Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

The Purpose of the Self-Esteem File

I thought it would be helpful to remind readers where the idea of a Self-Esteem Forum came from, and the history of my self-esteem file…. Back when I was camping out, roasting marshmallows in the Black Hole, my therapist assigned me the task of listing ten positive qualities about myself. I came up with two: I had a well-proportioned nose and thick fingernails. At the lowest point of my depression, I was convinced that I had absolutely nothing to offer the world: that my husband deserved a wife who could load the dishwasher in under an hour and drive herself and the kids to the grocery store–one that carried half the weight, not added more–and that my kids needed a mom who could cheer them on from the sidelines of their soccer games, not one who rushed to hide behind a tree because she couldn’t stop sobbing and shaking like a person with severe Parkinson’s. Everything I attempted flopped, in my professional as well as personal life. I would compose a sentence on the computer, read it, and delete it. After a few months of this torture, I stopped writing altogether. I canceled my column on young adult spirituality for Catholic News Service, declined invitations to speak, and turned down opportunities to write for magazines I had been trying to break into for years.Because I was incapable of finding anything of value in my DNA, she told me to ask four friends to make a list of my strengths. Thankfully they identified more attributes than my nose and fingernails.I printed out those e-mails, and filed them a manila folder I labeled as my “Self-Esteem File.” Every time a person complimented me or said anything remotely positive, even “You don’t smell today,” I added it my SEF, which grows every time I get a complimentary note on a message board of Beyond Blue. I don’t think I’ve made a video in which I exposed myself as vulnerably as the one on my self-esteem file. It gives you an idea of why these letters of affirmation are so important to me.

  • marilyn

    therese the self esteem file has made a big differance in the way i feel about my self.i can see what other see it gives me strength thanks for shareing that with us.even my physc doctor thinks it has helped keep up the good work you makw such a differance in people lives.

  • Larry Parker

    Maybe the libido video, Therese, but you’re right — that was body-baring, this is soul-bearing.
    I dare say your SEF is a lot thicker now …

  • Annie Turner

    I think I’ll start a self-esteem file for myself. People give me more positive feedback on me then I do myself. My therpist says its because of my depression & temperment. Let me have the courage to follow though with this. You’ve the understanding to help people along. So I’m asking for guideness though this dilema.

  • Shelly

    When I first read about the SEF and saw the original video a few weeks ago, I determined for myself after a really bad bipolar episode to contact friends and family to ask them to list qualities and characteristics that they loved about me. This way when I was feeling lower than the belly of a worm on those down depressed days of the bipolar swing, I could look at what others wrote and maybe it would connect my brain with who I really am. When the emails started coming back, I cried and cried…I was so thankful that people took me serious and actually did what I asked. I have determined to add to others’ self esteem files (even if they don’t have a formal one) but sending cards, notes or emails to everyone that I appreciate as they are brought to mind. We all need to see what we look like to someone else. It’s very important for that validation when there is just no way we can bring ourselves up.
    I’m working my way through this blog from beginning to present day. It’s been my ‘book’ of choice lately. Thank you Therese!

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