#greatexpectations #fitzgerald #art #illustrations #dreams #selfesteem #beliefs, #illustration, charcoalcrayon, graphicnovel, selfacceptance, suicide
In August 2014, I lost a dear friend to suicide. He seemed to have been doing well – handling his depression, making amends for past behaviors. But over the university break, he decided to end his life, reportedly over his long-term girlfriend leaving him. He was visiting his parents home in India and sometime around dawn one morning, he jumped from the 4th-floor terrace. It was over before they found him.
I took this quite hard – despite our many differences over the years, we had been friends since our teenage and I deeply cared for him. A week or so before this happened, he had called to get me to “forgive” him for his selfish behavior in the past ( we were not talking at this point). And I did.
Many people thought of him as brilliant, some thought he was eccentric and yet others felt that he was just another arrogant asshole. But he used to tell me things, allowing me a little peep into his life – both past and present.
I believe the whole problem in his drug-addled, mad, pretentious and brilliant mind, actually came from a deep lack of self-esteem. The locus of his esteem was always external. He liked himself when people liked him. He liked himself if people saw that he was with the “right crowd”. He liked himself if a girl he liked, not only like him back but had a fan-like admiration for him.
I have noticed that whenever this is the case, people lose sight of who they really are. Every time they look at themselves or think about themselves, it is through the prism of other people’s opinion.
In life, all of us are bullied some time or another. Sometimes by our classmates, sometimes by a parent, sometimes a spouse, a boss, a friend. At times this on purpose, but there are also times when people do this unknowingly. It’s important to know that whatever or whoever may be taking away your humanity from you, can’t affect you so deeply if the locus of your self-esteem is internal – as it should be.
Self-esteem is not swayed by other people’s opinion of you. It’s not swayed by how poorly you did in a test or whether people are calling you ugly. It’s not broken by being jobless or buoyed by being successful – that’s confidence, not esteem. Because self-esteem is the mettle you’re made of. It’s your very fabric. Whenever you see or hear people trying to poke holes in it, I hope there’s someone in your life who tells you : Don’t see yourself through their eyes.
I’m sorry for the loss of your friend. I agree with you that in a healthy and integrated adult, self-esteem is an internal state of strength and core identity that isn’t shaken by every passing event. But/and I would qualify what you’ve written by stating that we begin to develop self-esteem through positive early-life relationships, especially with our caregivers. For those of your readers who are parents or intend to be, please know that the time you invest in giving your child your complete attention, and engaging your child in intelligent and mutually respectful conversation, as well as in a variety of activities, from the fun to the mundane, will go a long way toward supporting the development of healthy self-esteem. I believe every child should have positive interactions with adults of both genders, regardless of the household composition – if you’re in a home with two moms or dads, your love comes first and foremost, of course – but perhaps there is a relative or family friend of the opposite gender who can be a trusted part of your lives as well. I say this in particular because, so far in my nascent counseling career, I’ve worked with a number of teen girls who deeply suffer for the lack of a consistent and supportive male figure with whom to relate. And teen boys who are tight with their moms seem to have a greater capacity to interact and share. I feel sad for your friend’s despair, and that of all who take their own lives.
This is absolutely correct – every single word you’ve written rings true.
Thank you for such an insightful comment.
Art and Soul Space said:
thank you for your wise words
I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and I’m glad you chose to forgive him when he asked. But what a lovely and important post. I hope people who need to see this, will.
I hope so too. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Debbie. I hope you know it means a lot to me.
what a wonderfully written and poignant post. i am sorry for the loss of your friend. life has it’s moments of difficulty. what a touching way to remember him.
powerful story and image. good reminder of what’s important.