Don't Care Today, But Tomorrow I Might

07/14/2009 13:00

I am 14 years old and I have some serious self-esteem issues. There are days when I feel fantastic and ready for anything, and then I feel so low that I don't eat. I like to get my mind off my thoughts by writing what I feel through songs, but lately I've been having writer's block. (I know, lame.) Any advice?

 -- Amanda

 What Mary Says...  What Crystal Says...

Dear Amanda:

Recognition is the first step to recovery. I just made that up. Sounds simple, but makes sense, doesn't it? Sometimes I feel like self esteem is akin to dandelion fluff. You have to hold so still so that it doesn't blow away, but if a strong breeze comes by - poof! - it can ruin your day. Every one of us deals with self esteem issues. It's a battle to keep yourself strong, healthy and happy. Even Madonna has admitted there are days she wakes up and doesn't feel like "Madonna." God knows she doesn't look like Madonna anymore ... I digress.
OK, girl, I love the fact that you are writing, especially songs! That's awesome. Taylor Swift sings songs right out of her diary. Who knows - that can be you someday.
Simple tricks you can work on to help build yourself up:
1. Accept yourself.
This can sound too easy, but it's the best thing you can do for yourself. Love every part of yourself, even when you are feeling nasty. Or if you do quirky things, like dye your hair pink and paint your toenails green.
2. Do what you like.
I like to spend an hour every Sunday night painting my nails. It's a good time for me to be alone with myself and get back in touch with what's going on and how I'm feeling. Take a walk, ride a bike, write some more songs, play the guitar, reward yourself. But get to know YOU and what makes you, you.
3. Surround yourself with those who want the best for you. Really.
I have a small, tight circle of friends - friends who I would do anything for and who would do anything for me (I hope). They keep me grounded and lift me up when I need it. Anyone who's negative I don't need in my life. Life's too short to waste it on the wrong people.
4. Set little goals for yourself and achieve them.
You say you have writer's block (I always get it - you can't force creativity). Set a small goal like to write one song per week. You may find that you end up writing two. Voila! Pat yourself on the back.
You'll find as you grow and get older and more wise that there are going to be fantastically great times when you're on top of the world. And there are going to be times when you think you are ugly and not getting anywhere. It's life. Embrace it all and learn from it. Just don't get too mired in it.

Good luck, Amanda! We're pulling for you!                                
























Dear Amanda:

In the words of the greatest American hero: Knowing is half the battle. G.I.Joe. Oh wait, just ignore that last part.

Ok, so here’s the thing. I totally know what you mean. I’ve been fighting the self-esteem demon my whole life, and though it’s gotten easier, it by no means has disappeared. See, there’s no easy way to get confidence and pride in yourself, despite what some touchy feely guru’s might boast. That’s because self-esteem is being happy with you, not your ideal version of you. You gotta like you as you are now, in all of your mistakes, flaws, and glory. And why is that so hard? Because you know yourself better than anyone else. You know the secrets of your heart that you don’t speak…all the thoughts you have that you’re scared to think. You hear your voice in your head weave tales that you’re not like everyone else, that you’re ugly or dumb, that you’re alone, or that you’re worthless. And that voice…damn, it can be convincing. So now you see the problem. How on earth could anyone who’s not you teach you how to love all that? How can anyone who doesn’t know you squash your internal voice, when you can counter with examples of your inadequacies that others don’t see?

So here’s what I know about our internal voice, Amanda. Sometimes, often times, it lies. If you had a magic mirror that let you hear and see the hearts and thoughts of others, you’d realize many, many of them feel the same way you do. So, how could, say, you not fit in if everyone else feels they don’t fit in either? Stupid lying brain. Fitting in and feeling loved is a very tough thing for a lot of people. Sometimes, for a very long time. So the challenge to you is to put up the good fight. When you hear those thoughts, banish them. Tell yourself that you ARE a good person (unless of course, one of your secrets is you’ve murdered 18 unsuspecting, random people in your neighborhood. Then, you actually might not be a good person). People DO like you, and what’s more, you like yourself, flaws and all. But you gotta mean it, because the brain is smart. If you try to fib to it, it will know, and you’ll lose your battle. No, to win, you have to accept all of your flaws, unconditionally and unreservedly, just as you would your soul mate.

Now, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention an alert that sounded from your message. Extreme ups and downs like you describe may be an indication of an issue out of your control, and your feelings and thoughts could be tied to something bigger than just self-esteem. Of course, I don’t know enough about your situation to make that assessment. But if you came to see me, I would ask - Would you describe your “fantastic” times as “high on life?” Do you have less need for sleep then? Racing thoughts or increased energy level? When you’re down and can’t eat, do you feel an extreme sense of hopelessness? Do you have thoughts of death or suicide? If you answered yes to any of these, I implore you to go see a school counselor or have your parents take you to see a therapist or psychologist. If your good and bad times are ruled by something such as a chemical or hormonal issue, there’s no way to fight it without professional assistance. Without help, some people never get past those low times you describe, and can end up in really, really bad shape...even dead. And I for one want to see you make it to 24 and be the successful, insightful person it’s apparent that you already are. Good luck, Amanda.








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