Tag Archives: self-esteem

Unhealthy Relationships: Are You A Victim Or a Volunteer

By Amy M. Voltero

Being unaware of unhealthy relationship is very common amongst us. The dynamic can exist between family members, significant others, bosses, co-workers, schoolmates and friends.  My experience on the subject has surrounded mostly relationships with significant others.

As an addict in recovery, I have become educated on the reasons why I thrived off of such relationships. I am not only recovering from addiction to substances but from codependency, low self- esteem and people pleasing.

When I was not in recovery from these issues, I found myself attracted to the bad boy. Oh yes, the bad boy is mysterious, sexy, somewhat controlling, great in bed, fearless, ego driven and my least favorite, emotionally detached. Instant gratification! Presto!!!!

Let’s admit ladies, the regular guy can seem boring, right? I have now learned that the “regular” guy is the safest route to go, if you are a woman like me.

Seeking a man with this type of façade, has been my biggest downfall. I always say, my first addiction is a man, then substances. In my experience, I have learned that we mostly want what we can’t have. I believe that dynamic exists with both sexes. If you are stubborn like I am, then, you probably won’t give up until you get what you want, OR you will give up when you have had enough pain.

What we don’t realize, or even care about when we are consumed with this relationship, is the consequences that follow the game of cat and mouse.

My therapist has educated me on this type of dynamic. It’s called, “The Pursuer and The Distancer.”  You think he’ll solve your self-esteem, body image, family, and work problems – not to mention your financial woes and spiritual blockages. You believe the “right relationship” or the “perfect man” will make everything better. As we pursue, in order to compensate for some inconsistency in our lives, the distancer will pull away.

The need to feel loved or wanted is a natural. When you have any type of insecurities, or have been exposed to an unhealthy environment, you are more likely to seek relationships which have been modeled in your past.

You find yourself lowering your standards, going to what we call all-time lows. Hitting the lowest point depends on how much pain we can handle before our actual breaking point. It starts off small, like cancelling appointments or other obligations to compensate spending time with the other person. You will make sweet gestures like bringing them a coffee, when you grab one for yourself. Show up at important events, just to show your support. Harmless, right?

Our all-time lows rear their ugly heads when we choose to ignore the warning signs. He or she becomes expectant of past gestures, demand the unthinkable, and manipulate using guilt trips in order to get what they want. They will use the adoration we have for them in order to feed their ego and to maintain control of us. By this point, our insecurities and low self-esteem are allowing this type of abuse to exist.  We think, we cannot do any better, and that the more we do for someone, the more they will like us.

In the end, we end up getting hurt. We have rearranged our lives, emptied our bank accounts, and ran in circles chasing our tails, hoping for returned love and affection.  How could this have happened? I did everything that person asked? The only way to break this pattern is by getting help. Taking a look at yourself and becoming educated about unhealthy relationships is the first step. Becoming aware on the signs of abuse is the key. Abuse comes in many forms, physical, verbal, mental and emotional. Once you can identify these warning signs, you will be giving yourself the gift of self-awareness.

Feeling less than, unwanted, unattractive and unloved are just a few of the reasons that prompted me to add some spice to my life, by chasing the bad boy. My bad boy is all of the above characteristics, and also an addict. Loving an addict, can be the most painful. Reality says, as long as someone is in full blown, active addiction, I will never be number one. There is no way to differentiate between the good guy, and the bad guy, because I made excuses for the unacceptable behavior. I made excuses because I remembered that underneath the addiction, I was a good person.  I didn’t know how to put the shoe on the other foot, without jumping in with both feet. My life became their lives. I can’t say I lost myself, because at that point in time, I never had myself.

Today, I am educated on my personal issues, addiction, self-esteem, and healthy relationships. Just because I have these tools, doesn’t always mean I use them 100% of the time. Recently, more often than not, I have found my toolbox in the basement rather than easily accessible, on my tool belt. Luckily, something greater than me intervened, and saw I had endured enough pain. I didn’t jump in with both feet, but was beginning to try the other shoe on. I am grateful for the pain I went through because it has allowed me to bring myself back to reality. I am writing this for all of you to see, because I am freeing myself from the pain I allowed. Having been educated on the above, I’m aware I took a step backwards and have named myself a volunteer, not victim for the most recent hurt.

I am not ashamed to admit, my all-time lows. If anything, admitting my faults and insecurities on paper, for all to read, makes me a stronger woman.  I hope some of you who read this will identify and take the time to reevaluate your current relationships and your lives. If I have helped just one person, then my work here is done. “ Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail”- Ralph Waldo Emerson




News Flash!! Parents, You Could Save Your Child’s Life

By Amy M. Voltero

I wrote this piece in June, 2012, for a local photographer and dear friend’s self- esteem gallery. The subject of bullying, drug abuse, teen pregnancy, suicide and violence, has been more visible over time. Where does education start? How does self-help play a role amongst the children of our future? How does our upbringing shape our identity as adults?

I can’t stress how important it is today to begin education on the dangers of drugs and alcohol, inappropriate touching, safe sex, strangers and depression. Giving children positive reinforcement and affirmations shapes a child’s self image. Education on the above, starts at home, not in the classroom. Parents, please, please, please, get educated! Learn to talk to your children, and have an open relationship. Most people my age grew up in a home, where the rule of silence was that of the white elephant comparison, and fueled the saying, “The less I know, the better off I am.”

Not true!! Parents, the more you know, regarding proper education and warning signs of depression, low self esteem, substance abuse, ect, the better the odds are, in preventing these issues. Warning signs are, in my opinion are  apparent. The problem is, parents don’t quite know what they are looking for.

Just a little history on how substance abuse and low self esteem has affected my life.Figured it was appropriate to tell you I do  not hold a college degree on these subjects, but I do have life experience! Professors can’t teach my life in a classroom.

Merriam-Webster defines self-esteem as, “A confidence and satisfaction in one’s self.”

As a young child, I struggled with having any self- esteem. I grew up in an alcoholic and dysfunctional household. My father was the best father he knew how to be, considering his upbringing. He was extremely materialistic and superficial. He was absent, emotionally and mentally as early as age five. He wanted his children to be the most attractive, athletic and popular. That meant, pushing me beyond my limits. When he wanted me to go jogging with him, to avoid other children  making fun of me for being slightly overweight.  When dinner was served, he would comment saying, “Are you going to eat ALL that?” In lieu of his comments, I would not eat dinner then proceed to sneak food. I hid my secret eating habits from him, to avoid a conflict and make him happy.

Those learned behaviors carried into my teenage years and into my adulthood. I actually believed that I was unattractive and undesirable by everyone.  So, I picked up drugs and alcohol so I wouldn’t have to feel the pain of my poor self- image. I was co-dependent, which I didn’t learn until many years later. I was attracted to the “bad boy,” and began acting like a caretaker. I was used by every man I dated. These men I dated were criminals, alcoholics and addicts, and had what I thought, more issues than I did. I was attracted to this type of man because of the way I felt about myself. I thought I could save them, in an effort to avoid looking at myself and my own issues.

What I learned after many years of trying to achieve recovery from drugs and alcohol, and therapy is that, I didn’t feel complete without a man. I needed somebody by my side 24 hours a day, because I couldn’t stand the person I had become.

Being over two years clean and having been blessed with open-mindedness, honesty and willingness, I was able to understand that my father was just as sick as I was. Accepting that my childhood was unchangeable, was the beginning of my healing process.  I chose to listen to the voices in my head. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

I also learned that body image has nothing to do with self esteem, unless you allow it to shape your thoughts, feelings and actions.  When you make the choice to listen to negative self talk, you are saying, “I am not worth being happy, and embracing life to the fullest.” You are denying yourself the opportunity to grow as a woman, to your full potential.

My self- esteem today is defined by my accomplishments in recovery, being a single mother of an eighteen month old daughter, Mia, and being accountable and responsible. Today, I am not defined by a man, but defined by my ability to take a stand in carrying the message for women struggling with self -esteem issues and drug addiction. I chose to carry the message of hope to ensure that loving yourself is possible. I love myself, flaws and all. Accepting that there is no such thing as perfection, is a true weight lifter.  I never thought I could ever look in the mirror and like the reflection staring back at me. Today I do. I live an honest life and pay it forward whenever possible.

I am a firm believer that our stories have been written for us. There are signs everywhere and detours along the way.  It lies within our strength, knowledge and desire to choose the right path. Usually, it isn’t until we have had enough pain that we make the decision to change our lives and get educated regarding self-esteem, substance abuse and the negative effects it can have on our lives.  As human beings, we are our biggest critics and worst enemy.  I will end with this, “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by standing in one’s own sunshine. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Get out of your own way, be yourself and love the skin you are in!!!



AMA Takes A Stand On The Retouching Issue

By Ali Fornash


In the recent years, many designers and ad companies have been getting a lot of  (completely warranted) backlash for the retouching they do to photos of the celebrities and models that are used to sell anything from perfume to jeans. Here is an examples for you:

One of the most famously controversal images was released in 2009 of Ralph Lauren model Filippa Hamilton scaled down to about half of her actual size. This new RL ad  was premiered right before Filippa was “let go” from her contract as a model for that company. Reps from RL say Fillipa was dismissed because of  a contract disagreement. Fillippa,whom had modeled for RL for 8 years, claimed it was because she was told she was “overweight” (she was a size 4) and didn’t fit into their clothing anymore.  The retouched Fillippa is to the left and the real Fillippa is to the right, obviously.

I know you are thinking, “Alright, we know that photos are retouched. Why is this news?”  Well, in the last 6 months the American Medical Association (AMA) stepped in and initiated a new policy to prevent companies that advertise to children and teens from retouching photos because they feel as if the photos are skewing the ideals of impressionable teens. They are actually encouraging ad agencies to work with organizations that are concerned with child and teen health to develop new ads geared towards teens that do no promote an unrealistic image. ……READ MORE&#8220