Improving Social Health
My dear reader, you must have heard of the saying that your health is your greatest wealth, haven't you? Herophilus, the ancient Greek physician, had this to say about about health:
When health is absent, wisdom cannot reveal itself, art cannot manifest, strength cannot fight, wealth becomes useless and intelligence cannot be applied.Indeed, health is the greatest blessing. So today, let me talk about an important part of health that I had neglected in the early years of my life. And that's social health.
I grew up as a physically healthy teenager but socially, I was poor. Very poor. I didn't talk to girls at school even though I admired quite a number.
Like there was this girl named Veronicah Kitmet who I have already talked about before in this lovely blog of mine. I used to admire her when she joined our class in 1998 from another school. She became a consistent feature in my imagination because of the way I regularly fantasized myself taking her out for dates.
But you know what? I never got to summon enough courage to greet Veronicah, let alone share stories with her. Whenever I saw her approaching me on the road, my heart would start pounding heavily in my chest; so much that we would walk past each other without sharing a greeting.
Then there was this girl in my neighbourhood called Twitty who used to come for milk from our home every evening for quite some time in 2001 when I was in Standard Eight. I secretly admired her but as in the case with Veronicah Kitmet, I was too shy to bring myself to sharing my feelings with her. Imagine one evening that year, Twitty came when I was all alone at home and I gave her milk without uttering a word to her. How socially poor I was!
I struggled with poor social health well into adulthood. Like in 2007 when I was a first-year student at JKUAT, there was this lass at the university who caught my attention. She was as cute as the dickens. During one Chemistry lesson, I kept looking at her from where I was seated. But when it came to initiating a talk with her, I found myself feeling too shy and nervous to do it.
Yes, I grew up with poor social health in my teens and well into adulthood which was apparent in the way I felt awkward in social gatherings. And I don't know what or who to blame for it. Maybe it's due to the criticism I received at home and at school where I was often compared to my more brilliant siblings. Or maybe it's due to the confusion that people saw in me, especially at Starehe where I had my high school as well as college education.
Whatever the cause, I am gratefully glad to report that I have grown into a socially healthy young man. These days, I love seeing and meeting people when I am in my elements. And I have discovered that the secret to good social health is working on thoughts. When you correct your mind, everything falls into place.
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Back in 2011, I came across an Issue magazine at the Kenya National Library in Upperhill, Nairobi, that discussed extensively about self-esteem. I found the contents of the magazine so educative, so inspiring, so invigorating.
Unfortunately, I have never seen that Issue magazine again in my subsequent visits to the library. I tried to follow up on the whereabouts of the magazine with some workers in the library but they also had no clue on where it had gone. It seems some guy somewhere walked off with the magazine.
All the same, I have managed to learn more about self-esteem from other sources. And what have I learnt? That there are people with good self-esteem and those with low self-esteem.
People with good self-esteem love and enjoy learning. They respect people of other backgrounds, regardless of their sex, age, race or creed. They can see the truth more clearly and are thus less judgemental. They forge more fulfilling relationships and build happier marriages. And they don't consider others more or less important than themselves.
On the other hand, people with low self-esteem feel inadequate and may thus avoid new challenges. They may engage in people-pleasing activities, they may boast too much and they may trust others' reactions than their own. Their self-worth goes up and down like a yo-yo depending on how others behave towards them. And they may allow others to influence them in negative ways.
People with low self-esteem may bully those they see weaker than themselves in an attempt to feel better. They get jealous very easily and they may do drugs and engage in illicit sex that brings unwanted pregnancies and STDs.
Living with a low self-esteem, as you can see, is very frustrating but it doesn't have to remain that way. I've got a number of suggestions on how to build self-esteem.
First, stop making life a contest. If you do so, you'll feel envious and unfulfilled for there will always be people better than you in all areas of life. Also, try not to compare yourself with others; it's because we are different that each of us is special.
Secondly, find something to do that gives you a feeling of achievement. It could be cooking, writing, building websites or knitting clothes. Whatever it is that you find fulfilling, create some time to do it regularly because as Thomas Carylye observed, nothing builds self-esteem like accomplishment.
Thirdly, focus on your strengths instead of dwelling on your weaknesses most of the time. I suggest you make a list of your qualities, skills as well as talents, then review that list often. It will help build self-esteem.
Fourthly, avoid wallowing in guilt by thinking about all the mistakes you have made. Understand that everyone makes mistakes; it's not only you. So strive to see your mistakes as learning tools instead of as signs of worthlessness.
Fifthly, take care of health. And when I talk of health, I just don't mean physical health but also mental and social health. All of the three are important to a good sense of well-being, so try to work on them all.
Sixthly, improve your mind by reading a book, listening to music and writing a story. It's the best way of improving mental health. And improving mental health builds self-esteem.
Seventhly, build a network of supportive friends. You can join a church choir, an organization or a club that does constructive activities. And in this age of the internet, you can build a network of supportive friends by staying in touch with old friends via email, Whatsapp or social networks.
Last but not least, strive to practise gratitude often. Be thankful for all you have especially health and friends. Also remember this is the only life you have to live; why not appreciate it?