Childhood Self-Esteem


Why I know I am perfect

How do I know I’m perfect? Everyone tells me I am! Well, maybe they don’t directly say so, but they certainly suggest it. What they really say is, "Chuck, you’re nobody!" And as you know, nobody is perfect, so if I’m nobody, I’m perfect!

Despite my less than perfect humor, I, like you, was born perfect. We all were. Anyone who watches infants will become aware of this fact. For infants are trusting, loving, and courageous. They don’t have any hang-ups. They are not plagued by a lack of confidence, burdened with anxiety, or poisoned with hatred. They reveal our true nature, which is happiness. Yet, many of us are unhappy and troubled by all manner of problems. So, what went wrong? How did we lose our natural state of happiness? Where did all the pessimists come from? Why is there so much negativity in the world? What happened to us?

Although not true for everyone, many of us had a less than perfect childhood. Our caregivers foisted their opinions on us. Opinions like, "You’re a naughty child. You’re clumsy. You can’t do anything right. You’re stupid. You’re incorrigible. You’re helpless. You make me angry." We were immersed in a sea of negativity daily. To children 1 ~ 5 years old, their parents are like gods. How can they doubt the words they hear? At such an early age, they lack critical thinking skills. So, if mommy or daddy tells them they are stupid, it must be true.

So, not knowing any better, young children come to accept the negative opinions of their caregivers. The opinions of their parents become their own opinions. In fact, the opinions crystallize and become beliefs; they are no longer opinions; they are now facts. The children now believe, "I am stupid. I’m worthless. I’m afraid of everyone." They have long forgotten their early state of perfection. They now identify with a FALSE SELF. The false self is also called the wounded self, inner child, or conditioned self. It is based on lies. Weighed down by so much baggage, is it any wonder children give up learning how to fly to their dreams?

The false self is the filter through which the children view the world. It becomes a worldview, their perspective, their attitude. And it is a negative one. Although they were once free, they now live in a world of limitations. Filled with self-doubt, they can go only so far. It is as if there were a chain preventing them from reaching their potential.

Now that the children believe they are worthless, what are they to do? You don’t expect them to rejoice and tell everyone, do you? No, on the contrary. They want to conceal their perceived worthlessness. Like an artichoke protecting its heart with thick outer leaves, the children build walls to hide behind. They build fortresses to keep out the criticism of others. Unfortunately, the walls also keep out the good intentions and kindness of those trying to help.

When they do have to venture beyond the walls of their fortress, the children (and the adults they become) wear masks to shroud their ‘ugliness.’ The irony of it all! What can be sillier than that of a beautiful woman wearing the mask of a beautiful woman so she can pretend to be beautiful? There’s nothing to pretend about. She is beautiful and doesn’t need a mask. The trouble is, she doesn’t realize it.

We wear masks because we are ashamed to expose how ‘worthless’ and ‘undeserving of love’ we think we are. But the mask comes with a heavy price. Whenever we wear it, we fracture ourselves. We divide ourselves into the person we believe we are and the person we pretend to be. We give up our integrity and abandon all hope of being honest. This lack of integrity causes us to experience shame and guilt. The pain of believing we are worthless is bad enough, but now it is compounded by what we believe to be practicing deception.

So, what are the lessons to be learned? First, understand the staggering impact of criticism and negativity on children. Some people never get over the harm done to them. Never! Our obligation is clear; we must rear our children with love. The baggage that we carry may make our job difficult, but for our children’s sake we have to rise above our weaknesses and fill them with the confidence we lack. We do so by recognizing their value and regularly reminding them of it.

Second, when others treat you with disrespect and are unkind, remember the source of their cruelty is their false selves. They have lots of baggage. They’re screwed up. They need understanding and compassion. So, don’t add to their pain. Lighten their load by being forgiving.

Third, and most important, heal yourself. Not only for your own sake, but for the world’s sake. The world needs you to spread happiness around. And you will find it by returning to your TRUE SELF, which is also known as your higher self or unconditioned self. How can you distinguish between your true and false selves? That’s easy. Anything negative, anything that is limiting, holds you back, or causes fear is an attribute of your false self. While anything positive, anything that is liberating, advances your cause, and brings you joy is a characteristic of your true self.

When you were a child, you simply accepted the opinions of others. But now you are an adult. You can question the negative opinions and prove them to be wrong. Take small steps, one at a time. Do what you want to do, but were afraid of trying. Watch your confidence grow. Watch your happiness increase. Start shedding weight. The weight of the baggage that became a part of you. Rediscover your true self, not by trying to grasp it, but by letting go of your false beliefs. It is never too late to start blooming into your full potential. As we start reclaiming our true, unlimited, self, we will be able to remove our mask, integrate our personality, and live with integrity. We will discover the freedom to be who we are and the joy of accomplishing whatever we wish. Before I end, let’s listen in on a conversation . . .

The disciple asked his spiritual teacher, "What prevents me from being happy?"
"Fear," came the reply.
"What is the cause of my fear?"
"False beliefs," came the answer.
"What kind of false belief?"
"The belief that the sweet-smelling flowers surrounding you are poisonous snakes."
"How can I cast aside my false beliefs?"
"By opening your eyes and seeing."
"Seeing what?"
"That there isn’t a single snake around."

© Chuck Gallozzi
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