Exercises to Build Self Esteem: #1. Pleasure and Happiness

Writing your Pleasure List

1. Take a clean sheet of paper and head somewhere you feel safe and relaxed.

2. Divide the paper into four sections:

– Section 01: People and Pets (who bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 02: Places (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 03: Things (that bring me pleasure when I think of them)
– Section 04: Things I like to do (that bring me pleasure)

3. Then write as many examples as you can under each section.
4. Remember to allow yourself to feel happy!

Section 01: People and Pets

  • Xan, my husband.
  • Beast, my son
  • Dill, my friend
  • Zen, my cat that passed on last year
  • Rees, my friend.
  • Ruby, my friend
  • Carla, my friend
  • Monday, my friend
  • My MIL
  • My FIL

Section 02: Places

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina:   It is absolutely, hands down, my favorite vacation spot.  The beaches are huge and sandy.  The local, southern food is amazing, and the local people are very friendly.  I have some of my most fond memories there.  When I was sixteen, it was my first taste of freedom.  It was the only town I was ever allowed to wander around in unsupervised.  I was free to go wherever I wanted within a certain 15 block radius in either direction.  For Myrtle Beach, that’s a lot of territory.  I spent my honeymoon there with Xan.  It was the first time I had ever gone on vacation as an adult.  We just had the most lovely time, I recall.  Good food, peaceful setting, and a lovely beach.  I got to wake up every single morning to go out on the patio and watch the sunrise.  It was magical.
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia:  I recall Virginia Beach having one of the most impressive boardwalks I had ever been on.  Anything you could ever want was on that board walk.  I was thirteen years old, and I’d sneak out to my very own balcony in the middle of the night just to watch the moon rise on the ocean.  It was one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen.  It was fairly close by car, so I wasn’t stuck in the car forever with my parents.  And, since I had my own room in our suite, I had a huge amount of privacy.  It was the best vacation I can remember from my childhood.
  • The Fountains in Pittsburgh:   There’s something about those fountains.  Pittsburgh has plenty of them, because we are so close to the river.  There was one in particular that I loved, and I took a photo of it right before my surgical consultation the August before last.  Something about it was calming, and settled me down to think about the beautiful things in life.  I even wrote a post called, “All the Pretty Things”.
  • The Trestle:   By my old house, in the same neighborhood I grew up in, there was this old, abandoned railroad trestle.  My best friend showed it to me when we were in our early teens.  We used to hang out there to drink and smoke pot.  Then, we’d have these deep conversations about our thoughts and feelings.  Those were very intimate moments.When Beck, my ex, and I became secret lovers behind her back, we used to frequent the trestle.  It was the place that I had my first kiss with a boy.  And he and I would sit there for hours, holding each other, talking about our dreams, and making plans for our future together.  And after Beck and I broke up, I didn’t go back again.

    Until there was Xan, three years later.  At the time, we were living with my ex, Avi.  I felt a bond with Xan that I couldn’t quite explain.  So, I took him there, so that we could be alone.  We hung out and we drank.  It was a beautiful alone place, even if it was a rusted trestle.  You could see the creek below, and it was surrounded by trees, a rarity in that neighborhood.

    It was the place where Xan and I spent our first night together as a couple.  We sat up all night and talked.  I don’t recall what about.  The past.  The present.  Maybe even the future.  I know we went through the story of our developing relationship, and how we got to this point.  And I remember we held each other in the rain until the morning light.

Section 03: Things:

  • My computer
  • My Samsung Captivate Glide
  • Pandora
  • My stuffed animal from when I was a kid
  • Coffee
  • Pizza
  • New clothes
  • Cigarettes
  • Overhead Lighting
  • WordPress
  • Facebook
  • Bejeweled Blitz
  • Bed
  • My blue coffee cup
  • My brown skirt
  • The Internet
  • Wikipedia
  • WebMD
  • Medscape
  • Google
  • Craigslist
  • My blue blanket
  • My journals
  • Inkjoy pens
  • G2 Gel Pens
  • All no bleed Sharpies
  • Office supplies
  • Caffeine
  • My medication
  • My contacts

Section 04: Things I like to do:

  • Go for long car rides
  • Eat at this little mom and pop diner a few towns over
  • Shop
  • Get dressed up (sometimes)
  • Take hot showers
  • Visit my in-laws
  • Craft
  • Take on a new project
  • Crochet
  • Write
  • Read
  • Write on WordPress
  • Read on WordPress
  • Do selfless acts
  • Practice Tang Soo Do
  • Play computer games
  • Watch my favorite TV shows
  • Create things
  • Play with my son
  • Spend time with my husband

All that I am, all that I ever was...

“Pleasure is the only thing one should live for, nothing ages like happiness.”
~ Oscar Wilde ~

Accentuate the positives

The first exercise toward building better self-esteem is to focus on the positives. Now, I’m not a convert into the positive thinking movement, in fact I find books that proclaim all we need to do is think positively and everything we want will magically appear out of thin air complete crap. I don’t believe someone can ‘pretend away depression’ nor do I believe thinking positively will cure you of cancer or the myriad of other illnesses that people suffer from.

However, thinking positive thoughts about ourselves can bring about an attitude change toward better self-perception.

Once upon a time I was in a counselling session. I had seen this counsellor for several sessions and in each one he noted how stressed and tense I was; how I sat in a…

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The Family Furnace

Brofenbrenner was completely correct in his ecological systems. The microsystem is the core for each and every one of us. In early development, it is the only system that exists. The people that system is composed of represent an entire world. And as we grow, it is those impressions that we take with us. Every person in our microsystem becomes an archetype for others we encounter in other systems that build as we grow beyond the microsystem.

As we are living beings, there is no end to our growth and development. There is only an early learning window where we build our foundations of understanding about the way the world functions around us, and the social rules and norms of our society. That is why children are prone to generalization. On our way to becoming adults, we sculpt the fine detail from our experience and observation.  Brofenbrenner did not take into consideration that mental development does not cease simply because physical development has come to a close.

Microsystems. Family and caretakers.  The core to each and every one of our worlds.  “Mother is the name for God on the lips and hearts of of all children.”The Crow.  But, what is a mother?  What is a family?  Does a mother represent our ideas of maternal figures who nurture, love, and protect?  Is a family a clan to which we pledge our allegiance, find recognition of ourselves, and find camaraderie within?  Are these people in our primary microsystem truly representative of ourselves and our families?

I have been limiting conversations with my parents to a few times a week.  In truth, there is not much in the way of substance to talk about.  It is more of a touchstone to alleviate the fear of abandonment.  On their side.  I have never been in the business of burning bridges, no matter what troubled places and people they are filled with.

The topic of the house came up in conversation.  Conversations with family members are tricky business, brimming with subtext, doublespeak, and hidden agenda.  Recall the old adage, “Honesty is the best policy”?  A proverb says, “Be careful what you say and protect your life. A careless talker destroys himself.”  My preference leans toward the proverb. I have taken myself down by revealing my hand too soon.

My mother’s overeagerness gave me a glimpse of her hand far before she anticipated. She asked when we’d be completely moved out. Bad choice of words. Rather than asking us when we’d be finished moving, she’s rushing us out the door. Why? She was vague. I asked if a few more weeks would be a problem. Not a problem, because it probably won’t happen until September, if at all.

Confirmed. There are plans. She refuses to tell me, because she knows she is going to backstab me. She wants to retain deniability and spousal blame. Why not? It has been a family custom longer than either of us has even been alive combined.

She slipped in her earlier lament about how my brother has to go on vacation and how it’s such a financial detriment. “I don’t know how I’m going to pay the mortgages.” More than one. Exposing a five year old lie. I offered to take over the mortgage, because I suspected they were misappropriating funds and not actually paying the mortgage. Not possible, the mortgage for the two deeds is singular. Guess not.

Originally, I had a sense of dread that the move would pull the puppet strings around my throat. When it ceased to do so, I felt liberated. I had never felt so free. It was not fleeing, not like when I was younger. It was moving on. No strings. I was a real woman after all.

Until that very moment, when the last nearly three decades came into perfect clarity.

This was the moment. I yanked those strings right back. “I hope you know we’re taking the furnace.”

There was never a tantrum in recorded history, short of a monarch, quite like that. She attempted every angle to envoke something in mem. Guilt. How could you do this to me? Shame. Where would you even put it? Fear. Your father would never let me speak to you again. Pity. What will we do in the winter?

What did I do in the winter of ’06? I was living there. It rose nothing but cold resentment. All questions to which I answered, “I never paid for it. My FIL did. It’s his, not mine.”

The realization of my own subtext hidden between the lines had yet to emerge.

Meanwhile, my husband had stayed up all night, exchanging emails with his aunt, and toning down her grandiose ideas for remodeling. I spent the morning anxious about his lack of sleep, and consumed with dread over the threat of another manic episode. I was actually angry with him for letting her keep him up on a work night, or maybe not being forthcoming with me.

Really, I was upset that we were even entertaining the idea of taking money from her. The anxieties that rose did not have roots surrounding my husband. They bubbled from a deep, dark insecure crevice. It was a place so primal, that it went almost completely unrecognized by my conscious mind.

Family had somehow become synonymous with pain.

I ended my conversation with my mother and plunged into writing. I could detail each wrong. I won’t. The ending comments were these: ” They took every opportunity to hold my head under the water. Out of jealousy. Out of greed. Out of fear that I’d leave them one day, and do better with my life and for myself.”

Anxiously facing another winter without heat, my FIL put a sizable dent in his credit card to purchase and ship a furnace. When we were almost to the point of starvation, my MIL purchased us food and brought it to our home. After the accident that totalled our completely purchased car, they lent us theirs. When that car died, they helped us get through the down payment. Everytime T.D. (my son) needed clothing, they helped us find a way. When I faced having to drop out of college due to financial constraints, his aunt bailed me out.

It wasn’t centric to money, as it seems. My mother refused the honor of standing at my side when I had T.D. My MIL took her place. When Zen (husband) had a complete breakdown, his mother tried to tend to him and help him get care. My FIL gives my husband career advice and instructions to repair things. My MIL has picked up the phone in the middle of the night, just because I didn’t know who else to call.

I sat outside of Zen’s aunt’s childhood home with a cigarette filled with emotion and confusion. Neither of us carry her blood or her family name. I am a damaged girl, with a limited career, from a bad neighborhood. I have no tangible value. Why would she and the rest of her family be so enthused to have have us here?

I couldn’t believe how simple the answer is. Out of love. Because, it doesn’t matter what lineage you originate from. All that really matters is the familial love that one person can feel for another, and the kind of relationships you want to have with each other. If you want love, all you have to do is open up to receive love. And the rest follows.