“If you’re a woman, person of color, LGBTQIA, a person of size... then you are considered a minority and it’s going to be really hard to find messages of self-love. For us to have self-esteem is truly an act of revolution and our revolution is long overdue.” -Margaret Cho
What we are seeing today is wearing on many of us, particularly those of us whose experience includes a marginalized identity/identities. Bans against entire groups of people. Recent gains in equal rights being rolled back. Increased tensions and conflicts. These things send clear messages that we're not good enough and damage our self esteem. It would be unusual not to be feeling down. The very nature and multitude of these events is disorienting. I'm writing to you today to normalize what's going on for many of us and to describe what we can do about it.
Clearly, a lot needs to be done but I'm talking about what I talk with many of my clients about- what we can do on a personal self esteem level to sustain us through the ongoing work that is needed. We didn't get here overnight and it's going to take a steady calm deliberate response from us to outlast this backlash.
The overwhelming events we are witnessing take a toll. Why? Because we're not talking about isolated events but events that illustrate looming issues of classism, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and others- and how the systems of our government have been instruments of this oppression. Grief is a natural reaction, especially if some of this represents new information. The tangled emotions of sadness, fatigue, bargaining, anger, denial as well as trauma responses, such as fight, flight, and freeze are to be expected. Getting down on ourselves is a common related reaction based upon our stress.
Self esteem is not a luxury during this time. We need it to sustain us through the work toward equality. It's going to be a long walk. We need intentional self talk to silence the voices of oppression telling us that we are not wanted, not important, not equal, not to be trusted. Self esteem is refusing to stop trusting ourselves, resisting the pull to stay in a place of overwhelm without a fight.
Here are some fighting words. You matter. Your body and mind have value and can be trusted. Your rights deserve to be fought for and protected. You are inherently worthy of feeling good here, feeling that you belong. Our fight is focusing even harder on messages of love of ourselves and others in place of messages of rejection. Your self esteem is a weapon of this fight.
Self esteem is vital, especially now. Talk yourself up. Distract yourself from critical fear fueled voices. Reach out in times of need to feel less alone (right now, a lot of us need it). Seek or create networks where you can just be (there's enough rejection happening in the outside) so we can work toward equality in ways and on timelines that work for us.
Why is self esteem not frivolous but radical and revolutionary? Because revolution is the natural outgrowth of taking care of ourselves (and each other) in the face of our oppression.