The Self-Esteem Balloon

My first grade teacher brought in a red balloon one morning to teach us a lesson about self-esteem. As she walked us through an example day, she blew up and deflated the balloon to represent our self-esteem: “You wake up and feel good and your self-esteem [blowing] is high. Then you get dressed and your mom asks why you’d wear that outfit and your self-esteem goes down [deflates]. When you get to school a teacher says you did well on an assignment and it goes back up [blowing],” blah, blah, blah.

I glossed over the rest of the lesson because I thought I was great at everything already. Being more concerned with matters of kickball and the rules of the lunch line, I marveled at the idea that something somebody said could change how you felt about yourself. I mean, seriously? Who cares what somebody says about your clothes?

At age 7, I didn’t need a self-esteem lesson.

But a few short years later, it might have been handy. Like when I started to notice that all the sitcoms on TV portrayed perfect houses and perfect families. When I saw fresh-faced and well-toned models on makeup ads and on the covers of young adult fiction. Television commercials, pop music, movies, my ill-advised subscription to TEEN Magazine…everything had a clear message: you’re not enough.

You’re not (pretty) enough.

You’re not (rich) enough.

You’re not (fashionable) enough.

If you have [these things], then you will be happy.

And so it continues, twenty years and counting.

The trick here is marketing. Marketing is about selling things. And making you feel bad about yourself is one sure-fire way to make you seriously consider a product. “Why be you when you can be new?” Wouldn’t new clothes make you happier? Wouldn’t an iPad make you creative? Wouldn’t a new Lexus at Christmas fix your dismal marriage?

I think, deep down, we all know the answer.

Here’s your self-esteem lesson. Believe it. Own it. Refer back to it. Often.

You are enough. Right this goddamned second. You are pretty enough. You are smart enough. You are successful enough.You are enough because you’re you and nobody else can be you better than you. There is no product, no place, no school, no job, no situation that can make you better than you are right this minute because you are you. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can get on with the business of being you. The sooner you realize this, the sooner you can stop wasting your life chasing money or products or relationships or status to fill a void that only you can fill.

Because you’re you. And baby, you’re fabulous.


About the Writer
My name is Kristina, and I’m the brains for better or for worse at Culinary klutz, type-A lunatic. Always trying to keep my cheese from slipping off my cracker.



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  1. Loved this. What a great message.

  2. Alexandra says:

    Thank you for this post.

    It’s so easy to get pulled in and think about what they try and make us think: that one more thing would make us that one bit happier.

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    • Kristina says:

      Alexandra, I LOVED your Depression Lite, by the way. And thank YOU for reading! Aren’t those Lexus ads the worst…wife is all pissed off that inconsiderate husband didn’t bother to pick up dinner so in a huff she grabs her shit and storms out the door to find husband has leased her a $60k vehicle and awww Christmastime happiness abounds. Blecch. That Lexus won’t fix their marriage and an iPhone 4 can’t make me happy but gosh they sure are cool…

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  3. Chris Bird says:

    Amen, sister. I have been spouting this message since high school, and every time my wife buys a $40 thing of eye cream. I try to reinforce the girls at every chance, but it’s hard when their friends and Hannah F***ing Montana are done right up at the age of 10. Thanks for spreading the truth.

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