I came across this little girl who was kidding around with a tuk tuk driver(note the little red tuk tuk in the corner) who was parked. She stuck her tongue out and he called her
“muy fea”–very ugly. She gave him the look I photographed here, fearless, funny.
At some point in my life I came to believe that I had low or no self esteem. Maybe it was the pattern of decisions that neglected to include what was better for me. An example, you ask? Dating toxic women without even knowing they were toxic; refusing to stand up to abusive people in my work life and the extra fun corollary (that always follows refusing to stand up to bullies) of becoming a bully in my work life.
This last one is what is on my mind, the bullying thing. On my recent trip to Guatemala as part of surgical mission team, I had the opportunity to work with people who have known me, but not worked with me in some time. In that time I have done some work. Multiple people said to me things like, ‘wow, you are nice now,’ ‘you are not the guy I thought you were’ etc. These compliments stung a little, because I know I had been a hard guy to be with in the operating room, the halls of the hospital, the ER. I still can be, but it is less, truly. It is less because I like myself better, accept that I deserve to be here simply because I am here–more on that in a sec.
At some point a child gets beat down enough or their neurotransmitters fail or they swallow some lie about their fundamental badness and they get the idea that they are worthless. I did that. I made it a belief. In terms of behavior, beliefs drive the bus. Beliefs generate my feelings (you didn’t know you made up all your feelings?) and my thoughts and my actions follow. We can argue this if you want, just write to me or post a comment. For now pretend I am right. The little me gained a belief that he was worthless, leading to feelings of pain/shame/anger leading to actions to avoid these feelings (medication) and/or to pass them on (bullying). It was not until fairly recently that I decided to challenge the belief. I challenged the belief because it was causing a lot of damage. Also, I wanted to start living within my values and the constant attention on myself that denying my self worth requires, forced me to live outside of my values. I am a person who does not want to center every waking minute on me. I value selflessness, in other words. The effort to hold on to the shame and the false belief that I am worthless was becoming an ego trip of monumental proportions and also was way past being boring for me and everyone else. How then to accept my self worth?
I accepted yours. I asked myself if I believed that you deserve to have my basic respect simply because you exist, because you are a part of humanity. Answer: yes. If that is true then how to I go about excluding myself (for lack of worthinesss) from the group called humanity? How do I say I don’t deserve to belong to that group especially when saying that forces to me to spend every waking second proving how unique my shame is–so unique I don’t even deserve the basic human respect every person believes for only drawing breath? That is a lot of energy, a lot of ego. It started to look ridiculous.
I am here and because of that I have my attention and respect. I don’t have to prop my esteem up on the wreckage I create in an effort to level everyone to my nothing. I am responsible for my own protection and love, first. It is not on you. Somehow learning this has allowed me to be a better, not perfect, guy at work. I can deal with my ongoing feelings more easily because the fundamental belief is changed. In fact if I start to feel the shame I have to talk myself in to it because the shame is incongruent with my belief about my worth. I still do feel it, but it is now more like a memory than reality.
I liked this little girl because she didn’t flinch. She didn’t believe him. She laughed and went on with her snack. I realize I am totally making up the story of this little girl, but oh well. She helped me feel the love that the people who work with me were showing. I had enough of me in the game to let it sink in and know I deserved it.