2020: Entering The Decade of Self Esteem

Abraham Maslow considered self esteem as one of the higher needs in his hierarchy; but to me, it’s one of the most important.

While basic needs (such as physiological and safety) are at the bottom, love and belonging come before self esteem. Why? Self esteem is crucial to fulfillment.

If you don’t love yourself, accepting love from another person is next to impossible.

Even your basic bottom needs are often unmet when you have low self esteem- so why is it so far up the hierarchy?

This is especially true for those who have suffered from trauma or addiction. I almost titled this post “Rethinking Maslow’s Hierarchy,” but I realized my message is bigger than that. As I reflect on the past decade, the choices I have made, and the lessons I have learned, I realized I would take matters into my own hands. I would make a choice to make this next decade about maintaining self love, both for myself and helping others to improve their own self esteem.

Before you think that job or possession will make you happy, consider how low self esteem is standing in your way of achieving everything you want. Without it, it’s hard to succeed in the workplace, in love, and in life.

The other day I stumbled on a great piece by TheFix.com by Susan Peabody, sharing 12 ways to build self esteem and acceptance. For those who are in recovery, it’s very possible that our self esteem took a hit along the way. We viewed ourselves through the eyes of others and by our mistakes, our pain, and our addiction.

 “When the melancholic dejectedly desires to be rid of life, of himself, is this not because he will not learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When a man surrenders himself to despair because the world or some person has left him faithlessly betrayed, what then is his fault except that he does not love himself the right way.” -Soren Kierkegaard, Works of Love.

Society has sent us negative messages about ourselves, from how we need to look to the milestones we need to achieve to reach ultimate happiness. My experience has shown that even the house, the job, and the bank account will never satisfy us if we are not satisfied with who we are as a human being.

I’ve had countless friends and have known endless people who are discontent due to outside forces. Whether they’ve lost a loved one or are simply unhappy with their life, being able to recover from the pain and find joy in everyday life is the first step to improving ones self esteem.

As 2019 ends, reflect on how you currently feel about yourself. Think about what you want to change- because it truly does start from within.

Now is the time to let go to make room to spread your wings and grow.

A Girl Finding Her Identity

74214531_10108087554403158_3969365851060043776_n

When I was young- probably 9 or so- my cousin called me selfish.  Yet to explore any sort of self discovery or identity, I was shocked.

This stuck with me for years, and later I began to show many behaviors that were selfish.  I continually told myself I was misunderstood, different, and unloved.  I began to doubt myself and who I was as a person.

Where did I fit in this world?

I faked sick on family holidays and refused to believe I belonged.  I detached from the people who loved me the most, unaware how important family and my roots were.  I was antisocial, confused, and misunderstood.  How could anyone understand me if I couldn’t even understand myself?

On a 9th grade trip to the Birch Run outlets with my mom, I remember picking out a sleek dark purple jacket at Ralph Lauren.  I felt like a star.

Upon returning to Traverse City, I pranced around downtown, running errands with my mom wearing my black Express pants, envisioning myself in a place like Chicago or even New York City.  I dreamed of being somewhere different- somewhere no one knew my name.

Somewhere along the way I started to identify as the “black sheep.”

I didn’t know who I was at age 15, but I was certain I didn’t belong in Michigan.

As I went on to college, making new friends and seeking the approval of fraternity boys (some of which I’m still friends with today), I was lost in a sea of vodka and $1 beer. I did whatever I could to find love, but most of all, acceptance.

My drinking began to get out of control, and so did my self respect.  After college, I moved in with an older boyfriend who I later got engaged to.  I thought this relationship would save me from the all-nighters and my bad behavior- which it did, for about a year.  Then, I gave back my Princess cut diamond and took off to San Francisco.

I did the cities- 7 in all.  I worked in fashion.  I considered law school.  I did the startup thing.  I had no idea what I wanted, so I kept running from myself- only to find myself right back where I came from 12 years later.

As an adult, I’m aware I’m still a little selfish- and now, it’s okay.  This kind of selfishness is self-care, which at the core isn’t selfish at all.

The difference today is that I know how to set boundaries, but also to welcome the love that surrounds me.  My identity was never lost- I needed to mistakes, try things out, and move around to truly learn who I am as a person- and that being myself was all I ever needed all along.

75521925_10108087554168628_7060397777552932864_n

Stop Telling Women To Smile

A week ago I was sitting at my favorite coffee shop, notebook in hand and a coffee on the table.  I pulled out my mirror to see if I had anything on my face, quickly fixing my concealer that was out of place from my oversized sunglasses.

“Your makeup looks fine!” a stranger next to me declared.  I looked over, laughed, and continued to set up shop at my seat.

He didn’t stop there.  “You know, most men would say women look best without makeup.  It’s Sunday!  Don’t wear makeup!”

Newsflash: I wear makeup for me, not you.

I love to dress up, wear red lipstick, and don my Karen Walker shades.  Not looking for validation, on most days I simply want to write in peace; the last thing I want is to have strangers approach me to give me unsolicited advice or flirt poorly at a coffee shop.

Nevertheless, whether or not it was meant to be a compliment, it was still suggesting I change who I am or what I do.  That never sits well with me- flirting or not.  It’s manipulative, and it’s unwelcomed.

Here’s a comprehensive list of things women don’t need to hear from a man:

  • How to wear our hair
  • What clothes to choose
  • How long our hair “should” be
  • When to wear makeup
  • That we should smile

Maybe some women need the words of the opposite sex to gain their confidence, but I am not one of them.

“The sexualization behind telling women to smile is alarming. It makes women feel that we are only meant to be happy and pretty and it’s a passive way to engage into an unwanted conversation.” –

I’ve had ex-boyfriends try and dress me up in the shortest of skirts, 6 inch heels, and cleavage revealing attire.  That’s just not my style.  I’ve even had an ex ask me if I was going to a funeral because I was wearing all black.  Didn’t you know black is slimming and chic?  Just look at Audrey Hepburn.  I doubt she cared what other people said about her little black dress.

The guy at the cafe went on to later tell me how our meeting was “serendipitous,” in which I immediately rolled my eyes.

No, you just sat next to a woman and started telling her what to do and not to do.  Also, I have no interest in a divorced 50-something who was thumbing through his “Plenty of Fish” app.

Women can have it pretty rough out there, but as long as we hold our own and stick to our laurels, we will be just fine.

Just don’t tell me to smile.

Inspired by Stop Telling Women to Smile, a street art project addressing gender-based street harassment.