I’ve suffered from low self-esteem all my life. Yet it’s only in the past few years that I’ve really come to realise it’s importance for everything else that I want.
Low self-esteem is like Impostor Syndrome. But where you normally doubt your skill and competence in a particular field, here it encompasses your whole life.
Self-esteem or self-worth is something of a controversial subject. We know its importance, we can see how anxiety and depression are linked to it. Yet we also recognise it can become a narcissistic self-obsession.
For me, I never gave it enough importance. I learned to be more self-effacing, and modest, but looking back it was worse. I was self-destructive, very self-critical and I never felt I deserved happiness or success. The shame I felt for being a shy misfit has been with me for a long time.
Such an attitude is what made me turn away from the riskier but more rewarding choices. Instead, I took the safe option and avoided going after what I wanted.
But it’s a negative circle: I don’t deserve > I don’t try > I don’t achieve > back to I don’t deserve. We define our self esteem based upon what goes on around us.
The quest to address my unhappiness for the past fifteen years then has been somewhat misguided. I read up on many different subjects but failed to identify the most important factor, how I felt about myself.
My own self-worth didn’t change much. I learned many things about happiness, success, motivation, purpose etc. So I can talk-the-talk, but I failed to act upon them. Why, because I didn’t feel I deserved it. I didn’t walk the walk, I couldn’t.
My lamentation at my life choices and the regrets it brings drives home to me just how much I have neglected valuing myself as a person. To know and believe that I have something to contribute, that I do deserve a great job, an amazing partner, and that my life has value.
It’s here that those of us who feel anxious, unworthy, or depressed need to pay attention. It’s those of us who need to work on our self-esteem most of all. It might mean seeking professional help, reading self-help books, watching videos and more.
It will be a long struggle, but it’s worth it because without better self-worth you won’t try to find success and happiness. None of it will matter because you feel unworthy.
Here are just a few resources to get you started.
The Book Self Compassion by Kristin Neff help me realize being critical of myself wasn’t working, but having compassion, help me feel a lot better and avoid the trap of egotism and narcissism. The aim, to build up yourself self-image. It’s not about praising yourself to the point where you become bloated in narcissistic self absorption.
Keep it real. Keep the ideas about yourself grounded in the reality of the plausible. Know that you are worthy of love, success and happiness, even when you do mess up.
It’s will take some time to do this because it always takes time to alter the way you think. Replacing negative self-talk with healthier alternatives is the process you need to go through.
Not just to think, but know in your heart that you do deserve something better in life. To have the confidence to take some risks, and go after what you want in life. That girl or guy, the dream job, the new house. To develop a skill or gain knowledge. To help others and get paid for it. The life for you is out there, but you have to know you deserve it.
If you already have the dream life then it’s spending time appreciating it without the gnawing doubt inside that says you don’t deserve it.
It’s all possible, perhaps only possible, when you have the right foundation. When you no longer wage war upon yourself and instead make peace. Accepting that you’re fine the way you are and deserve all the love and joy that finds its way to you.