By Suma Varughese
Taking responsibility for our happiness and learning to safeguard our self-respect and dignity regardless of what the other does, will free us from their hold
One of the biggest battles I have had to wage, and one which is still far from over, is common to most women, especially those with low self-esteem. And that is to free myself of giving my power away to another, to establish my boundaries, and to assert myself. Having been born with deplorably low self-esteem, I never learnt to say no, never learnt to protect myself from put-downs, would often find myself agreeing mindlessly with others bent on proving their superiority, would agree to do things others wanted me to do even though I didn’t want to do them, was an incorrigible people pleaser, and sought compulsively for approval from those who mattered to me. I veered from silent acquiescence to inappropriate temper tantrums.
I was the classic victim, and spent quite a bit of time apologising for being me, and feeling sorry for myself. It is perhaps one of my biggest victories that I have slowly worked my way out of most of these tendencies, although I am far from having completely healed. It is still too easy for me to react instead of calmly asserting myself when someone puts me down, or in allowing people to take advantage of me, but this is occasional. Most of the time, I am able to take proper care of myself. How important it is to ensure that you have your own back and that you are capable of safeguarding your self-respect. How vital that you have what it takes to stop the world from stripping you of your dignity. As long as you are unable to do so, you are vulnerable and not in your own power. I often watch fishwives haggle and quarrel with complete confidence and wish that I had half their poise. But each of us is made differently and it is the lot of many sensitive, emotional people to find themselves at a loss in the hurly burly of life. I believe that the breed called empaths, who are considered to be extremely open to the energies of others, are particularly susceptible to this problem.
While I still have to conclusively arrive at the perfect self-esteem I crave for, I recently had an insight that is helping me to take one step further on this path. While sitting for prayer a few days back, and processing an incident that had hurt me, it struck me forcibly that I needed to take responsibility for the anger I was feeling against the perpetrator of the offence. Clearly, something in my energy system had drawn this response. Perhaps something I had said or done in the past had added to it. And finally, why was I unable to protect my dignity and self-respect? That was surely my responsibility? As always, each time I realise that ultimately the buck stops with me, my anger against the other vanishes. There really is nothing to forgive them for. Even if the behaviour had been shocking, it was not my problem. It was theirs. My problem was to ensure that I protect my self-respect and dignity regardless of what they did. Indeed, I had a holy duty to do this in order to save the relationship; else my anger would fester and kill my love for the other. This experience is teaching me to be more mindful of my interaction with the other, to take responsibility for all that transpires between us, to communicate more clearly, and to express myself more assertively. It is early days yet, but Inshallah, I am moving on!
About the author : Suma Varughese is a thinker, writer, and Editor-in-Chief of Life Positive. She also holds writer's workshops. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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