I have a "personal" opinion on this, based on a few "varied" experiences.
But first I need to break this question down into smaller chunks so that I can actually think it through.
- Every person has many, varied, personal experiences. Some were good. Some were bad. Some were distorted and seemed worse than they actually were. And others were more subtle; they didn't seem that awful until some other experience made said person realize what they thought was ok, or even good, was actually detrimental.
Self-perception is a tricky subject altogether, and this FACT, in my humble opinion, is what leads to skewed esteem (for better or worse).
I used to think that old adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" was a whole lot of hooey, because I felt extremely weakend by my many, many negative experiences.
There were two reasons for this: 1. I hadn't reviewed them in any kind of a realistic fashion. What I digested in childhood stayed with me for a long, long time, and even as an adult I continued to believe I was burdonsome, dim, out of control, unlovable, yada yada. To the average observer that sounds crazy! What child could possibly be all those things, right? But I kept believing them until I finally thought to question my self-perceptions. But not before I'd spiraled downward into depression, anxiety, and general fatigue from the effort required to fight against myself. That's a bit like trying to put yourself out when you're on fire, except you're dousing yoruself with gasoline, not water.
That brings me to my second point: mental attachments... those little fire starters. Ooh, these suckers are sneaky! You have to be pretty aware to catch these buggers.
Let's make up a story about a person who is very prideful. This would be an example of personal experiences that led to strengths (or the perception thereof, because really, it's all subjective isn't it?) Here we go:
Little Dyckie was adopted by an upper middle-class couple who wanted desperately to have children but couldn't. They were so glad when they finally signed the papers and little Dyckie was placed in their longing arms. They bought him 50 little outfits, the best they could afford. They praised him at every turn. "Look at Dyckie! He's tying his shoes. And only three years old!" His kindergarden year the whole class was invited to Dyckie's birthday, a pool party! Dyckie's mommy and daddy worked two whole decades before Dyckie was born, and had accumulated a big house, and big furniture, a big van and a car. Dyckie swam in that big pool since before he could remember. Naturally, Dyckie is one of the few kids at the party who can dive and tread water. All the other parents remark how well Dyckie can swim. Just look at him, only five years old! What a big deal Dyckie is.
Dyckie does well in school, he's at the top of his class, largely thanks to his parents who made sure he did his homework every night and checked it twice for errors.
He grows up feeling pretty good about himself. He has everything he should have. A car, a girlfriend, jeans that hang down to his knees. He's a big boy now. His childhood's behind him, and he prefers Dyck to Dyckie, if you please.
He's on the cusp of manhood, feeling indestructible, the whole world before him. He goes to college, plays football, sleeps with plenty of intoxicated girls. Nothing can touch him, he thinks. It's a long haul, but he graduates near the top of his class. He moves back in with mom and dad, just temporarily, while he looks for a job. He doesn't look hard, he doesn't even need to. His dad knows a guy who knows a guy and before you know it Dyck's in marketing! Everyone celebrates his success ... again. Two promotions later and a tidy little wife with big hair and cute feet, Dyck's built himself a big house with a pool. One day Dyck finds a note on his kitchen table. It reads:
You drink too much. You stay out late. Your car smells like Chanel.
He reads it twice and balls it up. Then he calls his lawyer. He's in a rage now and he says to himself, "Who does she think she is? I bought this house. I bought this pool. I swam before I could talk. I'm the smartest guy I know, just ask my parents! I'm the VP of marketing for crying out loud. I'm a really big Dyck!" And it doesn't even phase him that, yes, he certainly is.
I've had way too much cola today, whew! In that last paragraph I've tried to illustrate how we accumulate experiences and attach them together to for a whole picture. The flip side is that when a person suffers long and hard, they accumulate negative thoughts about themself. When there are far too many of those negatives floating around, the brain starts to stitch them all together and that's when things go down the drain. "I can't play hockey. I flunked science. My sister hates me. I lost my dog when I was ten. I got fired. My bills are always late. I'm so stressed out. I'm always tired. Man, I'm a real loser."
None of those things actually has anything to do with the other. Not being athletic has nothing to do with "accidentally" losing the family pet. The job probably went out the window when the company moved to China, but it caused the stress nonetheless, and that led to fatigue. It's that realization that the negatives (and quite possibly some of the positives) aren't linked that frees a person to evaluate herself correctly.
And I think a correct self-evalutation would look something like this: "I lost my dog when I was ten. That was so sad, but I know it wasn't my fault, I was only ten after all. I might be bad at sports, but that's ok, I don't like hockey anyway. I care about myself so I'll walk my new dog every day, and we'll both get our exercise that way. I don't know what DNA stands for, and if you ask me about protons I'd tell you to eat more meat. Science is obviously not my forte, but I bet I could bake a torte that would blow Einstein's mind, so eat your heart out. I'm under a lot of stress right now, all of it beyond my control. Thank goodness tomorrow is another day, right? Overall, I think I'm a good person. I do the best I can. I have both strengths and weaknesses, which is ok because the world is full of people I can call when I need help, be it with a leaky faucet, or a hug.
That's realistic. If you can't do that, or don't know how, boy are you gonna go for a ride when the going gets going. It's not the experiences that make you strong or weak inside, it's your perception of them. More bluntly it's your ability to be honest. That includes knowing when things aren't your fault, or when they're out of your control so you can just let go that rope baby! And that also means not giving yourself too much slack either. Nobody likes somebody who shirks blame when blame is due. And always, always remember every day is a brand new one, another oportunity to change things up when something you're doing isn't working for ya. There needn't be a spiral. Your life is not a chain of events. You're not the same person you were ten years ago. You'll reinvent yourself 10 more times before you die. So if you want to make the most of it, you need to know that it's all happening right here, right now. Get out of the past. Jump off tomorrow's bridges when you get there. Today is today is today. No job? Great. Go golfing. Having a baby? Wonderful. Start knitting. Unless you've got a terminal illness, or you're so far gone you've got Santa in the tree fort and he wants you armed ready for the big Christmas conspiracy when all Armageddon unfolds, you probably just need to ask yourself a few questions so you can get a few straight answers, and then you can get on with your life.
I know my posts are rediculously long. I don't have the cerebral gift of smunching whole sentences into a few big words. At the very least, I hope I got my POV across, and I hope you had some good coffee while you sat here and read all this!