(Note to the reader: the following is a completely rhetorical and philosophic post. I have plenty of self-esteem. I have self-esteem coming out of my ears. I regularly have excess self-esteem drained off and donated to junior high boys preparing to call a girl for the first time.)
I've been thinking a lot lately about self-esteem and how it relates to my struggles to live in such a way as to increase the odds of a healthy future. (Coincidentally, David Spero has a column on this very subject published just today over at Diabetes Self-Management.) I think, perhaps, that I've spent my life holding the wrong end of the stick. Maybe I've been telling myself that I'd earn self-affirmation when I'd lost my weight, or when I'd achieved some other goal -- and it never happens. Maybe if I could learn to give myself affirmation without preconditions, I'd then have the internal resources I need to pursue my goals more effectively.
Okay, then the question arises: what is the basis for self-esteem? If it's not working to base that esteem on what I do, then what can I count on being able to look to for strength, even on those days when I'm really screwing up?
I like to think of myself as a pretty bright guy, and I feel good about that. But, in my worldview, intelligence is a gift -- it's not to my moral credit, anymore than my baby blue eyes are. I like to think that I've made good use of that gift by doing a lot of reading, attaining a good education, getting a good job that I have because of that education. But then what can I do on those days when I make mistakes? And, at my age, the old knife just isn't quite as sharp as it used to be: am I growing less worthwhile as I age? That obviously won't work at all.
I'm a good and caring person - is that a solid basis for self-esteem? Well, we're getting closer to it. But I have bad times, too -- when I'm cranky, or judgmental, or cater too much to my creature comforts. Do I become worthless on those occasions when I don't visit a friend in the hospital because I really want to hide under my bed? No: I think this is still dangerous ground.
The only basis I can think of that seems to serve as a solid basis for self esteem is simply that I am. I am human: in my worldview, I am a soul, a child of God. I have a worth that's inherent, inalienable, and indestructible. I have the worth that every man, woman and child has, the value that causes us to grieve when we learn of the deaths or struggles of people we know nothing of.
Of course, as I learn to place more value in that worth, that means I'm also placing more value in your worth, and my coworker's worth, and the worth of the woman in the minivan that almost runs me over, and the worth of the billions of people with whom I will never have any contact at all. That doesn't strike me as a bad thing, either.
I am worthwhile. Simply because I am.
1. WERE YOU NAMED AFTER ANYONE
My first name is Robert. My parents picked it because they liked it. My middle name, though, is after Prince Charles of England.
2. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU CRIED?
I rarely cry in the sense of sobbing, though I might be better off. I got pretty teary just tonight, and teared up in hurt yesterday.
3. DO YOU LIKE YOUR HANDWRITING?
My handwriting is terrible, though I don't feel badly about it, I just try to avoid making other people read it. :)
4. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE LUNCH MEAT?
5. DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
6. IF YOU WERE ANOTHER PERSON WOULD YOU BE FRIENDS WITH YOU?
Well, most folks seem to like me, but I think I may be hard to get close to.
7. DO YOU USE SARCASM A LOT?
What????? Are you SERIOUS????? (Um, yes. Though I try not to direct it at people.)
8. DO YOU STILL HAVE YOUR TONSILS
9. WOULD YOU BUNGEE JUMP?
No way. I'm missing the physically adventurous gene entirely.
10. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE CEREAL?
Probably Honey Bunches of Oats. Can't really do cereal anymore, and that's an easy thing to not do.
11. DO YOU UNTIE YOUR SHOES WHEN YOU TAKE THEM OFF?
12. DO YOU THINK YOU ARE STRONG?
13. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ICE CREAM?
I had a banana ice cream in New York's Chinatown that was amazing!
14. WHAT IS THE FIRST THING YOU NOTICE ABOUT PEOPLE?
Facial expression, what used to be called "countenance".
15. RED OR PINK?
Red, for most purposes.
16. WHAT IS THE LEAST FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOURSELF?
I think I'll not put the answer to that one on Teh Intertubes..
17. WHO DO YOU MISS THE MOST
That's really tough. I guess I'll go with Dr. Seuss. :)
18. DO YOU WANT EVERYONE TO SEND THIS BACK TO YOU?
I'll be happy to see any responses, but don't intend to lay any expectations.
19. WHAT COLOR SHOES ARE YOU WEARING?
20. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE?
21. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW ?
22. IF YOU WHERE A CRAYON, WHAT COLOR WOULD YOU BE?
I'd be the mysterious color of the one with the label that fell off.
23. FAVORITE SMELLS?
24. WHO WAS THE LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO ON THE PHONE?
My neighbor friend.
25. DO YOU LIKE THE PERSON WHO SENT THIS TO YOU?
I do like LeeAnn, though we've not met.
26. FAVORITE SPORTS TO WATCH?
27. HAIR COLOR?
Brown, now graying.
28. EYE COLOR
29. DO YOU WEAR CONTACTS?
30. FAVORITE FOOD?
Prime rib with fresh grated horseradish.
31. SCARY MOVIES OR HAPPY ENDINGS?
I'm not really a movie guy -- I see less than one a year on average. But, I don't do scary at all, so I guess its the happy endings.
32. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED?
"Wordplay", a film about a national crossword puzzle tournament
33. WHAT COLOR SHIRT ARE YOU WEARING?
34. SUMMER OR WINTER?
It used to be winter, but the cold is harder on my every year.
35. HUGS OR KISSES?
Kisses -- I prefer the solid milk chocolate rather than the mix of white chocolate.
36. FAVORITE DESSERT?
Oh, heavens. Sonic sometimes has a banana cream pie shake that makes me grateful I don't live near one.
37. MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND
38. LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND
St. Thomas Aquinas.
39. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
"The Art of Getting Well" by David Spero
40.WHAT IS ON YOUR MOUSE PAD
I don't use one at this computer.
41. WHAT DID YOU WATCH ON TV LAST NIGHT?
Nothing. I watch a lot of Food Network and some sports -- that's about it.
42. FAVORITE SOUND?
Off the top of my head, the opening bars of Copland's "Appalachian Spring Suite".
43. ROLLING STONES OR BEATLES?
44. WHAT IS THE FARTHEST YOU HAVE BEEN FROM HOME?
Geography is not my strong point, but it's probably San Diego.
45. DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL TALENT?
I've been known to do a pretty mean metaphor.
46. WHERE WERE YOU BORN?
47. WHOSE ANSWERS ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING BACK?
Thomas Jefferson's. Now, that was an interesting dude.