Self-Esteem – Better late than never
Today I want to write about a topic that is somewhat painful but full of joy at the same time. Painful because there are some memories involved that I would like to forget but I mustn’t forget because they are part of who I am. Full of joy because I’m glad that I am not determined by those memories anymore but am rather able to use them as a guide.
When I was in school, I was the weird kid. I wasn’t fat or wearing thick glasses or funny clothes or anything else that had to do with appearance. Maybe it would have been easier for me if it had been something like that because it could have been changed easily – just lose some weight, get contacts or hipper glasses, buy different clothes. But no, I was the kid that was interested in literature when everybody else ran into the cinema or played computer games. I was the kid that LIKED going to the MUSEUM or visiting ART GALLERIES (yikes!) when all the other kids in my class went shopping and cared about their hair and/or make up. When the teacher asked us something about the symbolism in Homo Faber, and I gave an answer that made sense and wasn’t a direct quote from Wikipedia, there was always a second of silence followed by some kind of “Nerdynerd”-comment by one of the cool kids.
It didn’t stop with the kids though. My math teacher tried to convince my parents to take me out of school because I wasn’t good at ‘the most important subject of ’em all’ – math, of course. My parents showed him the metaphorical finger and told him to sort off. They wouldn’t take me out of school because I was a failure in one subject out of 12. I was doing just fine in all the other areas, in some of them I was very good indeed, in some others I was average but all in all I was a good student. And I am glad to say that after years and years of math tests marked with ‘E’ or even ‘F’, I passed my final math exam (12 years ago) with a C+, which was a huge leap for me back then. So, suck it, Herr Rausch!
What do I want to tell you with this long prologue? My self-esteem wasn’t very high when I was younger. I wasted years trying to find out what was wrong with me, how I could change so that I would fit in somewhere. Today I know that nothing was wrong with me at all. There just weren’t any people around me who had the same interests. My class mates thought I was boring and weird because I was passionate about art and literature, I thought they were superficial because they were interested in fashion magazines and horoscopes. So, here are some things that helped me building up more self-esteem. It’s no guarantee that it will work for any of you out there who might have similar problems. But maybe it can be an inspiration when you think that you ‘don’t fit in’.
#1 – Find people who share your interests
This is pretty easy to do these days, with the interwebs around and everything. And it will change such a big part of your life, trust me. When your family and/or your closest friends don’t understand why you are passionate about poetry or collecting oddly-shaped water-taps or drawing your sushi before you eat it, find somebody who does. It is so important to have people around you who understand why you are doing what you’re doing and who don’t evaluate and judge your doings. This is something my mum doesn’t get to this day. She is kind of jealous that I share huge chunks of my life that seem to be important to me with other people instead of her. But when I try sharing those things with her, she immediately gives her opinion and then expects me to do as she says, because she simply doesn’t understand that I won’t stop doing what I love just because she disapproves. You will get to that point with somebody eventually, your inherited voice is going to say ‘I shouldn’t do this because…’ Well, tell that voice ‘Too bad, now suck it up because I’m going to do this whether you like it or not. It belongs to me, it is what I love doing and is an essential part of my self.’ What I do is just smile at my mum, tell her that I love her dearly but that this is my life and we don’t have to agree on everything just because we are related. Sometimes she gets a little angry still, but she calms down again pretty quickly.
#2 – Take a job that forces you to deal with people
What? Heck yeah! If you are already part of the working world but you are stuck in some place where you don’t meet lots of people and you are kind of unhappy, volunteer somewhere where you will meet people. It doesn’t matter what job it is, it just has to be somewhere where you get confronted with lots and lots of different characters. First of all, it’ll teach you how to deal with all kinds of (crazy) situations. Secondly, you’ll learn that there are so many different personalities out there, not much will take you by total surprise anymore after a while. I for example started off in a hut at the Christmas Market of my hometown. I was selling sausages, grog and sandwiches to drunk people, sober people, old and young, limping and healthy, in short trousers(!) and wearing two coats at once. Even a guy who was deaf and had his partner with him, discussing his order with him in sign language. On my second weekend, I met the mayor of our town, while he and his council people were dressed up as Robin Hood and his men, ordering grog for everybody. The mayor in tights! Best day ever!
#3 – Take something you’ve always been bad at but you wanted to be able to do, and practice until you’re average.
And then practice further until you are good. Why? Because most of the time, what’s holding you back from learning something is not lack of talent or time but impatience or fear of failing. You want to play the guitar like nobody else but you want to be able to do it tomorrow? Not happening. Even if you are really talented in something, you have to practice. Practice everyday, even if it’s just for 5 minutes. You will get better, this is inevitable. Like I said above, I’ve always been bad at math (not always, actually, bust since secondary school). But I wanted to understand, I wanted to be able to do all this complicated stuff. And as soon as I didn’t have the pressure of being marked for what I was doing, as soon as I was free to follow my own speed and schedule, I became better. Today I love math and I can’t believe why I’ve been scared of such a beautiful universe that explains so much around us. You want to paint? Buy some cheap colors and a pad and get going. Don’t be scared of ruining the pure white sheet in front of you. There is no wrong line, there are no wrong dots. You draw and paint what you see. When it looks like a broken ash tray, what the hell! You don’t have to show it to anybody if you don’t want to. Try again tomorrow. And the day after that. And when you think you’re ready and not one minute earlier, go to the people who share this interest with you and show off your grown talent. You will be like a pebble dropped into a pond, leaving little circles of inspiration wherever you go, helping other people and give them joy, lots of times without even noticing.
#4 – Don’t let mean people drag you down again
There are people in this world who want to hurt you. This is not a pessimistic opinion of mine, this is experience. For whatever reason, there are people who don’t like you. (And when you honestly think about it, there are probably some people you don’t like. And this fine, the world is not all fluffy-pink-cloud-unicornish.) I know, most support groups, teachers, and lots of other people say ‘nobody hurts you on purpose’ or ‘just talk to people, it might only be a misunderstanding’. Rubbish, I say! There ARE people who are just mean to you because they want to be mean to you. They might be devoted mothers, good neighbours and really nice persons – to other people but they don’t like you. For Gods sake, don’t try to change them. This is not your task, unless you are a social worker and this is exactly what you get paid for. You don’t have to waste time on people who don’t like you. If they give you their opinion, fine. You don’t have to take it in account, though. You don’t have to value their opinion. And please, don’t stop being yourself just because they made the stupidest comment ever about the way you dress or your singing voice or whatever. They are just mean, and you’ll probably never find out why exactly. This is something that you just have to live with. So, go out there and be awesome!