Jealousy and Self-Esteem

Apr 22
2010

Recently, a visitor to my informational website, www.wordsculptures.com, commented on her struggles with low self-esteem and jealousy.

I’m 51 and I want to change my mindset. I want to have better self-esteem and bring positive changes into my life.

One thing I really struggle with is jealousy. I hate how it overwhelms me when I feel like I’m losing someone.  It’s ruined many a relationship.  What can I do? 

Jealousy and low self-esteem are such miserable feelings. As my friend implies, they are also intimately connected. We only feel jealousy where our self-esteem is low. Where our self-esteem is high, we simply don’t care what others are doing. We may even join them for the sheer joy of play.

When we feel stupid, we may feel jealous if someone we care about is enthusiastically engaged in conversation with another person. If we believe we’re a poor dancer, we won’t like watching our partner waltz around the floor with someone else.

Once we understand where low self-esteem and jealousy come from, we can change our conditioned thinking and focus on nurturing our self-esteem.

Low self-esteem begins for many of us as children when someone on whom we are dependent (parent, teacher or priest) becomes angry, calls us stupid or hits us for not doing what they want.  Because we are small and powerless, we believe they are right and we are wrong. We don’t understand that they are simply treating us the way they have been treated and struggling with their own self-esteem issues. That does not excuse their conduct. It just explains it so that perhaps we can feel a wee bit of compassion toward them, despite the suffering we have experienced. After all, we know from personal experience how miserable low self-esteem feels.

Early childhood dynamics create other relationship issues that carry over into adult lives. We come to believe that our wellbeing depends on doing what our abuser and controller wants – what any abuser and controller wants.  We come to believe that we will not survive and cannot be happy without him. Then, when the relationship ends, through death, infidelity, or some other reason, our expectations shatter and we have to rebuild our lives – alone, angry, and confused. However, it is out of the dysfunctional ashes of a failed, abusive relationship that self-esteem arises.

Chaos and overwhelm are part of being human. They are friends bringing us messages that there’s something in our lives we need to change. When we listen and figure out the message, we can give ourselves permission to move on to something more pleasant.

Happiness and self-esteem do not come from someone else. They come from within. Nobody can give us happiness and nobody can stop us from having it except ourselves. Just think of the power and control that puts in the hands of each of us separately and all of us together.

I can tell from the way my friend writes that she is well on her way to better self-esteem and a satisfying, dynamic life. She knows what she wants. She’s already half way there. Until we figure out what we want, there is no way we can bring it into our lives. 

What steps can each of us take to improve our own self-esteem? Here are some ideas:

  1. Consciously bring your mind back to the present moment. The present moment is the only moment in which you can choose and act.
  2. Ask yourself what you want to do now. This does not include changing or hurting anyone else, although you may feel like it. It may include confronting them or setting boundaries. Do you want to go for a walk, beat up a pillow, get your thoughts and feelings out on paper, cry your eyes out? Go do what you want to do and watch your energy shift.
  3. Write yourself some affirmations and put them where you can see them every day. Affirmations remind you that you already have many skills, talents, and values on which you can build. Do you have beautiful eyes? An excellent mind? Can you draw or paint? Sing well? Are you good with figures? Do you love gardening? Do you take good care of your home? Your family? Are you accountable? Honest? Loyal? If any of these qualities apply to you, write them down in this form: I am loyal. I am trustworthy. You can probably think of many more.
  4. Set aside a couple of hours to create a vision board. Vision boards keep you focused on your values and what you want to bring into your life. Get yourself a piece of poster board large enough for a collage. Sit down with some old magazines you don’t mind cutting up and cut out anything you like: beautiful homes, seascapes, gardens, exotic places, words that inspire you. When you have a nice pile of cutouts, arrange them into a collage on the poster board, then paste them down. If you want, you can have the vision board laminated for durability. Put it where you can see it every day.
  5. Notice the people with whom you spend time. Are they accountable, trustworthy and supportive or do they shout at you, call you names, and hit you? Do you feel energized in their presence or drained? Move out of relationships that drain you and seek out those that support you and help you move along your path in life.
  6. Trust yourself and love yourself. You are a unique human being who has much to offer this planet – things that no one else can. If you don’t do them, no one else will. Think big – bigger than you ever believed you could – and then move toward your vision and purpose, one little present moment step at a time.

Abuser and Victim

Apr 12
2010

Ye shall know them by their fruits. Matt. 7:16.

A friend recently asked a fascinating question: “How do I respond to people whose actions are cruel and hurtful but who say that what they are doing is part of their greater purpose?”

This question has so many aspects. Like so many other things in life, the answers become clearer when we ask clearer questions. Let’s explore a few.

Are the people who say they are living their greater purpose being cruel and hurtful to you or to others?

If to you, by all means find a way of protecting yourself. You serve neither yourself nor others by staying in the relationship and allowing yourself to be abused.

There is always a cooperative dynamic going on between an abuser and a victim. The abuser needs to hurt others to temporarily increase his feelings of power and importance. (Abusers are people with low self-esteem.) The victim indirectly supports the abuse by maintaining the relationship and making herself available to be abused.

If you choose to remain in an abusive relationship for whatever reason, get clear on why you are staying. Are you financially dependent on the abuser? Do you have children together? Is your own self-esteem so low that you think you can’t survive without this relationship? Do you love and trust too much? Do you believe in commitment at all costs?

Once you get clear on why you are staying, you will also be clear on what really matters to you. Maybe it’s financial self-sufficiency. Maybe it’s your children. Then you can find other ways to manifest what matters without having to subject yourself to abuse. While you may choose to stay temporarily, you can begin to plan your escape.

If you do stay, you will have to make moment-to-moment choices about how to respond to the abuse. What kind of abuse is it? Verbal put-downs? Screaming? Throwing objects? Hitting? Rape? All are potentially damaging, but you’re not going to change the abuser directly. Your power and effectiveness lie in changing yourself.

By changing yourself, the dynamics of your relationship with the abuser change. As a result, you may change him indirectly. Changing the abuser cannot, however, be your motivation. Aim instead to improve your own life and to focus on the things that matter to you personally.

Whatever you do, keep a calm head, make your own choices, and don’t allow the abuser to suck you into his game. You will only escalate the ugliness.

Can you say, “Please stop that. I don’t like it when you act that way?” Can you say, “You seem very angry. What is it you need? I’d be happy to help if I can.” Can you simply walk away? There are shelters for abused women. (Are there also shelters for abused men?) Or do you want to learn krav maga, karate, or other self-defense techniques?

If you are perceiving others as victims, you are in much trickier and more difficult dynamics. Instead of one relationship, there are now three: Abuser to victim, you to abuser, and you to victim.

Again you simply have to make moment-by-moment choices as to how you are going to respond depending on the resources you have available (time, money, energy) and the context of the situation. Do you confront the abuser? Do you encourage the victim to stop enabling a dysfunctional relationship? Do you detach and allow the abuser and victim to work through their relationship and personal growth issues on their own?

There is something else going on here. Sometimes pain is necessary for growth.

When I think of my own life, it was only when I felt driven to divorce that I developed the courage to became a lawyer. It was only when I was filled with terror that I was willing to humble myself and ask for help from a Power I couldn’t see or understand. It was only when I was horribly abused that I learned to take care of myself first and others second. It was only when I lived in a no-recourse culture (the police and legal systems were totally ineffective) that I learned self-preservation, fortitude, creativity and patience. It was only when I became so angry that I could have murdered that I learned how to shift my focus away from things that anger me to people and environments that bring me peace.

As far as people saying they are living their greater purpose, how do they know? Why should you believe them? What do you believe? About them? About yourself?