You Can't Take a Vacation From Yourself

Vijai P. Sharma, Ph.D

You can work around your partner even leaving him or her at home.  You can anytime pack your suitcase up, grab hold of your entertainment kit, and head for a vacation all by yourself.  For that matter, if you want to, you can leave your kids, your best friend and everyone else behind, and sail to a totally uninhabited island.  But there is one person, whether you want it or not, who is always going to go with you, and that is you.  You don't have any choice in that matter.  Jon Kabat-Zinn's book, "Wherever You Go, There You Are," is the case in point.  Although he is talking from the angle of being mindful of yourself, and I am talking about the need for making peace with yourself.

 So how should you live with yourself twenty-four hours a day, day after day, and weeks after weeks?  How should you feel about yourself whenever you make that "stupid mistake," miss a great opportunity, or face criticism from others over a decision you've made? Feeling disgusted with yourself and saying to yourself, "I can't stand myself," won't improve the situation a bit, and it certainly won't enhance your ability to mend it.  

 Someone said that if we treated our friends the way we treat ourselves, we wouldn't have any friends left.  Even the closest friend can't get as close to us as we are to ourselves.  "You are all you got," is the good news as well as the bad news.  The good news is that you don't have to depend on anybody else for your success and the bad news is that if you don't treat yourself right, you are all you got. 

 The last twenty to thirty years of psychological research on child development and parental handling of children has resolved several highly controversial issues.  One of the controversy in our times has been this, "Should we spank our children or not?"  Today, there is a consensus among the child development experts that spanking is not the best way to help children learn correct behaviors.  Likewise, experts are in total agreement that positive means of rewarding and affirming a child help him or her learn good behaviors faster.  If experts are right, how can our beating ourselves up over our mistakes and failures be good for us?  We need the same level of understanding, support, and encouragement from ourselves to ourselves, as we should offer to our loved ones.

 Whether we treat ourselves kindly and respectfully, or harshly and hatefully depends on our self-esteem, as well as how we were treated by our caregivers as we were growing up.  Self-esteem too depends on how others treated us in the past and thereon how we have treated ourselves.  Most people think high self-esteem is important for our happiness and success but hardly anyone wants to take the responsibility of fixing it for us.  

 Findings from a survey conducted by a Californian Self-Esteem Project team revealed that seventy-two percent of parents think it's the teacher's job to raise kids' self-esteem.  I am sorry these parents didn't ask teachers who do they think is responsible for raising kids' self-esteem.  Seventy-eight percent of teachers think it's not their job, it's the parents'.      

  While teachers' and parents' fingers are pointed in each other's direction, note what is happening to kids.  Eighty percent of kids when they start in the first grade have high self-esteem, but by the time they reach twelfth grade, only five percent have high self-esteem.  They lost it somewhere in the process of growing up.  So, if you want to do something about your self-esteem, remembering that "you are all you got," is not enough, you also have to remember, "you are the one to do it."

 Some of these kids as they grow into adulthood, regain their self-esteem.   That's the good news.  Among the grown-ups, one in three have high self-esteem.  But the bad news is that the other two out of the three don't have a high self-esteem.  Incidentally, self-esteem is not a permanent trait or quality, it fluctuates.  In times of failures, criticism, and hardship, it is particularly vulnerable and likely to take a dip.  You have to work on self-esteem to build (or rebuild) it and then to maintain it. 

 Jack Canfield, the self-esteem guru and author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul" books, recite the story of the statue of "Golden Buddha" he visited on his trip to Thailand.  It was believed to be a statue of clay all the way through until a priest chipped away the outer layer and there it was, the shining shimmering solid gold statue hidden underneath the clay!  Who knows what treasures of qualities and strengths you may find inside you when you gently and respectfully dig deeper into yourself.  

 To feel good about yourself, determine what are you here for.  Let it be a purpose, a goal, that is larger than yourself.  For example, the purpose of my life is to educate people about their emotions because emotions can play a havoc in our life.  Emotions are the bonding cement of all positive relationships and also the basis of good health we enjoy.  Whenever I work on my chosen purpose, I feel my life is worthwhile and it raises my self-esteem. Your purpose has to be for the larger good, that is, not just for you and your family, but extending to the people at large.  Don't doubt your abilities to fulfill it, you'll grow to fit the size of the purpose you've chosen.  

Return to Self Help 

Copyright 1996, Mind Publications 



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