I had left to go to the bathroom all by myself and then to get popcorn and a soda. Looking back, it was a little scary for a sixth grader to go to the bathroom all by himself. I had gone during the third quarter to avoid a big crowd, but there were still plenty of people in the men’s room. Somehow I did it, even though there were old white men with slicked back oily hair going to the bathroom and smoking at the same time. There were also young black men with huge afros using picks to comb their hair in front of the mirrors. A high school basketball game in Southern Illinois on a Friday night was a big deal, and going to the bathroom by yourself in a place like that when you are in sixth grade was a big deal, but I did it. That gave me a lot of confidence.
Then I had to go get the popcorn and soda. This I managed to do also, even though as an introvert I struggle in situations like this, and was on my way back to my seat, which happened to be on the last row of seats under the balcony up an aisle of stairs. I began to ascend the stairs holding the popcorn in one hand and the soda in the other. About halfway up the stairs, I tripped and went down face first, beginning an immediate descent in reverse down the stairs. Somehow, I was able to hold the items straight up and out from my body and when I reached the bottom of the stairs, popped up quickly. Most of the popcorn was still in the box and most of the soda was still in the cup. When I got to my feet, I could feel the heat rushing to my face, which must have been quite red, and I could tell everyone was looking at me and that they were impressed by the grace and athleticism I had displayed in falling down the stairs. Then, as if on cue, the crowd erupted, jumping up and down and cheering wildly for me. It was as if they had stopped watching basketball and were watching me.
After regaining my composure, I started up the stairs again, this time taking two at a time. I reached the top of the stairs and scooted into my seat, relieved that I my ordeal was over. I watched the rest of the game, went home, and suffered no ill effects.
I’ve often reflected on this event over the years. An ordinary person would have been crushed. A traumatic life event like falling down the stairs at a basketball game holding popcorn and soda would send many people reeling, maybe even affecting them well into their adult years. However, I’ve realized that I am unaffected by these types of things because I have high self-esteem. When a traumatic or humiliating event happens to me, my esteem slips down into the normal range for a time before it builds back up. (See figure below.)
|Chris's Self-Esteem Ranges from High to Normal|
I’ve seen this pattern over and over through the years. Poor employee evaluations at work, writing horrible poems, always burning the popcorn when I try to make it at home, inability to stop scaring our cats, or bad hair days at least three or four times a week--none of those things seem to faze me. So now, when something bad happens to me, I’ll look over at my wife and say, “Thank God I have high self-esteem.” I‘ll probably say it a time or two today, especially since it is Thanksgiving Day.