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.

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