We walk the fence of self-esteem
our faces toward the sun, but never leaping there
It's all we can do to keep our feet on the beam -
avoid the shadow's lair
Welcome to part 2 of Journey to Self -Esteem - Self-Discrimination
In each part of my Journey to Self-Esteem inspiration, I will address one of the many aspects that affect self-esteem.
If you have not read part 1 or would like a refresher, click here
I have repeated the explanation of the poem from part 1.
If you would like to jump right to the new stuff in part 2, click the button below.
First I'll explain the untitled poem.
Have you heard the saying, "I'm on the fence about this?"
Being on the fence refers to choosing not to take a side or stance on an issue or opinion. Getting off the fence would require literally standing on the ground on one side of the fence. Figuratively speaking it means to take a stand by expressing an opinion of support for one of two opposite beliefs.
Let's take a look at the first line of the poem.
We walk the fence of self-esteem
To walk the fence of self-esteem is to be non-committal about our self-worth.
If we're on the fence, we don't feel bad about ourselves but we don't feel good about ourselves either.
Let's take a look at the second line of the poem.
Our faces toward the sun, but never leaping there
Have you heard the admonition "Look where you're going!" from someone you've bumped into accidentally because you were looking somewhere other than the direction you were moving.
Likewise, it necessary to look where we want to go in order to set off on the journey to get there.
In the poem, "pointing our faces toward the sun" means setting our intention to take the journey toward high self-esteem. To leap there is an expression of enthusiasm and commitment to the journey. Never to leap there, to continue to walk the fence, is to enslave ourselves to the world of "yes, but...
Let's take a look at the next line of the poem.
It's all we can do to keep our feet on the beam
A therapist once told me that people usually seek therapy because they are in pain. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the most pain imaginable and 10 is happy, many people stay in therapy until they reach a 5 and then quit because they're feeling better. They see the goal of reaching a 10 as either impossible or unnecessary.
"The beam" is the top rail of the fence of self-esteem, and to keep our feet on the beam is to settle for a 5 out of 10.
Let's look at the last line of the poem.
Avoid the shadow's lair.
The shadow's lair is that dark place where painful feelings reside unexamined by the light. I am speaking of feelings such as worthlessness, shame, guilt, incompetence, or insignificance.
Please add any I haven't listed that come from your experience.
If your self-esteem is in the 1 to 4 range, you are in the shadow's lair.
Whether you are in the shadow's lair, on the fence with your face toward the sun, or leaping there, I can help you on your journey.
Part 2 - Self-Discrimination is about the effect on self-esteem of judging ourselves as deficient - there is something "wrong" with us.
I'm going to share some personal stories of my own to illustrate this effect.
If you have met me more than once, you would probably noticed not only that I have acne, but that I have sores from picking at it. This comes from the message I tell myself that I must have smooth skin. I feel compelled to pick at bumps of any kind anywhere. I've had acne since I was 12 and I am now 51, so my finger nails have excoriated skin for almost 40 years. Many times I've asked myself what is behind this compulsion.
The answer was always, "I don't know," and I didn't pursue the matter further until recently. Three events occurred, which changed my mind about just accepting my self-destructive behavior.
First event: I was lying in bed one night picking at my skin as usual and my cat Michaelangelo jumped on my chest and gave me the look that I recognized as "pet me!" I pet him for a second or two and went back to picking at my skin. Occasionally I would pet him again briefly and return to picking my skin.
Suddenly it dawned on me that I was choosing to criticize myself by "fixing what was wrong with me" instead of giving and receiving love with Michaelangelo.
I thought to myself, "At the end of my life, I will not give a rat's ass how smooth my skin was, but I will be very upset with myself for passing up opportunities to share in love because that is all that matters." I got up, put band aids on my sores so I could not pick at them, and went back to petting Michaelangelo.
When I woke in the morning, I did what I always do first thing, which is to look at my face in the mirror to inspect the state of my skin. I wanted to see how the sores I had made smooth the previous day looked and pick at them again if necessary. When I saw the band aids, I remembered my experience of the night before and my decision to choose love instead of self-deprecation.
I left the band aids on for two days. Then, I couldn't stand it anymore. I took the band aids off and resumed to my usual behavior.
Second event: That night, I was sitting in the tub when I felt the familiar urge to pick at my skin, but this time I did something different. I asked the question again of why I must have smooth skin. I got the usual answer, "I don't know," but I didn't accept that answer this time. I committed to not acting on the compulsion until I knew the reason behind it. Immediately, a powerful knot formed in my throat and felt panic.
Many long hours of this feeling ensued and at the end of it, I had my answer - the acne symbolized something I believed was fundamentally "wrong with me," something I needed to fix by scraping the evidence off my skin.
Third event: I listened to one of Wayne Dyer's presentations, in which he spoke about the mindset of "I am deficient." He said that people with this mindset focus on "fixing" themselves, and recognized myself in this mindset because I was trying to "fix" my skin - to make it smooth enough - and, in so doing, fix my deficiency.
A typical thought of someone in the "I am deficient" mindset is "I am not enough," for example:
I am not <desired characteristic> enough.
Some sample desired characteristics:
Another typical thought of someone in the "I am deficient" mindset is "I am too much," for example:
I am too <undesired characteristic>.
Some sample undesired characteristics:
Wayne Dyer also said that people with the "I am deficient." mindset never have enough of what they believe will fix their deficiency, and because of this, they are never happy.
I've found this to be true in my experience of picking at my skin. I've been trying to fix my deficiency for 40 years without success!
My skin kept breaking out, and I kept picking at it in a never-ending cycle. I was practicing self-discrimination - eliminating what, in my mind, shouldn't be included in the community of "me."
I have now consciously embraced the aspect of myself that I tried to cut out and scrape off. I have not picked at my skin for two days - I am two days "clean." My acne has cleared up, undoubtedly because I left it alone to heal naturally.
Will my skin break out again, and will I pick at it?
I may find another bump, and I may or may not find it offensive to my self-image. If I do, I will talk it through with all of me.
As always, I love to hear your thoughts!
Want to continue the journey? Read Part 3 - The Things People Say
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Joyce Collins is a life coach who specializes in helping women who were sexually abused as a child to transform themselves into confident women who love themselves and lead fulfilling lives.