I wasted 20 years of my life concentrating on something so stupid, it is embarrassing to admit.
Between the ages of 14 and 34, I wanted to lose five pounds.
I tried every single diet on the earth, from Scarsdale to Atkins and back. I believed if only I were skinnier and prettier, everything would be perfect.
But I had three major experiences that knocked that belief right out of my mind and my life… although admittedly, it took a long while.
When I was 18, I went to college, and while away from my parents, I was finally able to control my eating enough that I lost those five pounds. And what happened? Did I suddenly feel terrific and grand? Did the universe open up and Buddha come for a personal visit?
Just the opposite. I felt miserable and empty, like a blank sheet of paper with nothing on it. It turned out that being pretty and skinny was not good enough. I don’t believe it’s good enough for anyone. So I got busy working on a career instead.
But I still struggled with that five pounds–on and off. So it went.
About five years later, I spent my first summer working in Yosemite. After hiking for a month in a natural environment, I felt beautiful for the first time in my life. I had no mirrors, I had no eyes upon me, and I had very little money. But I had my own special connection with the world. It was a revelation. I wondered why no one had mentioned the wonder tonic of the wilderness to me before.
But I could not stay in the mountains forever. In the fall, I would come down from the Sierra Nevada and begin fighting with that five pounds yet again.
What finally ended my obsession was no diet. It wasn’t a good friend, a loving boyfriend, or a series of tips that I read in a magazine. I began to examine my life and question what I could offer to others. How could I be of service? I didn’t want to collect a bunch of crap and buy a house and call myself a success. I understood that was an empty dream and a lonely path. It was not good enough for me, and I don’t believe it’s good enough for anyone.
I immediately began working towards offering something of real value to others. Perhaps I could teach writing, or maybe I could return to journalism. I renewed my studies, went back to school, and restarted my life. And then I lost five pounds—without trying. I haven’t seen them since. And I don’t care.
The primary meaning of esteem is to have value. To truly have high self-esteem, ironically, we have to spend a lot less time thinking about ourselves, and much more time developing our passions and our skills and sharing them with others.
Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?”—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Read more from Deanna Lynn Wulff, Stonewear Grassroots Team member, on her blog Minerva’s Moxie