I Am the Best Me

 “It all begins and ends with me.”

It could be the heaviest and most empowering thought that ever came into my mind.  In Brave New Mind, I described a life-altering course I began with that very statement.  It began with reshaping my body, which led to the idea that I could reshape my mind.  Once I developed a realistic, healthy value system the functioned well for me, I noticed a change in myself that I couldn’t immediately explain.

I began to regard myself positively.  At first, I had a great concern that I was sliding over to the manic side with delusions of grandeur.  In truth, those states were the only time I ever thought highly of myself.  But, I realized that those thoughts were reasonable.  They reflected a new sense of self as my emotions started resonating with my behaviors.

What is this new feeling of confidence? , I asked myself.

Healthy self-esteem!  The one thing that has eluded me throughout my entire life!

It begins with the new definition of values in our own cognitive systems.  When these values begin to impact our behaviors positively, we start to generate positive emotions.  It revalidates the values, reinforces the behavior, and continues to produce positive emotion.  Eventually, it will impact our own image of ourselves.  The concept of self is core to our identity.  And our identity shapes our thoughts and behaviors.  Those thoughts and behaviors affect how we feel about ourselves, or our self-esteem.

Our levels of self-esteem are determined on how we are reflected back to ourselves.  Unfortunately, if we look toward external sources to provide that image, we are essentially looking into a funhouse mirror.  That is allowing others to define, qualify, and quantify us.  By doing that, we are surrendering our own personal leadership.  It is up to us to provide our own reflections based on a healthy perceived self versus our actual selves.  The closer the images become, the more complete we will begin to feel.  Having a stable identity as defined by ourselves through our value systems is a solid foundation for building healthy self-esteem.

I am a person, just like everyone else.

By asserting the right to exist, we are asserting that we are people with value no more or no less than anyone else.  There is no measurement of the value a person carries.  A life is a life, despite how it is being lived.  And all lives are valuable and sacred.

My thoughts and feelings are real to me and have significant value.

As previously mentioned, I grew up with societal attitudes that devalued certain thoughts and emotions, especially when they were expressed by children.  I recall a number of dismissive phrases such as, “Stop being so dramatic”, “You’re just going through a phase”, “Grow up”, “You’ll get over it”, “You’re too young to understand”, “Nobody wants to hear you complain”, “You have no idea what you’re talking about”.

It was at that point that I started to allow people to dictate my thoughts and regard for myself.  My self-esteem hinged on how others regarded me, and the tangible achievements I had made.  I became a work-horse, eager to plow on until it became the death of me.  It was all so I could feel good about myself.  Truthfully, I rarely had positive feelings about myself.  And when I did, it was so short lived because hoards of people existed whose sole mission was to take me down.

Self-esteem comes from self-respect.  When we respect ourselves, we automatically instill worth into our existence.  Asserting our own independent validation of our expressions is our way of staking our claim to ourselves.  It is the very place that we take the reins of our identity and our self-esteem.

My needs come first.

I remember when my son, Beast, was a newborn.  I would go weeks at a time without showering.  I found myself skipping meals, because I didn’t have enough time or energy to prepare them.  Sometimes, I would be too afraid to sleep.  I worried that I wouldn’t be able to wake up when he needed me.  Every moment of every single day revolved around my son.

I thought that compromising my own needs was the definition of a good mother.  Societal and familial values place so much emphasis on self-sacrifice as a requirement to be a “good” person.  If we didn’t constantly put others ahead of ourselves, then we were selfish and “bad” people.

Eventually, I developed a martyr complex and found myself extremely resentful toward the people around that were supposed to be helping and supporting me.  Why weren’t they putting me before themselves?  And I started to demonize them in my own images of them.

On an airplane, the emergency procedures instructor a person to secure their own mask before securing others.  The same principle is applicable in our lives.  Before we can be expected to assist and care for others, we must first take care of ourselves.  We cannot expect another passenger to assist us, when we aren’t assisting ourselves.

During my period of hibernation, I became what I would have normally considered to be shamefully indulgent.  But, I felt no guilt.  I just couldn’t, because I had been running on empty for so long.  Eventually, I started to regenerate all of the strength and energy that I had depleted over many years as a “good” wife and a mother.

I came to the best conclusion – I am actually a more productive, helpful, and kind person when my needs are fulfilled.  Maslow was right after all.  And the only person I should ever count on to fulfill my needs is me.

Every day, I make accomplishments.

My son has autism spectrum disorder.  He has delays in many developmental domains.  As a parent, watching him struggle to develop new skills is overwhelming difficult, especially when I witness his peers completing the same tasks with ease.  Worse, I can see that he sees it too.

It has made me appreciate his achievements even more.  Even the smallest accomplishment is monumental!  Because, I have come to realize that there is no standard of measurement of “success” or “failure”.  There is only progress.

I generalized it even farther to myself.  Disorder or not, everyone is unique.  Every perceived “setback” I’ve encountered was actually progress in an unexpected direction.  “Failure”, as Thomas Edison would put it, is finding another way that something won’t work (paraphrased).  And that is accomplishment in itself.

So, at the end of every day, I take a minute to celebrate my completion of another day of my life.  It’s not about taking stock of how well I did, or “survival”.  It’s the celebration of my life and everything and everyone in it, just as it is.

My weaknesses are not flaws and don’t have to hinder me.

Everyone learns in their own way at their own pace.  While some people might find significant progress in one aspect of their lives, they are likely lacking in another.  No one is highly skilled at everything.  Everyone had their weaknesses and their strengths.

And sometimes, as martial arts have taught me, a weakness might actually turn out to have an advantage.  I am a lot smaller than the greater majority of the class.  I am also not quite as strong.  In some respects, it could put me in a significant disadvantage in a sparring match.

But, that’s not necessarily true.  Being smaller makes me quicker and more agile.  My balance is a little better, so it’s harder for me to get knocked down.  Even if I do, it’s easier for me to get back up.  Once I started to develop a more positive spin, I realized how to refine those talents into advantages.  I might never be bigger and stronger, but I can still put a 6 foot, 180lb man on the floor.

I am not a perfect person.  Today, I am the best me.

The values “As long as I’m trying, I’m succeeding”, “Regular and constant practice are the keys to mastering anything”, and “As long as I’m acting purposefully, I cannot be acting recklessly” in combination instill the sense that we are constantly and deliberately practicing being the best us as individuals.  It eliminates unrealistic goals and enforces individuality.  Through that process, we are encouraged to improve ourselves based on our own value system.

There are no such things as “perfection”, “failure”, or being a “good” or “bad” person.  We cannot be “better” or “worse” than anyone else.  Those are all illusions, faulty concepts designed to deceive us into resigning our personal leadership to another.  It is up to us to take ourselves back!

20 thoughts on “I Am the Best Me

  1. Lulu, this is amazing. No surprise there, but really!

    Hey, I just realized that I don’t remember having asked you to be on my Wednesday interview “show” on Bipolar for Life, called “Breaking the Silence of Stigma.” I’m very excited about it, and it’s going very well. But I have to live with my brain, which has a way of getting disorganized when things are happening very quickly, which they are now, as I’m getting ready to travel overseas. Anyway, if I have scheduled you already please tell me when, and if I have not, would you please consider (please, please) being on the “show” and let me know? So far the interviews have been amazing. I haven’t yet sat down to figure out how to make a special page for them on my blog, and I don’t even think I’ve made a category (bad, bad blogger 😉 ) but if you look at the Wednesdays that we’ve had so far they’ve been stupendous.

    Please email me at moxadox at gmail dot com Looking forward!

  2. One of the best pieces of advice my mum ever gave me after I had my first child was, ‘Be good to Mum (myself) because if you’re not well the rest of the family suffers.’ Listening to that advice allowed me to make what some might perceive as selfish decisions, at times. I can only attempt to be my best if I look out for self-interest as well as for others’ needs. Great post.x

    • Your mother is a wise woman. I am not really sure where I got the idea that sacrifice defined the role of a mother. It’s really unhealthy.

      I know of some “model” mothers. They are completely absorbed in their children’s lives. They volunteer, chaperone, arrange playdates, and basically spend the greater majority of their day with their kids or thinking about their kids.

      I felt horrible for so many years about not being as engaging and involved. (The whole parenting thing changes significantly with a kid on the spectrum, though). Beast was content to do his own thing while I was busy with my own things. Not to say we didn’t have playtime together. But, we both seemed to need our own independent time.

      That’s when I started to realize that there are all kinds of different mothers. Just because we’re not all alike doesn’t mean one is better than another.

      I’m the DadMom kind of mom. I’m the disciplinarian. But, I’m also the parent that lets him skin his knees on the pavement just for the experience. Nothing says “Don’t run on the patio” better than a bloody knee! We roughhouse and play fight. I’m DadMom because Dad is MomDad! And we work well that way.

  3. this is an excellent guide to help keep someone from falling into the negative thoughts spin cycle, and to keep them seeing that everyday, no matter what occurs, it is all progress.

    • I’ve actually started working on an article that addresses that. I know that I’ve probably come under fire by critics with the attitude, “Sure, you can talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?” I’ve come up against some recent life challenges and moved from a particularly stable state into a hypomanic episode. I wanted to really describe the application in context.

      I hope I can continue to write this wellness series and continue to provide others with at least something that works for them.

  4. This is such a beautiful piece, and I cannot tell you how incredibly happy I am for you. Sending you all kinds of big hugs!

    • Sometimes, when I’m writing, I’ll admit that you are a huge inspiration. I want to be able to tell you these things and give some mental energy to you. Everything that I write is for the general mental health audience, but I often hope that you’re in the balcony.

      • Okay, now you have me all teary eyed. I’m always here, Lulu, and I’m always reading avidly. These days my words are scarce, but know that my heart and my mind still absorb every bit of what you write. You remember, we promised each other so very long ago, back even before the days of Canvas, “I’ll stick if you’ll stick.” And I’ll be back with my own words. It’s going to take time, but even if you don’t see so much as a whisper of my presence, know that I was here, and I read it all, without fail. ♥

        • I completely understand. Sometimes, there just aren’t any words. But that’s okay. That brings on opportunities for new growth in different ways. Dormancy isn’t an inactive thing. It’s an active process of waiting and absorption. Just like in winter, it prepares the world for new growth in the spring. Your spring will come again. And it will flourish like it never has before.

          I’m so happy that you’re reading. It motivates me even further to continue writing this wellness series. Because if I could only give this to one person, it would be you ❤

          Like glue to you, darlin.

        • ♥ ♥ ♥

  5. Beautiful, beautiful, especially the last two paragraphs. Thank you for this.

  6. Reblogged this on Taciturn No Mo and commented:
    At least it will be right here for me to re-read when my mood starts to spin around again.

  7. So true about the oxygen masks in the airplane being the perfect life saving metaphor to take with us into our own lives on the ground. Love your writing!

    • Aww thanks *blush*. I think it’s really important for us to see ourselves as our own caretakers and advocates. Professionals recommend that caretakers of those with special and / or medical needs be sure to care for their own mental and physical health. It’s tough being ones own caretaker, and it makes the challenges a little more unique. My first rule – be good to ourselves, then be good to each other.

  8. Taking martial arts 15 years ago is what helped change my world. I learned the same thing, that just because I was smaller, weaker even, it didn’t mean that I was “less than”, it just meant my strengths were different. That knowledge rewired much of my thinking about myself.

    I loved this post, the oxygen mask in the airplane comparison to how we treat ourselves in life was perfect. I’ll think of that now anytime I’m pushing off my “self-care” while in the midst of caring for others. Thank you 🙂

    • No, thank you for the read and the feedback. It took me so long to understand that caring for myself is not selfish. It’s necessary. And it’s not just about fulfilling the basic needs either. We all have social, emotional, and mental needs too. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to strive for health and wellness!

  9. Pingback: Sunny With a Chance Of Armageddon | Page not found

  10. Self Esteem is important! ‘I am the best me’ has been my motto for the last year or so, and it makes me a much happier person.

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