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Allowing others to make us feel inferior
By: BJ Binning

Topics: self esteem, children, marriage, obsession, divorce
Posted by bbinning Thu Jul 17, 2008 15:02:55 PDT
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"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~  E. Roosevelt

 Self esteem seems to be a major issue in our society today and not only for children but for adults too. As humans, our feelings and thoughts about ourselves fluctuate somewhat based on our daily experiences, however, your self esteem is something more fundamental than the normal "ups and downs" associated with situational changes.   For people with good basic self-esteem, normal "ups and downs" may lead to temporary fluctuations in how they feel about themselves, but only to a limited extent. In contrast, for people with poor basic self-esteem, these "ups and downs" may make all the difference in the world.  

During my studies in Educational Psychology, I learned astonishing facts about self esteem and the impact it can have on one’s life. Low self-esteem can intensely affect a person’s psychological sense of well-being, causing them to feel detached from their own feelings and needs and limiting their ability to make healthy choices in every aspect of life (Rogers, 1961). It correlates with unreasonableness, blindness to reality, inflexibility, fear of the unknown, inappropriate conformity, suspiciousness, an overly controlling behavior, and resentment towards others (Branden, 1994). I have recently been privy to a story that demonstrates the prior statement perfectly.
This story began with a woman from Jamaica marrying a man from the United States. The countries have no significance other than the fact that they were from two different cultures.  The man had never visited the Caribbean but was always curious. The woman and the man dated for three short months after which they decided to get married and start a family.
They were a very young couple but instantly the man demonstrated obsessive and aggressive behaviors toward her which she shrugged off thinking that they were normal.   After years of turmoil, obsession, and infidelity from this man, she decided to leave the marriage. She walked away from an abusive relationship with nothing but some of her pride in tact. In her mind, she had obviously given him what he wanted because he literally put her through “hell.” She tried not to ever contact him but they had children together therefore, they had to communicate.
During the first year after the divorce there were constant threats from this man and when she called the police she was told that it was her word against his, therefore, she did nothing. During that year she met someone and married him. The ex-husband called her twice on her wedding day threatening her. He called her while she was on her honeymoon, the first time to say congratulations, the second time to threaten her and the third time to call her names. She ignored the calls and did not make a big deal of it. In her mind, he is dealing with the pain of losing his family.
About six months after his ex wife’s marriage, he remarried which was a prayer answered for his ex wife. What she hoped  was that this would stop his harassment, it did not, it actually escalated it. His aggressiveness toward his ex seemed to get deeper as the years went by. At least once per month, he would present an overly dramatic situation because he discussed his ex wife almost every day, according to sources in the home or around this person. The ex wife was very successful and he could barely hold on to a job which made him even more furious at her. He constantly plotted against her and would stop at nothing to get what he called “revenge.” Revenge on his ex for leaving him.
Five years after the divorce, this man started taking his new wife to the old wife’s hometown. This is understandable because Jamaica is a beautiful place. But where it gets creepy is when he brings back pictures of a woman he thought resembled the ex wife to show their children. He would express to the children that he was trying to get away from their mother but he was unable to do so because he sees her face every where, even on vacation in another country. He has resolved himself to only eating the foods from his ex wife’s hometown and listens to the traditional music of her hometown. When you read this you might think that all of this is because he was accustomed to this lifestyle and in some ways it is true. His ex wife cooked for him every day but he always complained about it and when the time presented itself for them to visit Jamaica he would decline, stating that he did not want to face her family because they know of his actions. This was also true, he had damaged that relationship with her family but they were willing to be cordial to him because this was the person that she had chosen. 
As the years went by he became even more out of control and went as far as telling his  children that they should not eat the food that the mother cooked because Jamaican food was too spicy. Yet, on many Sunday afternoons, he would  his new wife more than 100 miles to get Jamaican food. So maybe he has developed a taste for it and there is nothing to that. For his ex wife, the situation is frightening because the new wife travels with him, knows what he is doing and condones this behavior.   Isn’t this disrespectful to her? Is ever ok to allow your spouse to obsess over a relationship that failed?  She is allowing him to focus on his ex wife and not build a relationship with her. Or is she somewhat feeding off of his aggressions and using it as a common ground in the marriage?
I polled 10 women from different cultures, different disciplines, married and single and  from different age groups to find out what their reaction would be to this situation and here are some of the responses.
In general he's showing disrespect for his new wife (and ex-wife) with his behavior. I would ask him about it, and if he couldn't stop, would first try counseling. If that didn't work, I would probably leave, depending on the circumstances (financial, kids, how he treated me outside of this one very odd thing).   The taking photos of women resembling his ex is most disrespectful and intolerable and suggests he still cares for her or at least is strongly attracted to her. Visiting her hometown might not bother me if he was still close to her family and wished to visit them, but it is pretty odd. I would guess that his ex asked for the divorce, he bad mouthed her because he is hurt or angry and wants people to think he that he doesn't miss her, or to create the impression that it was her fault the marriage failed and that he is glad she's out of his life. Almost certainly he (secretly) still carries a torch for her or misses her in many ways (or may not be very self aware and doesn't realize that he misses her). JM
I THINK THE NEW WIFE IS A FOOL! She needs to wake up and smell the
coffee and leave that man! LW
That is way creepy. Why does the new wife put up with that? BB
Sometimes a woman has to do what she has to do to keep someone in her life. Maybe she is hoping that if she continues to allow him to go to the ex’s hometown, eat only foods from her country, etc., that he would get closure and be able to love her like he loved the first wife. KB
Whatever is the matter with the new wife? Is she ugly and thinks she cannot get anyone else? Even in that case, that is a form of abuse. Why would she allow herself to be treated that way? Why would anyone, for that matter, allow themselves to be treated that way? SK
Needless to say, all of the responses questioned this woman's self esteem and the fact that she is allowing herself to be somewhat abused by this man. Abuse is abuse, whether it is physical or mental and should not be accepted by anyone. You should not ever allow yourself to be disrespected in this manner, and although the ex wife has no control over it, the new wife does.
There are so many steps that one can take to improve their self esteem. I would hope that this woman would learn that this is not appropriate behavior and ask her husband to seek help. The following are some ideas taken from a self esteem brochure I prepared as a part of a program to help people with self esteem issues:
  • Try to stop thinking negative thoughts about yourself. Do not focus on your shortcomings, start thinking about positive aspects of yourself that outweigh them. Stop being critical, counter it by saying something positive about yourself. Each day, write down two or three things about yourself that makes you happy.
  • Aim for accomplishments rather than perfection. It is imperative that you do not get consumed by perfection. Instead of holding yourself back with thoughts like, "I won't audition for the play until I lose 10 pounds," think about what you're good at and what you enjoy, and go for it.
  • View mistakes as learning opportunities. Accept that you will make mistakes because they are a part of learning. What makes us human is that our talents are constantly developing, and everyone excels at different things. 
  • Try new things. Try different things until you find your true talent and then take pride in new skills you develop.
  • Recognize what you can change and what you can't. If you realize that you're unhappy with something about yourself that you can change, go ahead and change it, but do not think you can change someone else because only that person can make that determination.
  • Set goals. Think about what you'd like to accomplish, then make a plan for how to do it. Stick with your plan and keep track of your progress.
  • Take pride in your opinions and ideas. Don't be afraid to voice them.
  • Be a mentor. Mentor a child or young adult who's having trouble or get involved in your community. Helping others and feeling valued can do wonders to improve self-esteem.
  • Have fun. Enjoy being in your own skin and then spend time with the people you care about doing the things you love. Avoid putting your life on hold.


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