Self Esteem, Boundaries and Obligation

HannahHPosts, self esteemLeave a Comment

17691076_sA few months ago a colleague of mine proclaimed that there was more than one version of self esteem.

I’d never heard this before.

I’d always put self esteem and self love into one big melting pot and considered it a broad-sweep. You either had it, or you didn’t. But now I can see what my pal meant because as soon as he mentioned it, something triggered in me and since then I’ve been analysing it more deeply.

The way I see it, there are two main systems of behaviour that are indicative of our self esteem and they are: boundaries (the setting of), and obligation (the keeping of). Actually, there’s probably loads more, but today I’m just focusing on those two.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean…

The other day I ordered a coffee. A mocha in fact. I don’t often drink coffee so when I do I want a really good one. It’s a treat for me. Not to mention that it’s loaded with chocolate syrup and therefore needs to be consumed occasionally rather than often, but my point here is that I had ordered my treat and awaited with gleeful anticipation.

The view was amazing: I was sitting at a cafe overlooking the surf at Bondi Beach (where I live). The waves were high and mighty and only a few brave and experienced surfers were game to master these king sets.

The place was abuzz with people, which usually indicates good food and good service. My coffee arrived. I took a sip. And nearly spat it out.

It was more bitter than those dirty liver herbs the naturopath always gives me. Bleurgh! I stirred the chocolate in a bit more. Christ on a bike, it was the worst coffee I think I’ve ever tasted.

At this point I realised I had a choice. I could take it back or I could drink it. Or I guess I could just drink it and complain, but for argument’s sake I saw there were two options.

I decided I didn’t want to drink it. It was seriously that bad (in fact I could taste those two sips for the next two hours). It didn’t bother me to not have another coffee instead and I didn’t feel like I needed to complain, so I got up and happily carried on with my walk along the coast.

But later that day I wondered if my not complaining was also an indication of low self-esteem? I had chosen to walk away rather than set a boundary (with the cafe) that said “This coffee is not good enough for me.”

Overall I consider myself to have good self esteem, but as my friend had pointed out just months earlier, it shows itself in different ways. On reflection, I was genuinely OK with not having a coffee that day, it was no big deal, but I do think I can recognise that had I been a different person (or even in a different situation), I wouldn’t have thought twice about asking for my order to be remade.

I can certainly think of at least two of my best friends who would have done that, with no shame.

And I’m not saying I’m ashamed of sending things back, but generally, it’s not my style. Often, even if the thing I’ve ordered is less than perfect, I’ll stick with it and write it off as one of those things. There would be some occasions when I’d speak up, but I gotta say, usually I won’t. I let it go.

You could say I’m being chill, but I think there’s at least a flicker of not feeling worthy of having everything I want, the way I want it, when and how I want it. I can faintly hear a family mantra along the lines of  “make do with what you’ve got, stop making a fuss…”

You can look at that however you like and come to your own conclusion. The purpose of this blog is simply to highlight that sometimes, we can catch ourselves behaving in ways that we automatically justify as being laid back or easy going, when the reality may be something slightly (or totally) different.

The other way I have noticed lack of self esteem plays out is when it comes to obligation. Personally, I rarely struggle with this one. I’ve long been an advocate of do whatever you want when you want, but I can still acknowledge there have been times when I’ve felt I should do the thing or attend the event etc.

And to be fair, socially, it’s considered polite and most acceptable to put other people’s “needs” (read: wants), before our own.

In most cultures, it’s deemed preferable for us to attend a friend’s party, a family gathering, a work event, or even a work meeting, even when we don’t feel like it. The only time society says it’s OK to not show up is when you’re unwell. And it better be something the doctor can diagnose otherwise you’ll be parked in the “unreliable” corner before you can say, “I just needed a night in.”

But is saying yes always indicative of low self-esteem? No, of course not. And neither does saying no mean you are filled with self love and will live a long, happy and prosperous life.

The point I’m trying to make is that when we make certain decisions or behave in certain ways, and we automatically (and unconsciously) justify those decisions, perhaps there’s more going on than we realise.

I love unravelling new parts of myself that I thought I had the lowdown on, so when I realised that maybe my coffee incident was more than just me being happy and chilled, I was actually excited. One of the greatest ways to enhance your self awareness is to question the things you do on a daily or regimented basis, that you wouldn’t think to question. And then question it.

The other way is to hire a coach (like me!) who makes it easy for you to see and practice new ways of behaving, and who can help you expand your self awareness just by having a chat on the phone!

Being coached is a cool way to make huge progress in a short time, and it can be a lot easier and a lot more fun than doing it on your own.

But that’s just my version. You can make up your own mind. No obligation.

Choose love

h xx

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