This is the first chapter of her book -
Realize who you are.
“No man can know where he is going unless he knows exactly where he has been and exactly how he has arrived at his present place.” Maya Angelou Poet, Educator, Historian.
Why is it that having confidence in ourselves and our abilities is so hard? Why do many of us have the tendency to over estimate other people's abilities and power and under estimate our own? Why are we so concerned with what other people will think about us?
If we are to understand these things, we need to understand first why we think, feel and act the way we do. We need to understand why and how we have become who we are as well as why we react or respond in certain ways. When we understand ourselves, we can either accept the way we are or make changes so we will be able to accept ourselves.
What we believe and accept about ourselves determines our behavior and performance. These, in turn, create our results and our results affect our confidence levels.
We behave in accordance with our beliefs about ourselves. If we have self-limiting beliefs, we will have self-limiting behaviors. If we have self-empowering beliefs, we will have self-empowering behaviors. In other words, if you think you can, you can and if you think you can't, you can't. If you think you can, you will find a way. We perform as well as we believe we are capable of performing.
Most of our beliefs about ourselves have come from outside sources: people, education and experiences. Many of us have allowed the opinions of others to become our opinions of ourselves. We've listened to people tell us we are incompetent, inadequate, unworthy, bad or stupid. We've internalized, processed and often believed what others have told us.
There is a direct correlation between the quality of your relationships and your levels of self-esteem and self-confidence. If you're like most people, how you feel about yourself, good or bad, is largely dependant upon the degree of acceptance you have felt from the influential people in your life.
In the beginning, we learned our beliefs and values from our parents. If our parents' self-esteem levels were low or they had poor concepts, values and beliefs, then that's what we learned. If they felt inferior, inadequate or unworthy, we probably adopted those qualities. When we are children, we go through an “imprint period” where we formulate our behavior patterns based on what is impressed upon our thought patterns by the adults who are instrumental in our growth.
If we were told “you are a bad girl”, it really meant our behavior was unacceptable, but most of us didn't hear it that way. We internalized it to mean that WE were unacceptable. Most parents don't realize how important it is to separate the act from the individual. Instead of saying, “You're usually so graceful…I'm surprised you tripped and fell. Are you okay?” they will say, “You're so clumsy!” They don't understand the deep, negative impact this has on a child.
If we were compared negatively to other children, especially children outside of our immediate family, we might have come to believe those children had more abilities and were more popular than we were. That is when feelings of inferiority start to set in. If we didn't receive appreciation or recognition for our achievements, we may believe others are smarter, stronger or better than we are.
If my grandmother told me once, she told me a hundred times that my cousin, Bobbie, was smarter, cuter and more popular than I was. After the first 10 times, she really didn't have to tell me any more. I already believed it! So if Bobbie took dance classes, I didn't want to take dance classes because I knew before I started I would never be as good as she was. If Bobbie tried out for a part in the school play, I wouldn't try out because I could never be as good as Bobbie. If Bobbie ran for student council, I certainly wouldn't be able to achieve what she achieved, so why bother? I knew for sure I'd never be Homecoming Queen, because Bobbie had already worn that crown.
If we had parents who tried to realize their unfulfilled dreams through us and our accomplishments, they may have pushed us beyond our abilities or our desires in particular areas making us feel “less than” we could have been or should have been. Or maybe they even instilled such a drive in us to be what they wanted us to be, that we didn't learn how to be assertive and stand up for what WE want.
My friend, Sue, didn't want to play softball, but her father was the girl's softball coach and a jock to boot, so he insisted Sue become a pitcher and a home run hitter. He pushed and pushed until she was in tears after every game and she quit before the end of the season! When she was in Girl Scouts and they went on a hike, Sue somehow wandered away from the others and became lost. Once found, her father said to her, “Don't tell anyone you couldn't find your way out of the woods.” When they would go fishing, he would say to her before they ever got to the dock, “I know you are going to be sick, so just deal with it!” Today Sue works at a job she doesn't really enjoy because she still hopes to win her father's approval and when she faces challenges in life, she sometimes cries, has a tendency to get sick, often quits things before learning to do them well and most of all tries to “just deal with it.” In other instances, she takes on risky assignments in an attempt to get her father to see how brave and strong she has become! Occasionally, I hear her reference how well she has done for a girl who can't find her way out of the woods. Is it as obvious to you as it is to me where these coping mechanisms were learned? And isn't it sad that her father's early harsh criticism has stayed with her all of her life?
If our parents or peers are obsessed with physical appearance, they may also push us into a life that devalues us. Jeanette was a beautiful teenager. Her parents pushed her into every beauty contest they could find. They were determined because she was so beautiful; she should have only the best of everything. They moved to the most exclusive neighborhood in the city, so she could go to the right school with a “higher class” of students. They joined the country club at great expense so she could mingle with the “right” people. Then they worked around the clock to pay for it. When she had the opportunity to meet young men, her mother would say, “Stand up and meet the boy.” So Jeanette would stand up, stick out her breasts, suck in her stomach and put on her most seductive smile, so the boy could look her over and see what a good catch she would be. She married the man they chose for her who didn't appreciate her “standing up” to meet all his friends and business associates. She lived a miserable life until she got divorced. Then she found herself back in the limelight standing up for the “right” men to meet her again. Unfortunately, as she grew older, her looks faded and she was no longer the beauty she had been. Because she relied completely on her beauty, she never developed any of the other interests, virtues or qualities one might seek in a mate. She died bitter and alone -- surrounded by her beauty pageant trophies.
Children of parents who are obsessed with physical appearance usually develop a major case of low self-esteem. In addition, the media puts so much emphasis on beauty and being thin that many girls, and even supposedly intelligent grown women, develop eating disorders and poor health in an effort to keep up their appearances.
If our parents placed a very high value on possessions and having money in the bank, whether they had it or not, the emphasis on materialism we learned could lead us to a life of overachievement and striving for wealth and material goods. We may even marry someone because of the possessions, wealth or stature of that person.
Mary's occupation is marrying wealthy men. I say “men” because she has married four men of considerable means and found out after each wedding ceremony that she didn't even like the person. Eventually each “wonderful” marriage ended up in a bitter, nasty divorce. How many of these do you think she'll go through before she realizes what she is doing? My father used to say,
“If you marry someone, be sure you like the person and you can love him even if he loses everything he has, because that's the person you'll be stuck with.” Times have changed since my father's day, and in today's world where two out of three marriages end in divorce, you no longer need to stay stuck in a bad relationship.
You can get a divorce without the stigma it carried in my father's time, but why would you want to put yourself through all that turmoil and emotional drama? It's certainly hard on one's self-esteem. We shouldn't use up even one moment of our lives dealing with negative emotional feelings that we can avoid by making better choices in the first place.
"You Are More Than Enough: Every Woman's Guide to Purpose, Passion, and Power" is available in bookstores everywhere. ISBN #1-932173-72-2 or call Charlotte at (702) 896-2228.