I don't have self-esteem because I write well. Or because I speak well to crowds. Or I perform poetry well. And I don't lose self-esteem when a story is rejected by a publisher or my poetry loses at the Slam.
I don't gain in self-esteem when people seek me out for advice and comfort, or lose self-esteem when I go through a withdrawal period or someone takes a dislike to me.
I don't gain self-esteem when I return the excess change to a sales clerk who miscounted, and I don't lose self-esteem when I let one more loan payment slide because I bought too many books and espressos.
What finally brought me self-esteem was when I dropped all my defenses and said "This is how I am. Manic depressive, overweight, my tits hang to my navel, I haven't washed my hair in three weeks, I have the clothes sense of a bookworm from Slobovia, my son won't talk to me because I've broken too many promises, and I'll give anybody lessons inprocrastination, just as soon as I get a round tuit." And had a large number of wonderful people say, "Hi. We love you." Folks in support groups, and also folks from theChurch of Mary Magdalene and WHEEL and the Real Change, and old friends that I had never expected to act that way, and strangers at speeches and poetry readings.
It really doesn't matter if you express yourself poetically, or have a clean conscience, or even have a generous heart. Every one of you deserves self-esteem, simply as a birthright.
This doesn't mean I can say, "I have just as good a character as Abe Lincoln, even if I've never repaid more than 10% of my debts, I regularly cheat on my taxes, and I committed adultery at least once, that I remember." It means I can say, "I deserve to live and be happy, even though I've done some wrong things. I'll deal with it. It doesn't make *me* bad."
I can't say, "I'm just as good a poet as Naomi Nye or William Blake. " I *can* say, "I'm worth as much, as a human being, as Naomi Nye or William Blake." And both of them would agree with me.
I have heard heart-fire and soul-wisdom from people who have stumbled all over their lips. One of the most beloved poets and wise-women in our little Seattle homeless community is bipolar and schizophrenic, and periodically becomes impossible for anyone to deal with. So be it. We wait for her to come back to us, and we keep loving her. Another favorite poet and wise man is an alcoholic, in and out of jail. We wait for him to come back to us, and we keep loving him. And one of our most beloved people is a sweet, vague woman who wanders around with bags of miscellaneous junk. We're pretty sure she's never coming back from wherever she is, spiritually. We love her anyway.
If anyone out there continues to feel worth less because they don't write as well, do as much, or act as nice as anybody/everybody else,email me, and I'll chew you out for it untiI you feel better. OKAY?