Self-Esteem and Cherry Blossoms

Photo credit: WindyLife@deviantART

I’m currently reading a book entitled “The Buddha and the Borderline” by Kiera Van Gelder. It tells the story of one woman’s struggles with borderline personality disorder (BPD) symptoms for years before having it properly diagnosed, and her use of dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT) and Zen Buddhism to recover. I’m five chapters in, but it’s a fascinating read. Van Gelder is almost bluntly transparent about her struggles, and it’s refreshing to hear someone else go through similar experiences to what I’ve been through in my life.

One of the main tenets of DBT is a concept called radical acceptance. It essentially means that you accept who and what you are, right now, in this very moment, strengths and weaknesses, flaws and all. Mindfulness is a big part of this concept, and the yoga is helping with that. But how do you accept who and what you are when you don’t know what that is?

I thought I’d address the topic of self-esteem today, since that’s one of the parts of the title of this blog. I know I have pretty low self-esteem, but what does high self-esteem look like? So I hit Google to try and find an answer.

The Mayo Clinic was my first hit, in an article called “Self-Esteem Check: Too Low or Just Right?” It talks about healthy self-esteem rather than high self-esteem, and to be honest, that’s more along the lines of what I’m looking for anyway. I came across this passage:

When you have healthy self-esteem it means you have a balanced, accurate view of yourself. For instance, you have a good opinion of your abilities but recognize your flaws.

That sounds so much like what “radical acceptance” starts with. But does self-esteem lead to radical acceptance, or is it really the other way around, with radical acceptance blazing the trail toward healthy self-esteem?

I have so much to learn about this new diagnosis. Looks like I’ll be starting a DBT group therapy of my own on the 10th, so I’ll find out.

In the meantime, I can just acknowledge who and what I am, right now, in this very moment, strengths and weaknesses, flaws and all.

I am a compassionate person.

I am disabled.

I am very talented in the kitchen.

I don’t think I’m worthy of love most of the time.

Sometimes, I believe I’m a pretty awesome guy.

Other times, I don’t think I’m anything.

I am a very good listener.

I get distracted easily if I’m bored.

I’m working hard to improve my physical and mental health.

I’m so tired most of the time, all I want to do is sleep.

I am all these things and more, and I acknowledge them all. Right now, in this moment, it’s okay to be a flawed human being. Technically, we’re all flawed.

One of the minor subplots of the movie “The Last Samurai” is Katsumoto’s (Ken Watanabe) search for an elusive cherry blossom.

The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life.

At the end of the movie (I won’t spoil the rest of the plot), he has an epiphany as he gazes on a spectacular tree of the beautiful flowers, some blowing away on a light breeze.

Perfect. They are all perfect.

Perhaps that’s how we should view our humanity. Perfect in all its imperfections.

I am like a cherry blossom.

I am flawed.

And that’s just perfect.

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