, it is a wonderful way to begin to get in touch and heal. Soooo, thank you Eric.

  18. Obviously there are many factors that make up self-esteem issues. The main one for me is about authenticity and self-empowerment. For someone else it could show up as trying to keep up with the Jones’ and not quite getting there or vying for that next promotion at any and all costs and being turned away. Then there is the family dynamics that if my father, mother, siblings loved me more, listened to me, accpeted me…. But, the truth is, I find that the more I step outward the better I feel inward. And man that is scary.

    That’s just it, though. Self-esteem is personal and affects each of us in different ways. When society takes up this role of creating this image of what perfect is, it doesn’t always feel real. When a husband/wife, lover, parent, boss, or co-worker takes on the role of judge it tends to slowly erode that soft center I call my self-esteem. When I create something that is my own and it gets rejected, it messes with my self-esteem.

    Can I avoid these situations? Doubtful. What I can do is check in with myself, decide what is right and real for me and through my own honest observation make a decision that is self-empowering no matter what the cost. I have found that it is really easy to not do anything or to blame myself when the shit hits the fan. It’s at these times that drive me inward, when really I need to move outward by talking with others, expressing through art, and performing a lot of gut checks.

  19. Uncovering the heart of the matter is freeing…do we wish to BE free? Once free, do we know how to go on from that new position?
    Taking up the discussion from Thaddeus’ comments, how did we so thoroughly forget who we really are?
    Religion was sold to us as a cheap substitute for spirituality. A false god was introduced as the ‘one true god’. Self-appointed spokespersons intercede for us. We were coerced by the priests of mammon and have been systematically controlled and manipulated ever since for power, for money, and obession with the game. Dogma, says Elbert Hubbard, is a “hard substance which forms in a soft brain”.
    Selling something is a tool that serves the evolution of a society in a certain direction. How about a society that freely shares everything, taking us into a more expansive evolution? Before the knee-jerk “that can never work” response, consider that we may just start remembering who we really are, gods in our own right -individually and collectively, and that there is always enough for all.
    The question that intrigues me above all others: how is it that some of us came into the world irrepressively questioning and knowing deep down who we are and the rest can’t or won’t ‘get it’ ?
    Technology offers us useful tools and then we tweek them in a way that plays to our obsessions which becomes alienating because we are not grounded firmly on the earth or in who we really are.
    It’s best for Earthlings to get their feet on the ground and their hands in the dirt and then gaze at the stars whilst pondering Who Am I?

  20. This is a complex question.
    Like Staylor, I grew up with alcoholic parents, so have loads of boundary issues I have been working on during my adult life. In addition, alcoholism may be an affliction of people with low self esteem, so I also didn’t have good role models for positive self worth.

    And like Maya points out, there is the cultural stripping of self-esteem, especially among girls. The feminine wound went deep for me; the catholic religion makes it very clear from an early age that girls are worth less than boys. The prevailing culture piles on top of that with loads of insecurity around physical appearance. I found yoga at about age 28, which has helped me make peace with myself and connect me more deeply with my body.

    Then there’s the profound psychic reading I had about 2 years ago, where the woman’s insights were amazing . She told me that in a past life I had failed some important passage and have held myself back and struggled with self worth in many lives since. Is this where Achilles shows up in a chart?

    How monogamy fits in with all this…? I had an open relationship in my 20’s that slowly separated because we were both more interested in exploring other people than we were in maintaining a healthy relationship with each other. I had another strictly monogamous relationship that blew apart from jealousy, other attractions, and infidelity. My current married relationship is characterized by an open-minded approach to monogamy. We have played with the ESP (erotic spiritual play) group in the city, which involves intimacy with a group of people in a structured environment. I am comfortable with the boundaries that my marriage provides. I also see where it confines us both. We tend to maintain an openness with each other that makes it feel more like a pond than a fishbowl.

  21. Maya’s comments about little girls ordering pizza sums it up for me. We talk a lot about what technology and modern culture does to us in the abstract sense, but in many ways it could be summed up this way: our society and our economy are built upon us consuming things.

    Think about the word “consume” for a minute. We all need to consume in the form of food to survive, and our bodies tell us on a regular basis that we are hungry for more. In primitive societies people grow, gather or hunt food to survive. When money comes into the picture some people sell their excess food to others. Soon there are people who become food vendors, freeing other people to do things other than grow/gather/hunt for food. A society that compartmentalizes responsibilities like this can evolve beyond a society where everyone does everything for themselves, and now artists, craftspeople, etc. can focus on their vocations full time because they know that when they get hungry they can take some of thier money and go see the food guy.

    The evolution of the ‘selling’ function is a tool that serves the growth and evolution of the society, but we’ve taken it a step further. Where our society used to be about many different things it seems that more and more it is only about one thing: selling. Selling for the sake of selling. Selling more today for the sake of maintaining “growth” (which we’re told is good).

    The little girls ordering pizza reminds me of this: you can’t sell much food to people that are not hungry. But find someone that’s starving and you’ve found a great customer. If the business of America is business, then we must make everyone a customer. If everyone is going to be a customer then they must be hungry. If people are not feeling hungry then we need to figure out how to make them feel hungry – otherwise they won’t buy.

    So it comes to this – if you are satisfied with your self and you life and your looks and your beliefs you’re going to be a lousy customer. We’re going to need to fix that or else the basis of our society won’t function. (Unless, of course, there were some other way to structure our society that did not require destabilizing your sense of self in order for me to live … wouldn’t that be a cool thing!)

  22. Goodness, I grapple with this issue so much; and everything I’m thinking about it is coming through muddled because it’s so confusing to me. I’ll try and be as clear as possible!

    Boundaries have never been my strongest point. I grew up in a family where it was a matter of self-preservation to dissolve them: that way, I was finely tuned into whether my Mum had been drinking; how much she had drunk; how unhappy my parents were together; how I could make a difficult relationship with my mother work by knowing how to make her laugh; how to access the feelings my Dad kept deep inside him.

    Today, this doesn’t work well in my closest relationships because I am often clueless as to where my shit ends, and where the other person’s starts. I can’t step back, let alone decipher what’s mine and what’s theirs. This is tied into self-esteem and sexuality in such a profound way, and I constantly find myself going in circles.

    First of all there’s the question, what do I want? That in itself is a sticking point. Because there’s what I think I want, and then there’s what I really want. And while I’m caught in the subterfuges of my unconscious, projections, repressions, denials – whatever – then how can I know that what I want is healthy, or just a result of my unfinished business? For example, I’m not at all sure I believe in monogamy – or at least long-term monogamy (read: marriage) … but maybe that’s because I’m a child of a broken marriage; that I have trouble feeling my feelings let alone expressing them; that my instinct is to keep things moving, keep things dynamic, possibly at the expense of staying put and working on my “stuff”.

    Or maybe – just maybe – that is because I simply *don’t* believe in monogamy. Wherein comes the self-esteem/boundaries part: I don’t trust myself enough to know myself and to believe in myself. And that doubt is reinforced everywhere I look through the conventions that we live every day, whether marriage, abstinence, the collective shame we as a society feel over sexuality and nudity.

    Or maybe it’s just because I fancy the pants off someone, but I’m married to someone else? 🙂

  23. I’m going to try to express this as cogently as I can. My therapist and I talk about this a lot. Essentially, he says that we all have a lot of exiled narcissism, and in order to distance ourselves from it, we flip back and forth between grandiosity and shame. Shame being the obvious above-mentioned self esteem issues, grandiosity being the polar opposite – the thing that makes you feel all righteously indignant for someone doing something TO you, and justified in rejecting them; really, the narcissism itself. It makes sense, and it works for me in the world, so I call it valid.

    But what’s interesting to me about all of this is the concept of narcissism. In most cases narcissism is the distorted version of self-love, that doesn’t translate that love out into the world because it is too self-centered, but rather expects that the world continue to prop it up. So at its heart, narcissism is also a lack of self esteem.

    It’s so easy, when you’re trying to pick it all apart, to mislabel self-love as narcissism (which is the curious part, to me, and I never get tired of observing this in action). We’re bombarded with messages about not being egotistical or self-centered, so appreciating yourself feels shameful all the way to the core. So we wind up saying no to that, which is exactly the thing we should be saying yes to.

    Aaaand here’s where I just keep typing and backspacing. Time to lean on metaphor: when you go mushroom hunting, you have to watch out for poisonous mushrooms that look exactly like the kind you’re looking for. The only way to tell the difference is by taking a spore print. Self-esteem can look remarkably like narcissism when you first start hunting it, so you wind up avoiding all the wrong things. But the energetic print is unmistakably different. If you watch that, you get there.

    In terms of sex and saying no (without writing an essay of my own), it seems to me that the social & educational system does a darn good job of systematically* stripping kids of their genuine self-esteem while constantly slipping them the false kind, which sure makes them easier to control, but it doesn’t do much for things like questioning and thinking for oneself. Without that true core self-esteem, making your own self-based choices about much of anything just can’t find much purchase. So no matter what, you’re abdicating to someone: parents, church, the coercive boyfriend, the Disney Channel, whatever. Then these kids become adults, and they forget they have a say in the world. A population with self-esteem would not have sat idly by these last 8 years.

    *I remember reading about this study where a bunch of 7 year old girls were asked what they wanted on their pizza. They could all state clearly what they wanted. They asked them again at 9, and they said, “I don’t know.” Then asked them again at 11, and they said, “what do YOU want?” That’s what I mean by systematic.

    Anyways, that’s plenty for now, I’m sure…

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