Self-esteem

The Impact of Self-Esteem on Friendship

When it comes to self-esteem and friendship, there is no end to the correlations that are so frequently made.  People with more friends have higher self-esteem, and people with high self-esteem seem to have an easier time making friends-- the two results almost creating this self-sustaining cycle that can keep feeding itself.  If you're already in the cycle, that is. But what if you're not in that supportive cycle?  You may have a hard time making friends and struggle with a low self-esteem.  Then it's a catch-22 because while making friends will increase your self-esteem, it's harder to make them without having it first.  So do you try to make friends to feel better about yourself or try to increase your self-esteem before making friends?  A classic chicken-or-egg first kind of question.

My answer? Both.

Increasing My Self-Esteem

Self-esteem comes from having a strong belief in who we are and what we can do.  So certainly believing in oneself to make friends and then accomplishing that goal comes from, and results in, one feeling an increase in self-esteem.  But several steps before self-esteem comes such things as self- awareness, self-trust, and self-care.

If we didn't do the deeper work then our self-esteem rises and falls with every life change. Exhausting and not sustainable. We don't want to feel good about who we are when we make a friend, and then feel bad about who we are when we lose a friend.  Same with any life circumstance-- we don't want how we feel about ourselves to look like a roller coaster that is based on what job we have, our current weight, or our relationship status.

Nothing circumstantial has the power to do the deep and sustaining work of fostering what you're actually creating: love.  Self-love.

My friend Christine Arylo, author of Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, is dubbed the Queen of Self-Love. A word we don't use all that much, and yet she makes the convincing case that it's the tree trunk out of which everything else must grow:

"Each of these aspects of self-love relates to and supports the others, just as the branches of a tree rely on each other to grow, be healthy, and keep the tree balanced and strong. When you practice self-care, you increase your self-compassion. When you build your self-awareness, you increase your self-esteem. When you improve your self-esteem, you more fully feel your self-worth. When you practice self-trust, you base decisions on self-respect. When you take actions that reflect a deep self-respect, you honor yourself. When you express yourself fully, you increase your self-pleasure. And when you exude self-compassion, you create self-acceptance. Each branch supports the other branches, and as one grows, so do the others."

Her first suggested step for building your self-esteem?  Increase your self-awareness.  Get to know yourself.  It's hard to love who you don't know.  :)  Past all the titles, images, and pretenses.  Deeper than what others say about you or who you wish you are-- explore and get to know you.  (You can see why self-compassion and self-forgiveness need to be intertwined in the process!)

Increasing My Friendships

While we need to be our own best friend before we can truly be in healthy friendships and feel confident in our friend-making process, it doesn't mean we sit in a cave until then.  We can't lock ourselves in isolation, because no one grows more loving in a loveless vacuum.  Our self-esteem, belief in ourselves and our abilities, doesn't grow without practice.  So while we're having honest conversations with ourselves, understanding who we are and aren't, and seeking to embrace how we're wired-- we're also observing how our thoughts, actions, and decisions are affecting our relationships.

One study came out this year that gives us a little guidance about how to engage in meaningful and healthy ways even when our self-esteem isn't quite yet where we want it to be.  The study tracked high self-esteem and low self-esteem individuals engaging in Facebook to see if perhaps that forum was a safer place for low self-esteem individuals to interact without fear of awkward social situations.

The study results showed that:

  1. Low self-esteem individuals were more likely to post negative status updates than high self-esteem individuals.  (And get less of a response to them compared to when a high self-esteem individual posted an occasional negative update.)
  2. And, that others who read the status updates of low self-esteem individuals ended up liking them less as they were perceived as sad, negative, angry, or pessimistic.

So while the low self-esteem updaters may, in fact, feel safer on Facebook; their honest revelations are backfiring if their goal is to be more likable and build friendships.  Other studies have shown that Facebook causes more stress for those with low self-esteem as they also see what everyone else is doing and can frequently feel worse about their own life.

From this, a word of encouragement to those who feel that their self-esteem journey is closer to the starting line than the finish line: practice engaging, but stay positive.

In other words, you may not yet have the self-esteem to be making friends, but you can start with being friendly.  Being friendly is a choice-- it's a choice to be affirming of others, warm, and hopeful.  As you give that gift to others, you'll find you also give it more to yourself.  And your cycle of self-esteem and relationships can start-- your friendliness and your growing self-love-- will both get healthier together.

The end result hopefully being a woman who genuinely loves herself and others well, products of a strong self-esteem.

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  Christine's book, Madly in Love with ME: The Daring Adventure of Becoming Your Own Best Friend, walks readers through a very fun and engaging journey filled with exercises and tips to build a very healthy self-love tree! I highly recommend it.  Plus she's going on tour across the country in 2013!

 

 

 

Are We Competitors? Or, Can We Be Friends?

The moments I love the most in life are when a veil is lifted, reminding me that what I thought was true, wasn't. Just because my feelings told me one thing didn't make it so. Such was the case with Chris.

Christine Bronstein and I both had heard of each other. Numerous times. We both founded women's communities that are rooted in the SF Bay Area so it seemed we were destined to be competitors. Our names appeared simultaneously in articles and we both kept tabs on each other from a distance. Not proud of it, but I'll just come right out and admit that I was jealous of her.

In my jealousy I never wanted her failure, nor did I ever think there wasn't enough room in this city for both of us to succeed.  But, nonetheless, it still put up this silly imaginary wall.  It still triggered my insecurities. It still made me wonder if I was good enough, or if my company was a good enough concept. The belief that we were competitors left me feeling wary of her successes and slightly threatened by her legions of fans. It's nearly impossible to view someone as competition without also stepping into jealousy and judgment.

Competition, Jealousy & Judgment

The spiritual teacher side of me genuinely believes there is no real competition in this world for the things that matter.  That there is enough love, joy, and peace in this world and that as I offer it, I will receive it.  I don't have to push someone down to go up. I don't have to beat someone to feel worthy. I believe there is no one else like me in this world (or like you!) and so I trust that as we live from our authentic places that the world needs both of us doing our things differently. I can cheer for you even as I run beside you.

However, the very-real human side of me still feels threatened sometimes. In part because jealousy never feels good. I often interpret that feeling as me not being good enough or somehow feeling less-than.  And of course, when we feel attacked (even by ourselves!) we defend. We then devalue the other or inflate ourselves to try to feel better. Judgments roll off our tongue. I sometimes fall for the lie that only one of us can win this race and feel "good enough."

(Note: I'm not dissing all competition-- I appreciate what I learned on the basketball court, felt motivated by sales contests that pushed me, and still love talking trash to my sister when we play games. In fact, competition is a strength that many incorporate into their lives in ways that help them excel. Rather, what I'm speaking of is our tendency to see others as opponents when they aren't, feeling as though our self-worth is tied to specific results when it never is, or believing that we have to elbow our way through life to win something that someone else told us mattered.)

Competition is a loaded word, bringing out our desire to win and be chosen, and also stirring up our insecurities and greatest fears.

  • Some of us get married or have kids just so we don't feel "behind."
  • Some of us count money and possessions as mile markers of our success in some race we have assigned meaning.
  • As girls we've been raised to see our appearances as a way of winning attention and yielding our power, so our worth goes up and down with the scale or as we compare ourselves to those around us.
  • Some of us feel threatened if we feel our kids aren't winning their metaphoric races for popularity, achievement, perfect obedience, or any other finish line we imagine, as though it reflects on our race as mothers.
  • Some of us see our claws go up in the workplace, connecting our value to dollars earned, hours put in, and titles bestowed.
  • Some of decide we can't be friends with her because she's beautiful ("so she must be vain") or because she makes too much money ("so she must not have the same values I have") or because any other dozens of reasons we dismiss each other because we might feel threatened or risk rejection.

We all want to feel enough. I get that. I know that feeling.

But I also know it's not in winning the race that we will ever feel enough.  There will just be another race in front of you, another goal you have to reach, another win you will need in order to keep proving yourself.

There's no end until we can hold our worth right where we are today. Rather, it's in calling the race a bluff that we ironically start feeling "enough."

The Gift I Now Have

I now count Chris among my friends. And I couldn't be more proud of the work she is doing in the Bay Area for women through her network: A Band of Wives.  She practices what she preaches-- creating a culture in her community that promotes one other, lifts each other up, and helps give attention and voice to all that we're each trying to do.

Kindness begets kindness. Generosity breaks down imaginary walls of division.  Respecting each other makes us want to help the other succeed. Love overrides fear.

Owning my worth invites me to see it in others, realizing it's not something we win or bestow, rather just something we acknowledge. She has always been enough. And so have I. And seeing it in each other doesn't lessen it in either of us, it actually heightens our awareness of our own.

I'll have to blog sometime about the process, but for now, I can attest that I'd much rather have her as a friend, than as an imaginary competitor.  I shake my head to think what we might have missed out on co-creating had we stayed in the race we thought we were running.

I challenge you today to keep stepping into the personal growth of seeing your worth.  I also invite you to be someone in our GirlFriendCircles.com community that helps affirm that worth in others around you.  As we acknowledge the value of others, we will genuinely feel our own more truly and be able to help them see theirs.

A veil lifted where I can see how amazing she is without it making me feel any less so. And that is a gift I wish on everyone.

ABOW logo

For more reading on this blog about jealousy and competition, click here.

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p.s.  Registration on the "A Band of Wives" site is free and you'll be wowed by the events they host, the groups you can participate in, and the opportunities for partnering with amazing women. It's for women of all ages, as single and married women commit to being supportive "wives" to each other.  I hope to see you at some of their events.

p.s.s.  Speaking of events, if you live in the Bay Area-- I hope you'll come to Sausalito on Thursday night for an "All-Kinds-of-Love Pre-Valentines Bash" hosted by A Band of Wives. I'll be guiding everyone through speed-friending so it's a perfect first event to come to for meeting the fabulous women in that community!  It starts at 6 pm at Wellington's Wine Bar (300 Turney St.).  There are already 70+ RSVP's so come meet up with us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Oprah-Haters and Other Women Who Devalue

Their conversation stirred me in a really deep and defensive way.  The example they set has now been forever etched in my memory as an illustration of who we can all become when we forget our own worth. On Sunday, in the Virgin Airlines terminal of Las Vegas, I overheard five women engage in a colloquy of criticism.  It began with one voice sighing, "ugh, you know who I hate? Oprah.  Who does she think she is?" and spiraled into ugliness at such an alarming rate. Apparently her weight, lesbian rumors, amount of money made, career choices, fame and personality were all somehow offensive to this group just shooting the breeze while waiting to board their plane.

Oprah Winfrey

Five adult women, presumably ending a girls weekend in Vegas, spent ten minutes spewing venom and anger toward someone I'd venture to guess that none of them have ever met. There is no need to repeat all the insults, only to say that it was eye-opening and heart-exhausting to witness them all participate in the hate-fest as though adding to the conversation made them each feel better somehow.

We Devalue Others-- Revealing Our Own Insecurities

As a student of relationships, I have long witnessed that we tend to devalue anything that threatens us.  We push down on others; hoping it raises us up.  It's almost as though we think life is a see-saw where only one of us can win.

I see it in break-ups frequently: the person that was most cherished only weeks ago is now criticized in an attempt to comfort us that we are better off without that person. As though we can't admit their worth and hold ours at the same time?

I see it in friendships where two women make different choices: the one who had the baby, took the job for money, decided to move away, chose a private school for their child-- both women, to hold the belief that they made the right choice, are tempted to devalue those who make an alternative decision.  As though we can't hold the belief that we could both be making the right choice for our lives, even if they look different?

I see it where there appears to be an inequality that provokes our jealousy: the person who seemingly has the fame, the power, the money, the happy family or the good looks receives the most criticism. Ironically we secretly want something they have, but instead of using their success as our inspiration, we attack them with our insecurities disguised as complaints. As though it's their problem for having what we want?

And therein lies the toxicity of devaluing: it says more about us than it does about them.

We Devalue Others--Heightening the Conflict in this World

If someone gave me a magic wand to make one wish come true, it would be to give us all the ability to see our own worth so clearly that we never had to treat people from our own fears and insecurities.

Think about it... What problem does this planet hold that couldn't be solved from our ability to see the value of each other? Of not needing to prove our worth? Attacking so we don't look weak? Devaluing another to justify our own choices? Putting up walls so we don't risk not being liked?  Not knowing our own worth and bestowing that gift on others is the cause of wars and political battles, inequality and injustices, suicides and bullying.

Ladies, I may sound dramatic.  But I'd argue that I have good reason to go there.  We don't have control over bombing other countries or solving all inequalities against gender, religious, sexual identity and race differences.  But we do have control over doing the hard work of holding a healthy self-esteem so that we can offer it to others.

We Devalue Others--Risking Significant Relationships

In a community committed to healthy friendships, it is important to me to challenge you to show up differently than those women.

  • I invite you to engage in conversation that ensure that others leave feeling better about who they are.
  • I invite you to own your insecurities.  When you see someone who has what you secretly want choose to be inspired by it rather than threatened by it.
  • I invite you to refuse to engage in any conversation that puts others down. Whether those others are people you know (i.e. your ex's, your family, your work colleagues) or people you may never meet (i.e. Charlie Sheen & the Kardashian sisters).
  • I invite you to do the work of holding firm to the belief that you are fabulous, talented and perfectly prepared to do your life calling.  You are enough.
  • I invite you to not see life as a see-saw, where someone else has to fall before you can rise.  There is room enough for all of us to be our best.
  • I invite you to give the freedom to others, including Oprah to do life her very best way even if you would do it differently.
  • And, I invite you to realize that if you want to bring change to this world, more people are transformed by affirmation and grace than by criticism and shame.

So, to the women in the terminal who felt they were in any position to judge Oprah, I say to you:

I'm totally okay with you not being an Oprah-fan, but I invite you to cheer for her as another woman doing the best she can.  I hope for you that you someday step into your own power and offer the world what you think she's missing. But cheer for her as she does her thing.  And I cheer for you as you do yours.  You are amazing.  You have worth.  As does she.

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I'd love to hear your comments ladies!  Am I overreacting? Do you see your own tendency to step into devaluing others? What have you done to build your own self-esteem?