Low Self-Esteem My A*#
She sat across from me as I sat at my desk in my office crying, what I thought were tears of relief. Relief because I had just taken on a huge task at work and came out unscathed. Relief because the feeling of being overwhelmed never stopped me from doing what had to be done. Relief because it was nearing the end of the school year and from my vantage point, it was a pretty successful year. She told me that I had done a great job and that if there were any issues, I never let them see me sweat. She said she was proud of me because I was good at my job. I listened to her and immediately started telling her how I could've done things a little better. She stopped me and said, "I hope you don't take this the wrong way because I am only saying this because I love and respect you".
Now we all know when someone says, "Don't take this the wrong way" or "I hope this doesn't offend you", that something is going to be said that is going to be taken the wrong way and it's going to offend you. With my guard and my antennas on alert I told her to say what she needed to say. Her response was more of a question than a statement but she said, "Your self-esteem is so low, how did this happen to you?" I immediately went into defense mode and told her there was NOTHING wrong with my self-esteem. I could not believe that even came out of her mouth. She laughed at me and said the only reason she knew I was going to say that because she was the exact same way. She continued to say that self-confidence and self-esteem were two different things, and while she thought I had all the self-confidence in the world my self-esteem was very low. She explained to me that my confidence was what made me so smart and so good at my job. She said my confidence was what made me have the nerve to go out there and get me a PhD.
All of those things made me feel a little better but the last thing she said is what sticks with me the most. She said, "Confidence is the courage to go out there and do all of those things and more, but self-esteem makes you feel like you are NEVER good enough". That right there was the punch in the gut that has me at this computer right now. The thing that I can admit about myself at this time in my life is that I never feel like I am good enough. So back to her question, how did this happen? Being the nerd that I am I went and read a few articles about self-esteem vs self-confidence and one that I read in Psychology Today, said it was much easier to build self-confidence than self-esteem. It also said that people use their accomplishments to hide their imperfections. In essence, self-confidence leads to success and vice versa. That is why entertainers can perform in front of millions of people and still destroy their lives and kill themselves using drugs. Esteem on the other hand is more about how you feel about yourself. It is the emotional appraisal of yourself.
Enough of the nerd stuff, I know you all want me to get to the good stuff. So here it is. I don't have the answer to what happened to me. I can only guess that my experiences have lead me to believe that I am not good enough. Growing up with my mother, I never heard I was smart or pretty. I got a lot of criticism and it always felt like we were in some kind of competition. Instead of feeling like I had the support of a mother, it felt like I had an older sister who was always trying to "one up" me. I don't know if she ever realized it and when I try to tell her about it now she tells me that she is really proud of me. It's a no win situation trying to explain my feelings now without hurting hers, so I just let it go. Maybe she doesn't even realize that she does it. People on the outside see it, but she doesn't and I suppose it is all about people's perceptions of the situation when they are the situation.
I was never the pretty girl or the smart girl growing up. I was an average student and an okay looking girl. I guess everyone goes through the awkward stage growing up where they are not confident in their looks. There were no boys lined up outside my door trying to be my boyfriend. Junior high school was the worst for me because I had just moved to a new state and the kids were cruel. I work with middle school kids and will be the first to admit that they are the cruelest little creatures in the world. They know how to say things to hurt your feelings so bad that you feel like the world is about to end. It's the truth and things haven't changed since I was in the 6th grade being picked on because my legs were too skinny,my lips were too big, I wasn't in the accelerated group, my hair was too bushy and I didn't have name brand clothes and sneakers.
High school was a little better, I actually did have a boyfriend who told me I was pretty and smart on a regular basis. I guess I can give him some credit for helping me out of my shell. He said the things I probably should have heard at home but it was because of him that I realized I wasn't nearly as hideous as had been my previous self-image. We were a "couple" until my 3rd year of college when I started to form my own opinions about my self-worth and realized that I wasn't half bad and would make somebody a pretty good wife one day.
I met my ex-husband (well was re-introduced) in college and we became great friends instantly. I guess I could say he was my best friend at the time and so we thought the next natural thing to do was to get married after college. So, we did and we tried to make it work for as long as we could (16 years and two wonderful sons). We had lots of ups and downs, but......... If you want to talk about a blow to a woman's self-esteem try fighting your way back from a marriage where there were two affairs (that you know of). If that doesn't knock you on your ass, I don't know what will. By the time my marriage ended, I felt like I wasn't worthy of anybody loving me. Hell, I felt like if I wasn't enough woman to keep my husband at home then there was no way I was going to be good enough to find anyone else and keep him interested.
Praise God, for deliverance because a Sistah is getting her groove back!!!! So back to the conversation in my office. Thank you, my friend for having the guts to tell me how you really felt. Also, if you are a woman and you don't have a good Sistah circle, you better get you one because mine is the bomb!!! I have so many wonderful women in my life who keep me uplifted even when I can't do it for myself. I don't know where I would be without those chicks. And they know who they are, we don't talk everyday but they ALL have my back. Wait!!!!! I won't leave the Brothas out there hanging, because there are plenty of them out there that have had my back too. So thank you, Brothas. I see you looking, I appreciate the IMs and the text messages letting me know that a Sistah is doing alright for herself.
My favorite quote from the brilliant Audre Lorde says, ” If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.” I love this quote because anyone who knows me knows that I truly dance to the beat of my own drum and play by my own rules. I can’t imagine living by someone else’s definition of me, that wouldn’t be fun at all. After all, isn’t having fun one of the main reasons for living?
I have been on this earth for 43 years and have been through a few wars. When I share my story with people, they are amazed that I am still standing and still sane. Sometimes I can’t believe it myself, but sanity is a matter of perspective. How sane can one really be when they prefer to refer to oneself in 3rd person?? All I know is, but for the grace of God, I am still standing. I have a wonderful support network of friends and family who have held me up when I felt like I couldn’t do it myself. Now here I am, 43 years old, divorced and two years from becoming an empty nester. Life is just beginning for me.
I chose to blog as Ms. Kiesha and Dr .Kiesha 2U because much like the characters in Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”, I am not two separate personalities living in the same body. I am one person who allows her alter ego, Ms. Kiesha, to unapologetically be who she is.
I hope my readers will enjoy getting to know me through blogging as I begin to open up and share my journey from Ms. Kiesha to Dr. Kiesha 2U.