Together with some friends, Counselor Gregg Unterberger, M.Ed., decided they deserved a Christmas celebration as adults unlike any they’d experienced as children. They planned a special Christmas holiday event and gave themselves all the nice things they hadn’t received as children—the special foods, music, warmth, and camaraderie. Some of the friends couldn’t take it and left the celebration.
Gregg said, “Think of it as if you were handed baloney year after year…baloney, baloney, baloney. And then someone hands you prime rib. Sometimes you can’t handle the prime rib because you’re not used to it and also because if you did accept it and want more of the same, you have to admit to yourself that those that had said that they loved you were handing you baloney all those years and sometimes that’s just too painful.”
That explained to him why he wasn’t able to accept prime rib friends and partners over the years. He was too used to the baloney friends and partners.
An interesting thing about ill treatment is that we will accept it up to the level we are used to. Before it goes over that line, we don’t even recognize it since that’s what we’re used to. It feels normal to us. But once ill treatment goes over that line, we recognize it. A friend or partner could possibly mistreat us up to the level of childhood mistreatment, and we wouldn’t even recognize it. This can wreak havoc on our self-esteem.
Our self-esteem is the value we put on ourselves. It’s the person we see when we look in the mirror. Most of the time people who feel good about themselves can achieve great things. They can push themselves, set long-term goals, and have dreams that everyone, including them, expects to be fulfilled. People with good self-esteem feel free to take risks. More importantly, they are achievers. It has been expected of them that they will do great things.
Conversely, people with low esteem are often unfocused and easily frustrated. They tend to be underachievers, who lack discipline and organizational skills. They tend to have an inability to finish things, a sense of discontent, sensitivity to criticism, envy of others—an entire laundry list of negatives. People with low self-esteem tend to be emotionally fragile and conditioned for failure. It was not expected that they would do great things.
I’m sure everyone has heard about studies where a particular school system took a class of underachievers and gave them to a new teacher and told the teacher, “You have been lucky enough to get our best and brightest students.” The teacher then treated them as the best and brightest and expected great things from them. The students rose to the top of the scholastic charts.
For those that have challenges in self-esteem, maybe the answer is to re-parent ourselves. We don’t need anyone else to expect good things of us. We can become our own parents and expect good things of ourselves. Be ready, though—sometimes when we change, people will want to push our buttons to see if the new us is real or whether it will go away. When we stick to our guns and tell the naysayers the change is permanent and that our buttons are not available for pushing anymore, we grow a soul. We don’t get rid of the old stuff; we simply change the charge of it in our bodies. We need to own our own experiences and be proud of them. They made us who we are. Setting our boundaries is simply saying “Respect me.” That’s all it is. Being able to stay focused even when we feel uncomfortable is much more impressive than doing so in an environment where everything is to our liking.
To re-parent ourselves, we’ve got to stop doing all that stuff that does not feel good and start loving and humming and skipping and listening and soothing and meditating and basking and soaking in the hot tub and laying on the beach and eating where you like to eat and loving and complimenting and looking for reasons to feel good and remembering good times and looking through the photo album and pulling out pictures that feel good to you and sticking them in places where you’ll see them often and reading your love letters and writing love letters and remembering people who loved you and remembering compliments and petting your cat and looking at flowers and walking in gardens and looking at the sky and admiring the sunset and then repeat all of that over and over and over and over.
Take the prime rib and show baloney the door.