Notes from the Softer Side is a collection of writings and presentations on developing, cultivating, and sustaining the self-esteem necessary to maintain an optimal life—as God has ordained by the Plan he has for us as women. The publication is a guide for those seeking to execute the plan God has for our lives. It speaks to the issues of women that act as barriers to success, breaking the chain of low self-esteem, and provides tools that support the cultivation of a higher sense of self, maintaining high self-esteem, and reclaiming self-esteem. It gets into the detail on the definition of low self-esteem, how it occurs, and why it remains. More importantly, it can walk you through it and into the place we are intended to be.
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LOVING YOURSELF FROM THE INSIDE OUT
The simple message of Softer Side Seminars is one that charges women to enter a softer more loving relationship with themselves. We must do this in order to effect success in any other relationship we have. I thought I'd take a minute and just discuss exactly what it means to say we should love ourselves--from the inside out.
I spoke to a group of girls who were in a program for "girls at risk", and I posed the question to the young women "Do you love yourself?" They all jumped to answer affirmatively. One young lady slouching down in her chair gave me the neck spin and eye rolled comment. "Hmph" I know I love myself and I think of myself the most". When I asked her how she knew she loved herself, and exactly what did she think it meant -- she gave me an even cockier answer. "I just do that's all, I know cause I don't let nobody mess w'me".
Unfortunately, this idea is not that far removed from some of the adult women who have been in my groups. They often mistake loving themselves with binge shopping, making sure they dress in the most expensive high end clothing they can find, or making sure they go to work telling everyone who will listen about their accomplishments, who they know (there is a lot of name dropping that goes on when folks are operating from an insecure place) or they just go on and on adnauseum giving general information about themselves.
Has anyone ever asked you a question about something you are doing, and before you get your response out, they take over talking about the issue that is most pressing to them? And you then find yourself sitting there 20 minutes later listening to perhaps all the success they are having with that issue??
This is a case of "mistaken identity." These individuals identify this behavior or interaction as signs that they love themselves, but truly it is a sign of their extreme feeling of inadequacy or even insecurity. When you truly feel good about who it is you are, when you are comfortable in your own skin, you do not have to constantly promote your own life to people. As we face our insecurities as women, accept them and realize they do not define us, we then do not feel compelled to make every conversation all about us. You understand that it is not necessary, because folks will find out about you layer by layer-you won't have to say a word. I know a lady who is quite accomplished, and every time she met a man those initial conversations were spent giving him the blow by blow overview of all the amazing things she has done with her life and continue to do. Needless to say this, along with other compatibility issues, things would often NOT come together to create a good jumping off point for building a relationship.
LOVE of self that comes FROM the inside will result in an astute understanding that we do not have to talk about ourselves 247. When self love is present, our comfort level is such that we are free to hear another woman's story or perspective. We understand that being a good listener is one of the great tools of relating to others. When we can uplift people by listening to them and at the same time, we uplift ourselves.
Former Editor in Chief of Essence Magazine, Susan Taylor, wrote a piece after doing research on relationships. In this article she shared that in creating the kind of love relationship we want; we would do well to remember that men, often in their quest for love, need to SEE as well as HEAR that the woman of their heart is listening to them. You cannot be listening to YOUR man if you are going on and on and on non-stop about the super woman that is you. Be assured, first of all that if you are super and wonderful, it will slowly and easily and peacefully be revealed to him.
EMBRACE THE SOFTERSIDE --LOVING YOURSELF FROM THE INSIDE OUT --Its better that Way ...
"You Can Search The Whole World Over, Underneath Every Nook And Cranny, Behind Every Door And Under Every Crevice Trying To Find Someone Better To Love Than Yourself ----And You Won't Find Them Anywhere Outside The Mirror!!!"
We Are Called To Enter A Softer More Loving Relationship With Ourselves As Women –What Exactly Does This Mean?
That for too long we have been trapped in a cycle of guilt from past mistakes, low self esteem, and feelings of inadequacies. We believe the negative identifiers that others often use to describe us.
We don't believe that we can rise out of our situations, the main reason we don't believe we can, is because we have convinced ourselves that we do not deserve to be in a better place in life.
We allow ourselves to be abused by others, and we add to the abuse by placing their needs above ours.
When we enter into a softer more loving relationship with ourselves, we break those myths, we accept ourselves, flaws and all, understanding that it is not only okay to be flawed, but we won't get out of life with being flawed in some way.
When we enter a softer more loving relationship with ourselves, we forgive ourselves for past mistakes, no matter how large or small, and we come to understand that forgiveness is the first step towards healing.
When we enter a softer more loving relationship with ourselves, our personal well-being is not only our first priority but we understand that unless "we put on our own mask first", it will be impossible to assist anyone else. Additionally we will keep in mind that every time we place our own needs last, we jeopardize the lives of our loved ones.
When we enter a softer more loving relationship with ourselves, we give ourselves permission to excel, positioning ourselves to find our wings and take flight. We understand that moving our lives to the next level is what God intended for us as his perfectly imperfect creation. We come to understand that we have a very clear purpose for being here; and are not intended to lead stagnant unproductive lives.
The What -- The Why -- The Where -- The When and The Who of Self Esteem
Self Esteem refers to the level of belief in, and love you have for yourself. If you have self esteem this means you recognize your value, as a child of God who is perfectly imperfectly made, said as such because in our imperfection God made us perfectly.
Someone asked me once, "where does self esteem come from?" A better question is "how is self esteem developed?" When we are born we enter this world with a blank page. There is nothing on it. We don't have a clue about ourselves, and do not know if we are good, bad or in-between. By the time we begin having a sense of our own existence we start to get feedback from our immediate environment; which includes: parents, aunts, uncles, other relatives or key persons involved in our development from birth until just before we go off to school. This feedback usually goes something like this -- Oh, she is so cute or what a bad little girl or your hair is so nappy that I can't do nothing with it or she is so pretty, look at her good hair. Even worse, if we are African Americans, it may go like this She is so pretty, hmm if only she wasn't so dark. All these things we may have heard and more. At this point, that once empty page starts to fill up with things that begin to define us, and most of these things on our page come straight from the perspective of others.
As time passes, we get more exposure to the world which was either parents, siblings or others directly involved in our infant and toddler care, and we hear even more things about ourselves. Some of those previous comments are confirmed, and sometimes new things are added. If you add to the equation the fact that others' opinions of us, which end filling up our page, are usually unsolicited and are many times clouded by their own personal baggage and/or unresolved issues. This is demonstrated in a line in the song "Do Nothing Till You Hear From Me', which goes like this "Why people tear the seams of any one's dream is over my head". Who knows what people have been through that creates in them the need to malign others?
By the time we become adolescents and our page is a little more than half full; our peers become more important to us, we discover the opposite sex and the dreaded media. All of these enter our lives and the position of our self esteem is at greater risk as we begin the "am I good enough?" dance. Between the confused state that adolescence often leaves us in, the signals from the media, peer pressure and a natural inclination to seek the attention of the opposite sex; we begin to get lost in society's definition of "good enough", pretty enough, thin enough, light enough, tall enough, and so on and so forth.
And in the absence of an extremely supportive home environment, a place where there is encouragement, nurturing and teaching, that somehow counters the daily onslaught of "why aren't you good enough" messages, by the time we are 25 years old our slate is now loaded with everyone else's concept of who we are and whether or not we are valuable or not; and at this point we begin to buy into it. We believe the smears on our slate that don't empower us and we subsequently begin to act out on that belief. Many times there are other things in our past that increase the way we quickly internalize the negative things that have been drummed into us. As our own opinion of ourselves decreases because of some poor decisions we've made, which are tainted by this poor sense of self, we become vulnerable to abusive relationships. Often we put up with being disrespected in general, as we stay in unrewarding jobs and relationships because we don't believe we deserve better. Additionally we engage behaviors that will validate some of what our page says about us.
When I was 19 I was involved in a program which was sponsored by a local corporation and the Kaufmanns Department store. This program was designed to be a refresher course for Black Women who had taken secretarial courses but had not been in jobs where they were using these skills, but also an effort on the part of the Corporation to provide a program that would increase the diversity within their company. The days in the twelve-week program were broken up with the morning being devoted to English, grammar and literature and the afternoon was spent drilling on short hand and typing. At the end of the program, out of the 35 girls, some would be accepted into the PPG typing pool, which was pretty much a "cream of the crop" job at that time in the late 60's early 70's. They had very strict guidelines and not everyone would be able to make the cut. Those who were not accepted, however, were guaranteed assistance in going to another company.
At the end of the 12 weeks, participants were tested--Typing mastery needed to be 60 wpm and the shorthand needed to be 120 words a minute. At the end of this time I, unfortunately, was not successful and came short of the short hand requirement and completely bombed on the typing requirement necessary to be accepted at PPG. Each of us learned of our fate during a meeting with the Corporate Human Resources Representative along with a young African American Social Worker. The HR rep was kind and understanding and assured me that a test is not a determining factor truly on your competency. Not so of the young African American Social worker. I was extremely embarrassed and quite shaken that I had not met those minimum standards. And of course I felt inept and diminished as this African American Woman proceed to affirm my feelings of incompetence.
This woman who had sat during the meeting glaring at me the entire time in a very disdainful manner said as nasty as she could, "I don't know why you are crying, you had to know you weren't cutting it. You probably didn't even try, I know the instructor gave you two trys the taking the test, but you still didn't pass. Even if we place you, I can't imagine that you'll hold the job very long — or any other one for that matter." When she was done, literally berating me (the Human Resources Representative, who was white, sat there red-faced and clearly embarrassed for me) I sat there afraid to stand up. It took me close to 20 years to recognize how I had allowed her comments to live inside of me and wreak havoc on my work life during most of that time. I believed her, she was a trained professional and I was a 20 year old who was just making my way — hadn't even been introduced to my skills or self worth.
This is our charge as mothers, grandmothers, mentors, aunts, and sisters; to make sure those young women who are in our charge are empowered. We must make sure that they know that they are capable, competent, and even gifted, and that nothing anyone says about them can take away from this. But it starts with strengthening our own sense of self.
As women we are called to enter a softer more loving relationship with ourselves. We must refuse to accept whatever negative identifiers we've listened to (forced or otherwise) all of our lives. We can recreate the way we see ourselves and therefore the way we think about ourselves. These two things together can impact our objective for inner peace, joy in our existence, belief that we are endowed by God to be golden achievers and a reflection of his beauty.
HAVE YOU FOUND YOUR WINGS? ARE YOU FLYING?
Have others recognized a gift in you and been encouraging you to go for it? Do you sometimes feel a yearning to pursue that thing that you love to do that comes natural to you?
Have you been sitting in a job that you keep because you are afraid to move out of your comfort zone — even though you get depressed every Sunday night when you know Monday is coming?
Are you still living safely at home with your parents even though you certainly earn more than enough to afford your own place? In the meantime you tolerate daily arguments with your mother on subjects ranging from your desire for more privacy, to her questions about your decisions and the hours you keep, rather than map out a strategy and a financial plan that will allow you to move.
If the answer to any of the above questions is "yes", yet you continue to hold out not making any movement towards change; then I would suggest that you are not "flying". You are operating just underneath the radar screen, afraid to take the leap to the 'next level' of your life. Many of us have not discovered that we have wings, or we know we have wings, but just don't know how to start using them. Some of us have gotten discouraged by a negative incident or person and are stuck in complacency and believe there is no benefit in trying to take flight.
As women we often find ourselves facing any of the above situations. These are barriers, and they steal our courage, keeping us from exploring our capabilities, recognizing our gifts and using them. Unfortunately, the result is that too often it is sometime years before we gain the confidence to spread our wings.
I know of this first hand because –
I was a secretary for over 20 years — and not a very good one. It did not occur to me to even try to do anything different. I even told myself that I loved being a secretary or administrative assistant — it was easier to believe I loved the work knowing I was only mediocre at it, than it was for me to do what it took to discover what I could do and do excellently. I had been trained and therefore had the basic skills that a secretary needed; I could type, take shorthand, make travel arrangements. I also knew how to handle phone calls and greet people. But one of the most vital pieces of being a secretary or administrative assistant was being organized and keeping a boss organized; and this was a major challenge for me. Keeping up with files, and staying on task were two other aspects of being a secretary in which I fell through. Subsequently I did not get good reviews or evaluations, as a result of that, I began to feel inadequate and developed very low self esteem.
Secretarial work paid well (especially in Washington, DC), so after I married and had children it was nice to have the contribution to my family's income. Yet, the income still did not help me feel confident in my abilities, consequently I generally did not have the expectation that I could be better at this work. So I made lots of mistakes, and would make myself nervous by trying to hide the mistakes. The more I did wrong the less I thought of myself. I also felt my employers I had thought the same.
Excerpted from "Notes from the Softer Side"
Copyright © 2017 Renee P. Aldrich.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
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