I struggle with my self-confidence. Do you have any suggestions for building self-esteem? I love your confidence. Do you remember any lessons your parents taught you that helped your self-esteem/confidence?
Thanks for the question, Caroline! First, let me say this: You have just as much right to be on this planet as everyone else. You are a unique, worthy person who has many gifts to give: gifts of perspective, kindness, creativity, and more. We are all works in process, learning and growing as we move through life. Though it may at times seem like others have everything figured out while you’re still struggling to feel comfortable in your own skin, rest assured that everyone has moments of self-doubt.
We humans like to place people into buckets: good and bad, left and right, us and them. This seems to be an age-old tendency, and it isn’t all that surprising that the rise of social media and the proliferation of news and opinion platforms have allowed our divisions to become more entrenched and more apparent. We can choose to read and listen to only those sources that affirm what we already feel and believe, and we can respond to those who disagree while protected by a screen that keeps us from seeing and experiencing their humanity, their emotional reactions. Our quickly typed words can be amplified through shares and retweets, carried far beyond the small circles that might once have heard them.
Many, manypeople have writtenabout the heightened state of polarization in which we live these days, lamenting how destructive it is and postulating about what led to this environment. It is distressing and disheartening. But it doesn’t have to be this way.
I recently came across this post on gift-giving from Mr. Money Mustache and thought it was worth sharing. The post is several years old and references Mother’s Day, but it applies to all the occasions on which our culture tells us we are supposed to give gifts.
Ideally, gift-giving should be a way of expressing our appreciation for the people we love, making their day a little brighter, and perhaps easing their burden. At its worst, gift-giving can become another obligation, and the gifts we give can sometimes add to the burdens of the receiver as well as the giver. I’ve gone to holiday gatherings without gifts to give and have been embarrassed when others brought gifts for everyone, including me. The gifts were not personally selected for each individual, but were, I suspect, bought en masse out of either a sense of requirement or a desire for the gift-giver to feel good about herself. These gifts were not meaningful, but they provoked feelings of guilt and obligation in me. That is not what gift-giving should do.
The public radio program On Being, as part of its Civil Conversations Project, recently aired an interview called “Repairing the Breach” (transcript). The show featured a white male Libertarian leader of the Tea Party movement, Matt Kibbe, and a black female millennial progressive leader, Heather McGhee, discussing how we can engage difference and better understand each other.
Near the end of the show (at 44:30), Heather brought up a conversation she had with Gary from North Carolina on a C-SPAN call-in show last year. Gary called into the show, admitted to being prejudiced, and explained why he thought he held certain attitudes. Then he asked Ms. McGhee how he could change, “to become a better American.” McGhee thanked him for his honesty and offered suggestions such as getting to know black families, reading books about the history of African-Americans in the U.S., or attending a black church. The video clip went viral.
I listen to a lot of podcasts while driving, working out, and doing chores around the house. In this weekly feature, I’ll tell you about one episode I particularly enjoyed that week.
My pick for this week is Dear Sugar Radio’s episode Location, Location, Location. Dear Sugar is hosted by Cheryl Strayed (of Wild fame) and Steve Almond, who answer letters from listeners asking questions about love and life. It’s kind of a modern-day advice column, in audio format. This week, they tackle the topics of home (as in, what makes a place feel like home?), relocation, and travel, in the context of relationships.
Want more podcasts? Here are my runners-up for the week: