Interview with Shereen Abraham

 

Tell me a little bit about your piece Shereen.


They say that the mind is like water. When it’s turbulent, it is difficult to see, but when it’s calm everything becomes clear. Sometimes the turbulence leads one down a very dark path at the end of which they believe, is the point of no return. So why do people end up going down the dark path? The reasons are aplenty, but in my experience the most common one is low self-esteem. We may not be aware of it, but our self-esteem influences our daily life – the choices we make, the way we behave in new situations, how we appear to other people and the way we interact with those around us.


When does this low self-esteem start?


It starts from our childhood – the way we were treated by our parents, our siblings, our teachers, our friends and our extended family members. The way we were treated as children echoes well into our adulthood. An event or a series of events that happened in the past could lead to one having low self-esteem.


Can you explain what is self-esteem?


Self-esteem reflects the overall emotional evaluation of yourself. It may be totally positive, or positive with some doubt; it may be partly negative or totally negative. When it is totally negative, the dangers of going down the dark path seem facile.


From your experience what drives people to that dark path?


In my experience there are a few reasons that are common among the people who reach the brink of suicide:

 

  • Their life seems empty and meaningless.
  • They have nothing to look forward to in life and are extremely pessimistic about the future.
  • They feel unwanted, unloved or lonely.
  • They have self-loathing and believe that no one would care or miss them if they died.
  • They seem to have only bad days.
  • Everything around them seems to be negative.


And again, from your experience, what sort of people have you come across that have considered suicide, and why?

 

  • Someone who was in an abusive verbal and physical relationship, thought suicide was a better option than moving out of the relationship.
  • Someone who always scored the highest marks in class, thought suicide was better than being the one who scored slightly less than the highest marks.
  • Someone who was a beautiful woman both inside and out, thought suicide was the only option when her partner cheated on her with a stunner of loose morals.
  • Someone who was fit and healthy always, thought of suicide when diagnosed with a disease that would leave blotchy, blemishes all over his body.
  • Someone who played and earned very well in the stock market, contemplated suicide when a huge chunk of his earnings were wiped off one day. His reasoning – his inability to downgrade his high-society life style!


The Buddha said; “The mind is everything. What you think you become.” 

 

Just as healthy food and exercise is important to maintain a healthy body, thinking positive and consciously nurturing positivity is important for a healthy mind. The value one attribute’s to oneself can make a big difference.


How does self-esteem affect someone, and how can it be improved?


Your self-esteem, or how you value yourself as a person, affects your mind, body and relationships. Now, because positive self-esteem is both a cause and a result of healthy living, you can take steps to improve your self-esteem just as you can learn to change unhealthy habits. Remember though that change takes time and is an ongoing process. During the initial days your self-esteem can go up or down, so it may help to keep a daily journal to track your progress. With practice, you will start recognizing negative thought habits and its adverse effects. However, self-esteem should not to be confused with self-respect; the two concepts may seem similar but the differences between them are crucial. Self-esteem is based on what you think, while self-respect is based on what you do. Self-respect requires you to accept how others feel about you. Self-esteem values your feelings about yourself. Developing a strong sense of self-respect can help you fulfil your potential, while developing positive self-esteem can help improve the quality of your life.


And this stems from childhood?


Yes, the successes and failures we experienced early in our lives often shape our attitudes towards achievement. Remember learning to skip or to hula-hoop or to cycle or to swim? You may have experienced many failed attempts before experiencing the joy of succeeding in doing it well. Do you remember your first stage performance? Were you speechless with stage-fright or confidently performing your part?  Did you forget the lines midway and wish that the earth would open up and swallow you? Depending on whether you persevered till you succeeded or ran away, can almost accurately indicate how you would handle a tough job interview, pitch for a project, make a presentation at work, handle a heartbreak or negotiate life’s many ups and downs, in your later years. A child who is loved, supported and encouraged will develop a healthy self-esteem. On the contrary if a child is constantly ridiculed or abused will suffer terribly from low self-esteem and may risk growing up to be a dangerous and destructive human being.


How important is it to have good self-esteem?


It is essential to have a healthy and positive self-esteem as it leads to being self-confident... and being self-confident is hugely important because it affects every aspect of our lives. Many people struggle to find self-confidence in themselves and this can end up being a vicious circle for them, because if self-confidence is their shortcoming, then they will find it difficult to become successful. Even from a health and well-being perspective having positive self-esteem is desirable, because when you feel good about yourself:

 

  • You radiate positive energy.
  • Your moods will be balanced.
  • You will be happy communicating with others.
  • You will feel empowered to take on challenges.
  • You will be able to accept criticism.
  • You will be able to deal skilfully with stressful situations.
  • You will make healthy choices in life and,
  • You will appreciate your life.


So right now who you believe you are is who you are, because nothing is more important than how you feel and think about yourself. Sadly, in today’s society not many people love themselves for who they are or what they do, because subconsciously they are comparing themselves to others.

 

Can you learn self-esteem and self-confidence?


Fortunately, yes, one can learn to become self-confident and actually change the way your life is lived. If you are a confident person you will inspire confidence in those around you and gaining the confidence of those around you is key to finding success. The changes that you could make are often tiny as compared to the enormous positivity it can bring to your life.


How can you do this?

 

  • Be kind to yourself and do something nice for yourself – learn some new, fun activity, get a pampering massage done, go for a meal to your favourite restaurant (even if you go alone), go for a long drive away from the city if you enjoy driving, or watch a re-run of your favourite movie. Treat yourself the same way that you would if you were doing it for someone else that you liked a lot. Enjoy the entire experience.
  • Do something nice for someone else – do random acts of kindness, volunteer at a local charity or just listen to someone who needs to talk without being judged. Being of service without expecting anything in return will make you feel really good.
  • Be grateful – for all that you have and are surrounded with.  If you list each one of your blessings then you will be surprised to know how long the list can be. Try this - Keep a Blessings Jar at home, and every time something nice happens to you, write a small note on a piece of paper, date it, fold it and put it in the Blessings Jar. After a few months or a year, open the jar and read everything – you will feel enormous gratitude for the many blessings that you have had.
  • Stop comparing yourself to others – each one of us is created to be unique and special in our own way… the way we do things, the principles that we live by, the values that we hold dear and our endeavours. So compare yourself to yourself… how you felt yesterday, the past week, etc., and how you feel today. Send love to yourself… every time you feel a negative thought or feeling about yourself creeping up. Accept your value as a unique person and it will help you feel happier and more confident.
  • Set small goals – start by setting small realistic goals, achieving them and celebrating the achievement. Slowly move onto setting more challenging goals.
  • Notice the small pleasurable small stuff around you.
  • Practice mindful meditation on a regular basis – when we are upset or stressed our breathing becomes quick and shallow, breathing deeply and slowly instantly calms us down mentally and physically.

 

And remember it is okay to make mistakes and be less than perfect. Just try and be the best version of yourself!

 

CLICK HERE to read a little more about Shereen and to contact her.


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