This is one of the more abstract, but still important, parts of our pyramid. Esteem is one of those really abstract things (and, as you can see, as we go up the pyramid, the ideas that are talked about here are a lot more abstract than they had been before).
But let me tell you, from my own experience, if you don’t have esteem before you really start getting into your faith, no matter what it is – it can end up hurting you a lot.
Let me tell you another story about myself. I’m not self-centered, I promise – it’s just a lot easier for me to explain stories when I tell them from the things that I’ve dealt with. That being said, I am someone who has struggled with self esteem for most of my life. I was too fat, too odd, too ugly, too nerdy, too dumb – you name it, I felt that way. It seems like it was something that always haunted me.
That being said, when I found religion, like I talked about in the last entry, I went in headfirst. I thought the premise was not exactly worth going after, but then I started to obsess with it. I read the Bible for hours upon hours. I memorized things. And then, as time went on, I started to believe it. While that in and of itself wasn’t a bad thing (trust me – I still consider myself a very devoted Christ-follower, so that was a good thing), but what happened is I let it form my self esteem.
That’s where the issue was, and can be. If you don’t have self esteem, self respect, or whatever, your religion can become you. You become whatever you say that you are, and when that happens, you start to lose your actual self. I became this self-loathing young adult that basically hated myself because I was LGBT and I embodied every part of my religion, both good and bad. And in that, I lost Marti. Sure, Marti came out every once in awhile (no pun intended), but in general, I was sitting there being controled byt he far that I had of a God that I percieved to be hateful and wrathful.
And I felt like I deserved it.
I got abused by spiritual leaders. I got manipulated into doing things that I didn’t want to do. And sometimes, I was the one that was giving a message that h ad absolutely NOTHING to do with the love that I claimed to have. I was mean to people, shoved religion down their throats.
And I was miserable. I felt like I didn’t deserve the respect that I wanted somewhere deep inside. And I hated myself more than words could express – and that is never a healthy way to live. Self loathing + obsessive religion = not such a good idea.
Needless to say, that’s not where I am anymore (thank God). You see, I had to totally deconstruct my faith, my religion, in order to sort things out. And then, after that, I had to find myself again. I had to find Marti. The Marti that was fun loving, that accepted everyone around her, and that was okay with the fact that she was a member of the LGBTQ community. The Marti that was a furry, and that really connects with her canid side… The Marti that all of you see now.
And that’s why esteem is vital. You have to love yourself first. Jesus says that you are to “love your neighbor as yourself.” That doesn’t mean more than yourself. That means that you should be loving yourself first. And if that’s NOT something that you’re doing, then you run the risk of losing yourself to the religion that you devote yourself to – and that’s not fair to who you are or those around you that love you.
So here’s what I want you to get from this – before you dig deeper into your faith, you should also work on loving and respecting yourself. If you don’t love yourself, then you may put yourself into a position that will compromise who you are and what you stand for. And I don’t want to see that for you – and that’s something that you should want to avoid for yourself as well.
Next. we’ll be talking about self actualization and transcendence – both of which actually deal directly with spirituality.