Associated with self-esteem is self-acceptance, what I wrote on in my last post. I don’t know which leads to the other, self-esteem to self-acceptance or the reverse. The experts can sort that out.
For me, both are connected. A key aspect of self-acceptance is accepting your family and your family history. I come from a dysfunctional family and the trauma we went through destroyed us in ways we may not understand, some more than others. For a long time I glossed over my family history because I couldn’t face up to it. When I came to terms with the fact that I suffer from depression, I wondered if my family members behaved the way they did because of the same problem.
I don’t know for sure, but it became easier for me to accept them the way they are and to do my part to help where I could. My relationships with my siblings began to improve and the hurts I felt because of my family background vanished.
I could look at my family and our history objectively, acknowledging the good and understanding the bad. We (me and my siblings) could admit some things our parents did were wrong but we also know that they loved us and that they just didn’t know how to handle those things.
By affirming our parents, we, inevitably affirmed ourselves and with the advantage of hindsight could stop ourselves from making the mistakes they made. Parents, being human, will make mistakes just as we would as parents ourselves, but that does not mean that we did not inherit some of their goodness.
In my family, all of us inherited our father’s solidarity with the underdogs. He stood up against the oppressors of his time and earned a reputation for it in my hometown. My brothers and I are similarly always on the side of the downtrodden and the marginalised! From my mother, we learnt the practical aspects of living although our father’s idealism often tend to win over practical needs! But, our mother demanded respect from us and all of us tend to relate based on respect. With the Pereira boys and girl, just treat us with respect and you’ll have us eating out of your hands! Don’t treat us with respect and we will be fighting you all your life!
The point is I could accept my parents as they were and it helped me accept my siblings and myself, too. We could forgive and forget and build our lives based on choices we could make in our time. It is another liberating experience to look at our history without hurt.
Even when we have bad parents, we have to affirm them. When we affirm them, we affirm ourselves; when we reject them we reject ourselves. I don’t understand the psychology of it (please ask the experts!), but it brings about healing and resolution. If we have been hurt by them, it helps us understand where they come from and we can forgive and forget. That heals and would contribute to our well-being. And, we learn to stop the wrong in our generation. That is liberating!