Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Self Worth and Encouraging Others

I was thinking some more about the issue of helping others that we were discussing yesterday. One thing I wondered was whether there is another factor at play here besides our busy lives that prevents us from offering a word of encouragement or some help to others. Our own self worth.

If we perceive another person as "having it all together" or at least doing better than us, does that make us reluctant to encourage them? Do we assume that they don't need any encouragement? Or do we assume that encouragement from little óle us wouldn't be worth anything to them?

One thing I have been learning recently is that how I perceive things is not always how they are. I guess this should be rather obvious to me given that not everyone views me the same way that I view myself.

Which makes me pause for a moment and consider the fact that other people may be the same. Perhaps I perceive them as "having it all together" when in reality they're just as unsure about themselves as I am. If I would really appreciate some encouragement, the occasional helping hand or note just to say "hey, just wanted to make you smile today", perhaps others would as well.

Then of course there is the fear of rejection or humiliation. If the other person laughs at me or rejects my offer in some way, is that only going to confirm my initial assessment of myself? Can my fragile self esteem handle an adverse reaction of any kind?

I wonder then if I have done that to others. In my striving to appear to "have it all together", have I pushed other people away (unintentionally of course)? There is a large amount of humility required to admit you need help and then accept help.

Do we sometimes deny people the opportunity to give? There is a great blessing in giving. Whether it be the gift of time, goods, services, a smile, encouragement.....and the list goes on. When we refuse to accept those tentative offers, are we denying that person the blessing that comes through giving?

I think I have a lot more questions than I have answers right now but this topic is certainly challenging me to think.

Does anyone else have anything else to add to the discussion on giving and receiving? It does seem appropriate at this time of year. :-) What kinds of fears or other obstacles stand in the way of you either giving OR receiving?

There were some wonderful comments made in response to my post yesterday and I plan on answering them once this post is completed. I would however, like to highlight one particular comment for those of you who perhaps missed it.

Beth said:

We have had some similar struggles and have taken a long time to recover. Life as we knew it to be became scary and unpredictable. For us it was about 2 years for life to reflect 'normal'. We have grown from this experience and look for joy consciously each day (we list 4 things each that were a source of pleasure for us). We also list 4 things each that we did to bring joy to someone else (a concept from 'Eat Mangoes Naked' by SARK). Our kids love this and it helps us to actively look for them. I actually make a practice to write mine down (they make me smile again later when I re-read my list).

You can read her 4 things in each category at the time of her comment by visiting the comments section of HELP. What greater gift can we really offer to one another than to make another person smile? I think by far it's my favourite because it doesn't cost anything, doesn't *have* to take a lot of time and is VERY contagious. :-)

What a wonderful thing they are teaching their children. To actively seek joy in each day AND actively promote joy in other peoples lives. I LOVE this suggestion. Thank you so much for sharing it Beth. I'm going to start this with my own children.

What are you going to do today to bring a smile to another persons face? Perhaps you'd like to add your suggestions to the comments section so we can all share our ideas. :-)


Rose/CountryLife said...

This is such a wonderful post. Our house burned down several years ago near Christmas time. and the outpouring of our small town was amazing. I have never ever forgotten that outpouring of love and we as a family try to give the same outpouring to families in our community that faces hardship and loss as well.

Another thing that goes on here where we live is community mourning. When someone in the community dies. There is a dinner held for the family at the family home or church which ever the family prefers. A covered dish is donated by each neighbor. And if you are traveling in our neck of the woods and see a funeral precession you automatically pull off to the side of the road and stop to pay respect to the family.
There are many other examples too.

Kelley said...

I'd like to think that showcasing my inadequacies on my blog makes people smile...

But seriously. that is a great post babe. And the suggestion by Beth is a wonderful one. I think I may do it with my family (or even just myself) as you know we have had some rough times the last few years and it is hard not to be constantly watching my back for all the good things that have finally come our way to crumble and fall.

Thanks for making me stop and think. Instead of trying to see the sarcasm and the idiocy in the world, I need to stop and be thankful for everything that I have.

agrantham81 said...

Fantastic post. Its interesting to realise that others are just as insecure as we are. They too have the same thoughts and fears. We should try and make others smile. Perhaps I should add that to my list of daily todos.

Beth said...

Thanks again for today's installment, Lightening. I am taking great encouragement from the reflection and experiences of others generated by your post.You are so articulate.

Joy list for ME today is:
1. The red beautiful flowers that I saw in bloom on my way to work this morning.
2. Seeing my boys at swimming lessons this afternoon. Their faces beamed at the encouragement they received from one of the male teachers. "He called me a champion, Mum!"
3. A hug received from a lady I met through my work. I took the time to listen and she felt heard.
That hug was such an affirmation for me.
4. Losing 600g of weight this week (whilst addressing my demon self esteem issues and cheering myself on instead of berating myself).

My bringing JOY to others list:
1.Thanking my boys teacher for all her work with my twins this year.
2.Sending an SMS to a friend who is soon to have a baby.
3.Encouraging my friend Kate through a difficult parenting moment.
4.Thanking my hubbie for cleaning the kitchen.

I find that noticing sources of joy takes practice. Encouraging my children provides encouragement for me as I find negatives soooo much easier to find (without really looking). Finding and creating joy is a daily decision and I am hoping that it becomes as automatic for me as the alternative.

Here's to JOY!! I wish you all success in embracing its gifts (just take baby-steps). Thank you all for your encouragement!!

Ellie B said...

I think one reason I have trouble accepting help from other people is I start to think that they think I don't have everything together! Funny once I wrote that down it sounded really silly but that's how it is.
So in the same way I'm cautious of offering help in case people perceive it as my way of saying I could do something better or that they are uncapable of doing whatever it is by themselves.

lightening said...

Rose - what a fantastic community you must be part of. Dealing with a house burning down would have to be pretty rough! I'm glad you had some good support.

Kelley - you don't make me smile, you make me laugh the house down. You have a gift and it's wonderful that you sure it in blogging. :-) Not everyone can turn the things that you face each day into such a humorous post. You're amazing girl!

Amy - we are all so busy pretending that we're something that we're not aren't we. It's kind of funny how underneath most of us are as insecure as one another. It's like the depression. I couldn't believe how many people have come out of the woodwork since I've been diagnosed. I get stopped by old ladies in the supermarket and all sorts! It's time we blew the lid off all this "falseness" and learnt that's it's okay to be real and it's okay not to be perfect.

Beth - thank you! You inspire me. I so appreciate your willingness to share. :-)

Meg said...

This is a great post. I think you're spot on that people don't necessarily have it as together as they might make it seem. Everyone's dysfunctional in some way. Some people are just more upfront about it than others. Then of course there's the tall poppy syndrome that many Aussies fall prey too, which is really sad.

You, Kelley and others make blogging fun (kinda reminds me of a song...) and espouse the true meaning of community, giving and encouragement. And of course the gift of a smile :)

David Kirk said...

Stole your Christmas tree!


I like your Christmas Tree. I'm going to try and get it too. Thanks

lightening said...

Meg - yes, the tall poppy syndrome. We get jealous so easily don't we? Well, not we personally but generally as a culture. I wonder if it's related to our own sense of worth in that seeing someone succeed reduces it in some way. Or perhaps it's a "heritage" thing. Between the convicts who were treated like second class citizens in England and the Aboriginal people who were treated like animals, it's hard to build a heritage of "we all matter". I think we're getting there but we have to keep fighting.

David and Trey - you're most welcome. The tree is available for "stealing" by any and all. LOL. After all, that's how I got mine. :-) Perhaps we should call it "sharing". :-)

The Tin House said...

L, when I was suffering from depression (and yes, sometimes it's a battle to keep it in the past tense), I remember very well trying to tell people quite close to me about it, but feeling as if I was stuck in a dream where you scream for help but nothing comes out of your mouth. Sound familiar? Hold on there girl and remember that part of the gift of charity, is a kind of kindness to ones self. As well.....I'm sure your therapist has suggested you try to reprogramme that internal monologue that constantly suggests "everyone else" is doing ok, then I must be able to cope as well. You are not everyone else. You're your own precious self and few of us rarely grasp the pressures at work on other people whose lives appear, on the surface at least, to be happy and stable. I know this sounds like a mini-lecture, but it's not meant to be. Just take care you don't overload the wagon. Lisa J x

lightening said...

Lisa J - thanks for your thoughts. It continues to amaze me how many people have been afflicted by this disease at some point in their lives! Can totally relate to the "silent scream" analogy!!!! It didn't sound like a lecture at all. :-)