Filling Your Self-Esteem Bucket
“In my day, we didn’t have self-esteem, we had self-respect, and more of it than we had earned.” – Jane Haddam
As soon as I opened my mouth and asked the woman behind the grocery store’s cash register how much a Snickers bar cost, I could tell from her expression that there would be a problem.
“Pardon me?” she said in a slightly louder voice than was necessary.
“How much is one of these?” I asked holding up a candy bar advertised five for fifty cents. I carefully enunciated each word, and I know she understood me; she must have. Slowly and loudly enough for everybody behind me in line to hear, she said, f-i-f-t-e-e-n c-e-n-t-s.
I scowled and loudly said “T-h-a-n-k y-o-u!”
It got a few laughs, but episodes like this drained my self-esteem, /why did the cashier have to embarrass me? Why did I have to react like I did? My actions called more attention to the embarrassing situation than hers did.
Normally I wouldn’t have even remembered the event, but in this situation, my hot-headed reaction really bothered me. I needed to stop letting what people might be thinking about me have so much power over how I felt about myself.
I remembered the last time something like this had happened. I had reacted well, and my response had made me feel good. It happened when I was practicing walking around the big block where the house I was living in was located.
The best thing about living in the big old house on the hill was the nice wide sidewalk that went all the way around the block. The block was rectangular, with the long sides of the rectangle going up and down the hill. One short side of the rectangle was at the top of the hill and the other was at the bottom.
One day I came hobbling up the hill, holding my cane aloft as I would do until I lost my balance and had to catch myself. I looked quite the site staggering down the sidewalk with my cane in the air. One time a neighbor called off his porch, “Are you all right young man?”
I was too focused on what I was doing to stop and answer him, so without stopping or even looking I said, “Oh yeah, I’m fine.”
I didn’t hear everything the old guy said before he went back inside and the screen door slammed shut, but it was something about “drunken belligerents.”
The doctors said I’d never walk without a cane, but had to walk without a cane. It wasn’t about not liking to be told I couldn’t do something. I didn’t like being told I couldn’t do something any more than the next guy, but I wasn’t thinking about proving someone wrong. I was only thinking about not settling for anything less than the most I could do. I held my cane off the ground and hobbled around the block. Every time I started to fall, I’d plant my cane and try to catch myself.
Sometimes I missed.
I fell so much in those days that I actually got used to it, but I hated to fall in public. I hated for people to feel sorry for me. I remember one day I had a particularly bad fall.
A young woman and her young son wee walking behind me. Well, it was probably her son. Anyway, the stopped and the woman said, “Are you OK sir? Can we help you?”
Trying to sound cheerful, like nothing was wrong, I said, “Oh, yeah. I’m fine.”
When the woman heard y garbled speech, she looked stunned. She grabbed the child’s hand. “Come on Billy, He’s drunk.”
They hurried off up the hill. I scrambled to my feet and followed after them, holding my cane off the ground and repeating the speech exercise my speech therapist had given me.
“WINNERS don’t quit. Winners DON”T quit. Winners don’t QUIT!”
This is an excerpt from Al’s book Achieving NO LIMITS-Embracing Change.
Al is an Inspirational Humorist and Keynote Speaker. Contact him for your next event, he will bring humor and inspiration or diversity training to your audience.