Posts Tagged ‘Self Esteem’

The nature of pride, and it’s ruin, is to think, speak, or act as if oneself were better than others.

The nature of humility and its salvation, is the thought, speech, and act to become better than one was.

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I just finished watching “The Fault In Our Stars”, a great tearjerker about love, eulogies, etc.

It made me think of what I would say if I wrote my eulogy, and I realize that anything one says or writes, is a part of their eulogy.

I think part of my eulogy would be an apology. Because I can come across as hard and unyielding in the moment, when I know that my intentions are good. And that’s because of pride. Pride is such a defense mechanism, a flawed way of protecting yourself. It is a dis-ease, a dis-ability. It’s a way of hiding vulnerability in the moment. Of not being in the moment. Or perhaps of being someone you don’t want to be in that moment; when the moment is all we have, and that most important moment involves people.

Humility on the other hand, is being vulnerable in the moment, open to the moment and flexible in relation to all of its possibilities. That’s the funny thing about being vulnerable. I don’t know if it’s something that you can spontaneously feel in the moment once you have reached a certain level of awareness. It is only something that you can practice.

It’s like patience. I don’t consider myself a patient person though some other people may, I don’t know if patience will ever feel natural. I think it is something you can only practice. I only know that to date, I do not comprehend the feeling of patience. But with practice ( like choosing to wait in the longest grocery line) patience is becoming second nature. I don’t have to think about it. Perhaps when one reaches a certain level of awareness, anything/everything becomes second nature.

The point being that for me,

humility in the moment ,

is an intermittent short in the wiring.

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Back in part of my grad student days,  the nurses, psych assistants (of which I was one) and the resident psychiatrist were sitting around the station chatting about names as we charted our observations, orders, and treatment plans for our patients. I mentioned that I didn’t like my middle name, which was “Jerome” and that I thought I might like to have something different.

At which point Dr. Kroll asked if I knew what it meant. I said “No…”. And he said it meant “Ye Blessed of the Lord”. Which upon reflection, I thought was pretty cool and asked how he knew.  And he said “My first name is Jerome”.  To which I thought oops, open mouth, insert foot, about mentioning that I didn’t like it in the first place.

As I remembered this, I thought I would look around the internet and see if I could find how Dr. Kroll came by his definition as he is something of a scholar.

Cursory definitions of Jerome such as the one from Our Baby Namer, delineate it as “sacred name, holy name”. Which is a far cry from “Ye Blessed of the Lord”. So in order to see if I could reconcile the two, I dug deeper, and here is what I came up with.

The website “Behind The Name, The etymology and history of first names” defines Jerome as: “From the Greek name ‘Ιερωνυμος (Hieronymos) meaning “sacred name”…”.


It further says that Jerome is used thusly in other languages: ” OTHER LANGUAGES: Hieronymos, Hieronymus (Ancient Greek), Jeronim, Jerko (Croatian), Hieronymus, Jeroen (Dutch), Jérôme (French), Hieronymus (German), Gerolamo, Geronimo, Girolamo (Italian), Ieronimus (Late Roman), Jerónimo (Portuguese), Jerônimo (Portuguese (Brazilian)), Jerónimo (Spanish)”


And that the nickname for Jerome is “Jerry”.


This made me think of two things.  The first was, going off on a tangent, “Huh, Geronimo–the famous Apache leader and I have a name in common”. This because as Wikipedia puts it “Geronimo’s chief, Mangas Coloradas, sent him to Cochise’s band for help in revenge against the Mexicans. It was during this incident that the name Geronimo came about. This appellation stemmed from a battle in which, ignoring a deadly hail of bullets, he repeatedly attacked Mexican soldiers with a knife. The origin of the name is a source of controversy with historians, some writing that it was appeals by the soldiers to Saint Jerome (“Jeronimo!”) for help. Others source it as the mispronunciation of his name by the Mexican soldiers”.

I believe that the Mexicans, speaking Spanish, used it for him because he must have been blessed in order to fight and not get wounded by their gunfire.


Secondly, I think I was probably named after Jerry Littlecreek who was one of my ancestors.


To get back on track, this still didn’t explain the discrepancy I originally mentioned. So I decided to tease things apart. Which one has to so often do, when working with words.

So when “Behind the Name.com” says that Hieronymos means sacred name, they are basically dividing it into two parts. “Hiero” and “nymos”.  I can accept Hiero, as it is the same Greek root as the Hiero in Hieroglyphics–or sacred  writings.

It is even refined a little according to The Free Dictionary which describes “Hieron” as: “Hi´er`on: noun 1. A consecrated place; esp., a temple”.

So if Hieron as applied to a temple means a consecrated (or blessed) place. Applied as a person’s name would mean that person is blessed as well.

But I don’t accept that nymos means name in this case.  Not that it can’t. There is plenty of evidence that it does, but many a word has more than one meaning to it.

For instance, if you look at words which have this suffix:

You find that they all describe “the state of”, or “the state of [being]” something. So Hieronymous can also mean “The state of being consecrated [blessed]”.

The assumed/unspoken part of this, is that the person to whom the name belongs is either consecrated/blessed by deity, or consecrated to deity. Either way, you can designate them as “Ye Blessed of the Lord”, given the Judeo-Christian history of the name Jerome.

Therefore, Jerome, which is a derivative of Hieronymous, can either be literally translated as a sacred/holy name; or interpreted as  a person who is blessed [by deity] in this case–the Lord. Perhaps the latter is a stretch, but it is a plausible one, and stretching can be good for you.

Two lessons I learned along the way:

  • When it comes to Indian names, (or any name for that matter) you may not get the full story or complete meaning at first glance, or if you take it at face value,
  • Geronimo and I have a good name in common.

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Now that I am back, I have been thinking about the different feeling of living on the reservation versus living away from it.  The Anishinabeg are blessed to live in Red Lake. There is a different feeling living there.

Ours is big for one thing, so there is a lot to see. I found myself rediscovering places I had known before, but also discovering new things and new places. As time passes I discovered many things stayed the same and many things had changed.

The scenery is all so varied. There are different kinds of lakes: Red Lake, which is BIG, and small lakes, lakes of different sizes, lakes which have different kinds of fish in them, rivers creeks, swamps. sloughs, marshes,  Forests of different trees: Birch, Jack Pine, Norway Pine, Cedar, Poplar, Maple, Various Oaks and Tamarack, and all the different kinds of plants.

I also found myself enjoying spiritual experiences. I don’t mean supernatural experiences, I mean just meeting another/other beings. Sometimes those were people: family, friends, people from high school, and people I hadn’t met before. Sometimes they were the crows, deer, eagles, squirrels in mom’s back yard, mom’s or the many neighbor’s dogs, the huge bears at the dump, fish in the water, the partridges I heard out in the woods, ducks, geese, loons, a field mouse.

I am reminded that we take so many things for granted. I remember moving here to Missouri and seeing a Nuthatch hopping down (facing downward) a tree trunk looking for bugs. The first times it was such a novel experience. Now I take it more for granted. The point is however, that there are so many strange and beautiful things in nature, and I found myself wanting to travel about the reservation as an exercise in experiencing those things.

One difference, I suspect was that I felt this was land held in common with other Anishinabeg that I could experience as I wanted, subject to my personal controls of common sense, moderation, and consideration, and not to the outside rules imposed on me by an impersonal authority.

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In the old days, the Anishinabeg as a people where virtuous. Parents would not allow their young daughter to meet with a young man unattended. So it was that he would use a courting flute to woo her (and them).

At night, just after the sun went down, the young man would play his flute while hidden in the woods near their lodge. If she liked what he played, she would invite him in for further discussion. If she didn’t like what he played, then she would throw stones at him while making disparaging comments until he stole away in the night.

Mă·nō´mĭn was the name of the flute maker’s beautiful daughter. Her name meant “wild rice”. Her parents named her that for many reasons: one, because they liked the way it sounded; two,  just as wild rice was essential for the survival of the people, they knew they could not live happily without their precious daughter, and three, because her auntie, who was a powerful mĭdewiwĭn, prophesied at her birth that she would have a wild (as in free and unfettered) temperament.

Now being the flute makers daughter, and he having a very young son not yet old enough to learn the tricks of the trade, happily taught Mănōmĭn all of his flute making knowledge. This gave her quite the advantage over her friends. Not that she would take advantage of them, rather, that she knew things that would help her to make a better choice concerning her suitors.

For instance, she knew the four most important things about courting flutes and their owners: how the flute itself reflected the characteristics of it’s owner, who all the young men in the village were; the love magic associated with a courting flute, and how to make her own flute.

You see, either a young man came to the flute maker to learn how to make his own flute, or he came to the flute maker to have a flute made for him. This helped Manomin because she saw all the young men who visited her father.

But this was not all, for in this family, (and so in most of this village) a flute was traditionally as long as the forearm of its maker–from elbow to the longest fingertip. There was a hand’s breadth of space between the mouthpiece and the fetish, another between the fetish and the first finger hole, and still another between the last finger hole and the bottom. The bore was as large as the dominant forefinger of it’s owner and there was a thumb’s breadth between each of the six finger holes.

So, if the owner of the flute was a tall young man with big hands, his flute would be long, with a large bore and so would have a low tone. If the young man was short and had little hands, his flute would be short with a small bore and thus would have a higher tone. Knowing this, Manomin could generally figure out who played what flute.

In either case, the young man came to the flute maker to learn how to play his flute. For her father had to learn how to play his flute well in order to woo and win over his wife, and for a fee or trade he passed this knowledge on to his proteges.

Now, here’s the rub. You see, while each young man was given the basics on how to play a flute well. They all had to practice their flute in private, either deep in the woods, or at their own lodges, which were far away. Not only that, but they also had to create their own songs, becoming one with their own flutes during the process,  so Manomin could not know exactly what songs came from who.

Now, having this knowledge was compounded by another factor. There was love jē´bĭk,  or magic, that could be associated with a courting flute. If a young man wanted to entrance the young woman with his courting flute playing he had to get a personal item or piece of hair from his intended and incorporate it into the decoration of that flute. This was how he would hopefully “seal the deal”.

Knowing this, and knowing that her father wasn’t above trying to “stack the deck” for the  young man of his choice, Manomin was very careful to keep all of her personal possessions hidden away in her Mă·kăk´, which was a birch bark container that is square on the bottom and round on top, and routinely burned any strands of stray hair that ended up in her comb or brush.

Finally, knowing how to make a courting flute was knowledge that Manomin kept up her sleeve for later.


As things go, the courting started in earnest that spring.

It was late enough so that there were leaves on the trees and grass on the ground, but early enough that the mosquitoes and biting flies had not come out yet. It was still cool enough that Manomin would sit by the fire just outside the lodge by a large pile of river pebbles she had gathered over the previous months for that very purpose. These stones were large enough that she could throw them a great distance but small enough that if you were beaned with one it would hurt, but not knock you out.

There were many suitors. Some played so softly and tenuously that she could barely hear them. Manomin figured that she needed someone who played boldly to reflect their bold spirit. So she threw stones at them and they disappeared.

Sometimes she heard rustling in the bushes as if someone were fighting and she would call out and throw stones, letting them know that if they did not let each other play that she would have none of them. So it was by the agreement of the suitors that each one played on a different night until all had a chance.  They would play until Manomin got tired of listening and went inside the lodge or until she threw stones and chased them away.

Some of the songs were unoriginal, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. That got the stones. Some of the songs were painful. Their notes too high. Manomin figured that if she didn’t like the songs, that she wouldn’t like the young man who wrote them. Stones, stones, stones.  They were the recipients of stones as well.  Some of the songs were repetitive. Manomin did not want to have a boring relationship so those young men were stoned.

The songs that she liked the most were those that incorporated the sounds of her favorite courting  bird, the Mahng or loon,  and the various woodpeckers. The combination of tremolo in them was either from the player being nervous which she didn’t mind at all because it made her realize she had power to make that young man nervous, or because he was accomplished enough to deliberately incorporate that quality into his song. She also realized that having such a skill might translate into other areas as well. There were a few flutists whose songs made the hair on the back of her neck stand up, they were so thrilling!

The young men were also tenacious enough that they came back night after night. They would play one song that identified them  and then they would play the new songs they had made up over the past few days.


This lasted until near the end of the Fall when Manomin decided to do something totally unexpected. She pulled a flute she had secretly made out of her sleeve! Whenever one of the young men who were left tried to play their songs she would play hers. One of the young men tried to drown her out. She was sad to have to throw stones at him because his songs were so beautiful and sad that they made her weep, but she knew that if he was not smart enough to figure out that she mattered in this way that he would not treat her equally later.

Her playing initially silenced the remaining flute players until only one was left. He came every night and announced his presence with a short song, but Manomin started playing immediately after that.

Then a wonderful thing happened.

When there was a break in her song, the young man would play counterpoint.  When it was possible, and their flutes were in tune –which was very difficult because the notes of Anishinabeg flutes were not tuned to scale as the Europeans do, but were made to the measurements of the user, the young man would play harmony to her melody. This went on four nights with their songs becoming increasingly complicated and intertwined. On the last night, Manomin gave her final test. She ad-libbed! And the young man, well knowing how she played by this time ad-libbed right along with her. The result was a musical synergy that each could not have developed without the other.

It was on that night, just before the first snow fell, that Manomin invited the young man who would become her husband, in to meet her parents.

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Self-esteem in Red Lake


Self-esteem and Self-respect

As I mentioned while writing earlier in the blog about respect; respect is “an act of giving particular attention: Consideration”, and “high or special regard: Esteem”.

Self-esteem is how we respect or give particular attention to ourselves at different points in our development and the special or high regard we can give ourselves at those times. I think the part we overlook is that we must actively consider aspects of our selves in order to be able to do those things.

High Regard

However, the use of “high regard” begs the question, “In relation to what do we hold our self in ‘high regard’”? We are on the same level as other people. It’s never that we are better than other people. It is that as we develop, we want to be better than we were. A Red Laker who has good self-esteem wants to be the best they can be in the course of their development.

Probably one of the biggest barriers to self-esteem is how we view ourselves in relation to others. If we find ourselves calling other people names for any reason: fool, idiot, jerk, stupid; we have put ourselves in a position where we think we are better than someone and we can condemn them because of that. This is making an insidious mistake—one that is often not easily recognized.

Comparison to Others

The other insidious mistake is comparing our self to other people. There will always be people who we could view as being “better” in some way. They could be smarter, faster, stronger, good looking or have more. We can also feel superior to other people because we have more of those qualities or things. If we do, our supposed self-esteem will vary depending on whether we meet someone with more or less of these qualities than us on a particular day.

Having good self-esteem is not about comparing ourselves to others. It’s about comparing ourselves to how we were in the past and how we want to be in the future. It is about seeing our real selves in the present.

Developmental Stages and Self-esteem

Different things are important in different developmental stages. Peer pressure is a part of one of those stages. Sometimes our best friends are our worst enemies. There is a time in middle school and high school where our need to find our identity in a group is most important. Therefore we make the decision to be who we are, based on the feedback of the group to which we want to belong. At some point in our development, the need to belong to a group should take second place to our need to be an individual. However, many people never outgrow that need. They are stuck in a “gang”, or don’t outgrow high school.

Appearance and Self-esteem

Young people (and older people who think they’ve grown up) can have a hard time with self-esteem because they haven’t learned that:

1)      There are many different types of physical beauty: Curley blonde and blue-eyed is just as beautiful as frizzy brown haired and brown-eyed. Tall is just as beautiful as short. Small-boned is just as attractive as big-boned. Red, Yellow, Black, White. They are different. The only reason that one is “better” than the other is because we like that one.

2)      Spiritual beauty influences physical beauty: There are two extremes of spiritual beauty. They are the “good girl” and the “bad-girl”, or the “good boy” and the “bad-boy”. This area is complicated because our perception and attraction to these kinds of people depends on where we and they are, in our various areas of spiritual development. This is complicated further by situations where people can physically appear to be “dark” on the outside when in fact they are “light” on the inside, or are struggling to be good on the inside.

3)      We need to separate our idea of beauty from that of other people: Red Lakers find other people beautiful for many different reasons. It can be because of the mating imperative, culture, the time in which we live; difference in development, and individual differences. The trick is to recognize our own beauty first, and look for someone who shares that.

Obvious Low Self-esteem

There are obvious cases where not a few Red Lakers lack self-esteem. If we respected ourselves, would we eat or drink poison? Then why would people want to take poison into their bodies by smoking or drinking? Would we neglect someone or something that we needed to take care of? So why would we neglect ourselves by eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or neglecting our health by eating too much–morbid obesity?

Self-esteem is not a simple concept. We view ourselves in many different ways. We respect many different things about ourselves. We need to keep many of those things in balance. Here are some questions to ask ourselves in order to maintain balance:

How do I feel about myself the morning after? When I have had time away from a situation and time to think about it, how did I feel? How do I choose to react in the future?

If I saw the same behavior in someone else, would I disapprove of it? Many times we rationalize our behavior because of the situation. Just as often we condemn others in the same situation because of “their character”.

How do I feel about myself after I’ve seen the result of something I said or did? Did the reaction to my behavior make me feel good or bad about myself? Why?

The answers to the above questions requires that we are able to tell the difference between what other people say and do, and what we say and do.

Good Boundaries

If someone said, “I don’t trust you.” How would that affect our self-esteem? It would depend on whether what they said was true or not. Perhaps they didn’t trust anyone no matter what the other person did or didn’t do. Then their mistrust reflects the person who doesn’t trust us. That other person is not trusting. Then look at our own behavior. Did we do something wrong to merit such a statement or are we innocent? We have to look at ourselves and determine if we are trustworthy. If we are, then we can feel good about ourselves, no matter what the other person says or does. If we are not, then we need to change our behavior so we can feel good about ourselves.

If someone said, “You’re ugly.” Would you believe it? If someone harmed you in some way, would you believe them because they said “You deserved it”? If someone said, “You think you’re too good to drink with me?” How would you reply? If someone said, “You would if you loved me.” What would be your response?

We need to be able to separate ourselves and our behavior from that of other people in order to have self-esteem.

Self-esteem is not an either/or proposition.

Red Lakers are complicated. We have many different areas to respect. Each of those areas has a different impact on our self-esteem as a whole.

Mistakes and Failures

In the course of our development as Red Lakers, we make many mistakes and fail many times along the way. These are a natural part of the growth process. The trick is to remember that we are not a mistake or a failure and keep trying until we are complete.

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