by Dr. Marilyn G. Chotem – October 2005
Bi-monthly "Adaptations" Column in the Lifestyles & Culture section of
The Canadian Immigrant Magazine.
When I close my eyes and think of autumn, I see warm colours and rich images of falling leaves, harvest moons and spectacular sunsets. I also look forward to the annual trek to the farmer's roadside store in Langley. We load up on apples, pears, potatoes, onions and squash to get us through the next months, and at prices well below supermarket fare in Vancouver. Indian summers delay the inevitable return of winter's ruthless measures. It is truly a time to count our blessings.
Harvesting the earth reminds us of our personal fruitions. How are we using our talents, sensitivities, strengths and character? Recognizing your individuality and your contributions to your environment, however small, is good for self-esteem building.
Self-esteem can never be underrated, in my mind. Low self-esteem robs us of the confidence to use our potential and makes important relationships seem frightening. Self-criticism can become so habitual, we stop noticing its negative impact on our mood, self-worth and relationships. Low self-esteem is the hidden cancer in our social fabric, and well worth fighting, consciously.
Fall is also a time of fresh starts. There is hope in new beginnings. We may hope to make new friends, do well in school, get a better job or learn a new hobby. The possibilities seem more plentiful when we are refreshed by summer breaks and not yet weighed down by excess demands or bad weather. This rhythmic cycle of returning to tasks after summer holidays gives adults and children alike a shared enthusiasm for routine structure.
We need structure and routine, but we also need to stretch out of the usual to actualize new areas of innate potential. We need to challenge our self-limiting beliefs and complacencies. Discovering new interests, capabilities or responsibilities helps us feel more alive and more fulfilled. It is also another aspect of self-esteem building. We need to feel purposeful and to take pride in our contributions, however small or large. We are needed and we are connected. We all matter.
So take some time to marvel at your own rich colours and the interesting ways you change the lives of those around you.
Dr. Marilyn G. Chotem, Ed.D., is a registered psychologist #773 with a private practice in North Vancouver. Of Russian-Jewish heritage, Chotem was born in Seattle, Washington, and moved to Canada in 1974.