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July 10, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

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Her bad self Belleruth on self-esteem:

Okay, seriously, what is "low self-esteem?" "Well, there are times when our behavior does merit our better selves' disapproval. If we're feeling scuzzy specifically because we did something crappy or did someone wrong, that's appropriate guilt, doing -- ideally -- the service of shaping us up. That's functional; it's not chronic and it's not paralyzing, so it shouldn't get characterized as 'low self-esteem.' Low self-esteem is when you think badly of yourself as the rule, when there's no inner ballast, sense of self -- so you tend to sell yourself down the river more often than not, or float around on other people's needs, wishes, styles and opinions. It tends to go with a universal intolerance of making a mistake or being wrong, a lack of resiliency and a general fearfulness of risk. The main thing is fundamentally not valuing yourself, which is not 'normal.' (I mean, check out babies. Babies have self esteem. They are born loving their toes and finding them fascinating and delicious.)"

How come you "have to love yourself first?" "If you are 'loving' someone else out of a sense of desperation or hunger, it's no gift. It's an anxious compulsion. Someone who is okay with themselves, who feels love for someone, is offering a free gift. So you do have to 'love yourself first,' but in a profound sense, not a superficial one -- because this notion too often gets used as a justification for selfishness." [It's not to be equated with always putting yourself first. -- BG.]

Can you get high self-esteem in a mirror? "There, and elsewhere. I think simple awareness practice -- turning inward to see what you need, want, think, opine -- is a way of habituating self-respect. Seeing where you are and what you are experiencing is an act of self-esteem that fosters self-esteem. Keeping a journal is one good, mechanical way to start doing this. Another simple, mechanical way to foster self esteem is getting a massage. Really. Experiencing pleasure [true, simple pleasure, not hollow hookups -- BG] is correlated with self-esteem. Ergo, something non-sexual, where you simply focus on the yummy sensation nourishing your skin, can actually boost self-esteem. Most people don't think of those things that way, but it's true." [Ask Amy! -- BG]

And now for your Do Tells...

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