6 Gifts that People With Low Self-Esteem Should Give Themselves
Anneli Rufus is a frequent contributor to Spirituality & Health. Her books Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto and the Nautilus Award-winning Stuck: Why We Can't (or Won't) Move On examined our lives as individuals in a crowded world. Rufus’ upcoming work, Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself, will be released by Tarcher Penguin in the spring and continues this path, addressing self-esteem. It serves as the catalyst for this blog and asks: Why do we feel the way we do about ourselves? - See more posts here.
It isn't easy choosing gifts for people we don't like. Sometimes that's because we don't know them well enough—and don't want to know them well enough—to know what they'd relish or need. Sometimes we know exactly what they'd relish or need—but we don't want to give them the satisfaction of having it.
But sometimes, once we've chosen a gift for someone we don't like, once it's all wrapped and ready to give, we find ourselves feeling a bit more warmth toward that person, almost against our will—as if the simple act of giving and receiving forged a sacred bond between us.
Now, what if these people we don't like, these monsters on our shopping lists, are ... us? What if we are the ones we've been avoiding all year, badmouthing all year, beating up mentally and physically all year? And what if we give ourselves gifts this year, because at long last it's time to start being nicer to ourselves, to stoke up the self-compassion along with the Yule log? And what better way to begin than by putting ourselves on both the giving and receiving ends of that sacred bond?
- Many of us with low self-esteem are perfectionists, always raising the bar higher, then berating ourselves for not bettering our best. Celebrate imperfection by giving yourself something beautifully, enthrallingly, pefectly imperfect: a craggy crystal, say, or a vintage porcelain cup networked with tiny cracks.
- Here's a variation on the coupon book: Give yourself a set of twelve totally nonjudgmental hours. In each of these hours, you will not judge yourself, badmouth yourself, regret your past actions or dread your future ones. Each hour is a fresh, safe space. Use at your discretion, maybe one per day. The great thing about this "coupon book" is that it can be renewed indefinitely, for free.
- Having low self-esteem means living with pervasive fears of failure, embarrassment and punishment. But getting up and facing every day while feeling so afraid makes us brave. Honor your daily bravery with a piece of jewelry shaped like a lion, lighthouse or Durga, the Hindu goddess of courage. This gift says: I know you're scared, but that's OK. I'll guard you, protect you and comfort you.
- Schedule a consultation with the "truth-talking tree." Choose a tree of your liking. Imagine that it has the magical powers of human speech, absolute truth and universal memory. Imagine that this tree is committed to remembering and telling those who consult it every single good, kind and smart thing that they have ever done. (Warning: This consultation might take hours.)
- Give yourself the gift of giving. Choose some folks who aren't usually on your gift list— coworkers, neighbors, even strangers or non-humans: the kids in a local club, say, or the animals at a local shelter. Give them material gifts if you can afford it, your time or letters of authentic praise if you can't. Generosity is its own reward. Helping others feel worthwhile helps us feel worthwhile too.
- Give yourself whatever you want. When seeking a gift for someone we do like, we look to that person's hopes, dreams and desires. She loves gardening, so I'll get her some gloves. He wants to learn Japanese, so I'll get him flashcards. But self-loathing cuts us off from our own hopes, dreams and desires. The task of giving yourself something you'd love sounds super-simple but is deeply difficult. Sit with it. Spoiler alert: This powerful process of asking—then knowing—what you want is half the gift.