Monday, October 11, 2010

Growing in Esteem

If I met the person I was before I went to counseling for unresolved depression and self-esteem issues, I wouldn't recognize myself.  I flipped through my old journal from freshman year of college and was amazed by the confusion, self-hatred, and insecurity screaming from the pages. 

Words like this from March 11, 1999:
"I hate my life. I'm sick of it. I would like to feel good about myself or at least good about something for once. I don't feel like I'm good at anything. Nothing- not one thing. I think my parents favor my brother over me. And I don't even think my friends truly give a da(r)n about me. I'm tired of always listening to their problems when they don't have the decency to try to do the same for me. I don't know where this leads me. It just reaffirms the fact that I am one very screwed up, messed up person. But that's been obvious for years."

I read that and I want to comfort that girl.  I want to point out all the good that was in my life at that time. My eyes were blinded to who God created me to be and the blessings that did exist, even if some of my dreams were delayed in coming true.  The fact that I believed my parents showed favoritism or that my friends didn't care?  Absolutely ludicrous.  I was so completely absorbed in my misery that I no longer recognized truth.

I marvel that that is not who I am anymore!  While I know that depression is a part of my story, it hasn't been a part of my present for so long that it's easy to forget about the pain I used to experience daily.

It didn't come easily though.  A week after that entry, I decided enough was enough.  I was tired of not feeling "good about myself."  A month after that, I met my counselor for the first time. 

In between my decision to see a counselor and actually meeting the counselor, I began keeping a log.  Every compliment or recognition I received. Anything good that happened to me.  Anything I thought I did well.  I hoped that on my down days, I could read through the log and remind myself of the truth until I started believing it myself. 

It's hard to say, "I'm ugly" if you can turn to May 31 and read "Erin said I looked beautiful and like I was 26 years old."  (Clarification, as someone who at age 30 still looks so young, being told I looked 26 at age 19 was a huge compliment!)

At first, it was hard to come up with something good to write each day.  I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, log book open, pen in hand, mentally reviewing my day for something, anything positive.  Then it became habit and some days would have several entries.  By my senior year of college, I didn't need to keep the log anymore.  I could have written pages each day about the blessings in my life. 

A small sampling:
4/5/99- "I hope you guys will always be my friends" -Tracy to me and Erin (they're both still my best friends!)
5/11/99- At practice this morning, we rowed the farthest we've ever rowed and it was great and we survived and it was probably the best I've ever rowed!  (crew team)
8/15/99- "You're hot." -Brian

2/21/00- Mom sent me a shirt she bought because she saw it and it made her think of me
3/22/00- "I am so glad we are friends. I love hanging out with you or even when I see you in the hall, it just makes my day a little better." -email from Kelly
6/17/00- Aunt Laurie said I was gorgeous and skinny
8/29/00- Tracy said I was the source of laughter in her life and that she loved me so much

3/19/01- [my crush] emailed me and he was mad we didn't get to see each other over my break
8/21/01- I'm Staff of the Week!
11/2/01- "Excellent. Thank you. It is a joy to read your work." -professor's comment on my midterm

It's fun to read through and see what I decided to write down.  So many little moments that I would otherwise forget.  Sometimes my enthusiasm and happiness about a certain moment leaps off the page...so much better than the screaming in past journal entries.

Between the log and therapy, a lot of healing occurred. Still, while viewing myself through everyone else's eyes improved my self-esteem, the picture was not quite complete. A few years after that, I would come to view myself through God's eyes.  That was a crucial moment, viewing myself as God's creation, the work of His hands.  When I criticized myself, I was actually telling God He screwed up when He made me.  I also realized I had a choice when it came to my self-esteem.  I could either ignore the signs of an impending downward spiral and find myself in a black hole.  Or I could proclaim myself "dead" to the old ways of thinking, embrace the freedom I have in Christ, and continue on my way.

I might always struggle with self-esteem in some way. I still have moments where I must choose freedom or darkness.  God always gives me the strength to confront those moments and this is why I have been free of my self-esteem issues for so long. Looking back at where I started and seeing where I am now is evidence of how much I have grown and how much I will continue to grow.

4 comments:

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  2. I see much of "freshman year me" in "freshman year you." I too feel like I grew in leaps and bounds since then and barely know who I was then.

    I can look at who I am now and be incredibly thankful for the beautiful me that God created lovingly and purposefully. Even on days when I feel chubby or uncreative, I rest in knowing that God still is telling a story with who I am and that story is something incredible and lovely.

    It is a joy to read your thoughts. I feel like outside of blogs, we would still be friends. :)

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  3. Wow. I am so glad you have seen such a positive change. My sister had a rough year last year and my mom told her to look in the mirror every morning and say one positive thing out loud to her reflection. She truly struggled in the beginning but after a while really began to notice a change! I am so happy for you that your faith is so strong now, and you are a much better place!

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  4. @Caroline, I love the idea of "resting in knowing that God is still telling a story." So great to know that He's not done with us yet! Thank you for the encouragement. And I agree, we would definitely be friends:)

    @Laura, thank you for sharing about your sister! I hope that she'll have a much better year and she'll continue to grow to love the person God created her to be. And I hope that, like me, she'll look back someday and see how much she has grown and changed.

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