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Uncertainy is a long time friend.
November 4, 2009 6:48 PM   Subscribe

Conquering confidence issues at the age of 25.

My boyfriend and I have been together for 3 years, I'm so lucky to have found him but I feel like I've found him at the wrong time of my life and feel like nothing but a nuisance. I really shouldn't feel this way, he has been absolutely amazingly patient and loving towards me despite my self esteem problems. Before him I've had nothing but bad experiences with men everything from my virginity being taken as a joke at the age of 22 to being the other woman many times. My current relationship is my first real boyfriend and first serious relationship. In the past, I'd met quite a few nice guys but would never open up and always became distant as I always had this fear of not being good enough. I realize all my bad experiences with men is most likely due to my lack of self respect. The problem for me today is that it's definitely not fixing itself, I have found this amazing man and I'm letting these issues I have inside ruin our relationship, I have constant fear that he'll leave me that I'm not good enough and that I have nothing to offer to him. I'm honest with him about my feelings, he tries to reassure me but it really doesn't help much because of trust issues. He's been so very patient with me but I'm slowly letting it pull us apart. I feel like I cannot really love him and make him happy until I'm happy with myself and that's the truth. I cannot give him the love and respect that I believe he deserves because of all these problems I allow my relationships with others to revolve around. He's willing to stick with me through it and says it's not a good excuse to let go of someone you love. All of these feelings just starting to come up again is just hard to handle, if you want you can read my past questions, only to possibly get a better understanding of things. The main issue here though is my lack of confidence/lack of respect for myself and others. If I'm not confident with myself at the age of 25, I'm terrified that I may never get there, I feel completely hopeless.

On a side note, I know this question is horribly written and disorganized, but this was a very hard question for me to formulate. I thought that the hive would be the place to come to ask for the most genuine and thoughtful opinions/advice. I'm hoping I do not get the same advice I've received elsewhere, that I need to grow up and get counseling. Also, yes, I do have an emotionally fragile soul, that's certainly a weakness of mine.

Thanks in advance for anything you have to offer to my trainwreck of a situation.
posted by lwclec072 to Human Relations (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Therapy. Seriously. This is what it's for. If money is an issue, check your insurance, and there are lots of low cost/sliding scale places.
posted by brainmouse at 6:54 PM on November 4, 2009


It's definitely something I'll have to break down and do, it's hard for me to talk about it. That's my only problem with therapy is the anxiety factor
posted by lwclec072 at 6:58 PM on November 4, 2009


I read your question and thought "therapy and time", started to write a response, and then read your previous questions. While often I think it's creepy when people do that, you've posted twice before about your boyfriend acting in ways that undermine your confidence and your feelings about your own attractiveness (like here), so while I still think therapy and time could help you, I think they'd help you more if you did leave your boyfriend.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:24 PM on November 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Ok well maybe I shouldn't have suggested for ppl to read past questions. Because still all of the problems I have post about in the past are still about the same thing this post is about. Only difference is that in this post, I've opened up a little bit more about other things as well.
posted by lwclec072 at 7:30 PM on November 4, 2009


I think it's important to point out that insecurity isn't a disease that needs to (or can) be cured, it's simply a feeling that everyone deals with in some way. Sometimes we deal with insecurity by projecting false confidence. Sometimes we withdraw into ourselves. Sometimes we become suspect of other people's intentions. Regardless of how insecurity manifests in your life, it is important that you realize you are no different than anyone else. EVERYONE experiences this feeling in some way. How do you deal with it then? I find that insecurity lessens when I'm involved in something I care about. Self worth and confidence are not achieved by a change in mindset; I believe it is more of a physical process. Through the process of DOING things that better yourself you effectively change the way you feel. Do something thoughtful for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. Learn more about something that interests you. These are concrete actions you can take that can have a profound effect on how you perceive yourself. Personal change is not a passive endeavor, it is not a battle you can win through thought alone. Take action each day to be the best person you can be. If you do that, you'll go to sleep a happy woman.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 7:38 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you in college or grad school? You could see what kind of counseling services they offer. It should be free and it might be less anxiety-inducing to take that step on a familiar campus setting. For me, using university counseling was a good sort of introduction to therapy and made be more relaxed and open about the whole idea.

I've struggled a lot with self-esteem in the past, and I've just had to train myself to think more positively and focus on things I do like. This is hard for me to do because I'm naturally inclined to worry and assume the worst, but I've gotten better at realizing that my negative thoughts mostly irrational worries and not real-world concerns. Also, a huge development for me was to stop thinking of my problems as something that could be fixed. It's a process, and it's not always linear, one way progression, but something that I just have to work at on a day to day level.
posted by Shesthefastest at 7:44 PM on November 4, 2009


*thoughts are mostly irrational
posted by Shesthefastest at 7:47 PM on November 4, 2009


"Our whole problem is to make the mistakes as fast as possible." - John Archibald Wheeler.
posted by eccnineten at 7:50 PM on November 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Whatever you believe is still a belief. It doesn't really matter if it's true. To be beautiful or to be ugly is just a point of view. To be smart or stupid, right or wrong, is just a concept. Neither is true. Either way, it is just a concept.

What we find out is that every action has a reaction. If I look at myself in the mirror and say, "I look ugly," that is going to make me feel bad. But if I look in the mirror and say, "I look great today," then I'm going to feel good. It doesn't matter if it's true; it's just a choice. You choose happiness or you choose to suffer. That's the whole point.

Every day when you awake, you have that choice. Are you going to be self-defeating today, or are you going to be self-encouraging? You probably won't completely change your self esteem with just an attitude adjustment, but it is a start in the right direction. Just try to start each day by telling yourself you are just fine thank you very much. You'll be pleasantly surprised how that simple thought can transform your outlook.

You can do this. You are worth it.
posted by netbros at 8:01 PM on November 4, 2009


The main issue here though is my lack of confidence/lack of respect for myself and others. If I'm not confident with myself at the age of 25, I'm terrified that I may never get there

I don't think you should worry.

At 25, I was still much too concerned with what other people thought, what impression I made, and generally wasted a lot of energy seeking validation.

By 30, though, I had developed the more confident and resilient don't-give-a-fuck attitude that everyone here loves so much*. While I still trip over my face sometimes, I find it funny when I do now, because I know I'm "allowed" to mess up like anyone else. Overall, I'm comfortable with knowing what I know, knowing what I don't have a clue about, knowing what I'm good at, and knowing what I'm very bad at. Makes me the same as anyone else, on average.

* What? You got a problem wit' dat?
posted by rokusan at 8:11 PM on November 4, 2009


There is no deadline for growing up. You will continue to grow and change for your entire life.

I hear a lot of harsh self-talk in your question. You are blaming everything negative in your relationships on yourself, being upset with yourself for not being perfect yet, and deciding how others should judge you. You cannot bully yourself into improving. Lead yourself gently. Be kind and patient.

Think of it this way: A toddler is learning to walk. She starts by pulling herself into a standing position. She falls. Do we come down on her for not winning a marathon? No, we praise her and try to tempt her into trying that small step again! Praise yourself for your small victories. Reward yourself for them. This is marathon-level difficulty.

Before him I've had nothing but bad experiences with men everything from my virginity being taken as a joke at the age of 22 to being the other woman many times. [snip] I realize all my bad experiences with men is most likely due to my lack of self respect.

These things are not your fault. NOT your fault. They were terrible and they hurt and they were not your fault.
posted by sadmadglad at 8:14 PM on November 4, 2009 [3 favorites]


Your age doesn't matter. People can and do change at any age. You have a boyfriend who understands where you are right now, why you are that way, and is willing to help you through this. It doesn't get any better than that. You know you have confidence issues, so does he and he's fine with it--you are in the absolute best position possible to work this out. It's going to take time, but accept that you're working on it and get started with all this help you have now!

So, yeah, you're not where you want to be, not who you want to be. You want to change. So, start. Realize it's not going to be instant--years, probably. Fine. As long as you're on the path to improving your self image--moving in the right direction--then it doesn't really matter as much where you happen to be right now. Figure out who you want to be. Your boyfriend, your friends, and perhaps therapy can help you get there. Start now.

You're not a bad person. You just are unhappy with an aspect of yourself (you're unhappy that you're unhappy at yourself!), and that's OK. You are allowed to change yourself.


(In the future, a question mark or two will help us find out what you're asking.)
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 6:47 AM on November 5, 2009


Wow, you sound a lot like me when I was 25. I'm 34 now, by the way. It's good that you're realizing this pattern and how it affects your relationships with men.

I found Mr. Amazing 5 years ago, and he has been very patient with me. I struggled with a lot of the same issues: fear that he'll leave, fear that I'm going to ruin it all, etc. I read or heard somewhere that people are self-destructive because it allows them to control the outcome. Take this example of piling building blocks on top of each other: the only way to know when they're going to fall is to knock them down yourself. I'm scared of the unknown, and self-destruction perversely feels safer than facing the what-if. However, life is an endless series of what-ifs.

Do you have a pet? When you adopted it, did you reflect that one day it might run away or that it will definitely die someday? Probably not. You enjoy their cute fuzziness as it is right now and don't let the inevitable future destroy your affection. Newsflash: you're going to die and your boyfriend's going to die. It's guaranteed, but it need not destroy your life as it is right now.

I'm honest with him about my feelings, he tries to reassure me but it really doesn't help much because of trust issues.

His reassurance is never going to help, it's throwing words into an abyss because you don't believe there's anything behind it. You know "the truth," which is that you're not good enough, and you're going to twist anything he or anyone else says to fit that. One time I was dumped by a guy and I kept asking "why? what's wrong with me?" He told me that no matter what he said, I was going to use it to validate whatever I already believed about myself.

I feel like I cannot really love him and make him happy until I'm happy with myself and that's the truth.

That's the common wisdom, but it's bullshit. You're never going to be 100% happy with yourself, but you can still love him. You can't MAKE him happy, though - he has to do that. I love my husband and he loves me, and we are still big bundles of insecurity sometimes. It's a process, so don't think of it in binary terms like happy/not happy. Don't think of it as "someday WHEN I'm really confident, THEN I can..." No. There is no someday.

All of these feelings just starting to come up again is just hard to handle, if you want you can read my past questions, only to possibly get a better understanding of things.

I didn't read your past questions; someone else pointed out that this guy seems like a jerk and you should dump him, and maybe that's true. You will have the same problems in your next relationship if you don't deal with this, though.

If I'm not confident with myself at the age of 25, I'm terrified that I may never get there, I feel completely hopeless.

Again, I'm 34 and I was just like you at 25. Read my past comments and questions, and tell me if you'd describe me as hopeless.
posted by desjardins at 7:35 AM on November 5, 2009 [2 favorites]


I just noticed your title. I highly, highly recommend the book The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. It's short, around 150 pages.
posted by desjardins at 7:39 AM on November 5, 2009


"You have a boyfriend who understands where you are right now, why you are that way, and is willing to help you through this. It doesn't get any better than that. You know you have confidence issues, so does he and he's fine with it"

Except that according to the OP he told her that only men who are dissatisfied with their partners look at other women (and he looks).

lwclec072, I feel like you're getting some especially weird "choose to be happy" advice here. The things is, while ultimately you're responsible for taking care of yourself and making the life you want, organic depression (which I'm not saying you do or don't have) isn't a choice, and neither is being brought down by an unhealthy situation (although whether you stay in it is usually a choice). Sure, there might be some people who can learn to be so detached and self reliant that they can feel great about themselves despite the background noise of a major relationship that's a seriously negative presence, but I bet there aren't many, and really, why bother?

You're still really young (I don't mean to patronize, I'm only 28), and it sounds like you've been through a lot of really tough and intense experiences with men in the past three years. I can't imagine for myself how you could really figure out how to feel good about yourself, or even really get to know yourself, while you're still in a relationship that is apparently hurting and confusing you the same way, and taking so much work itself to fix. Even if you don't DTFMA, could you take a year of space to travel or live by yourself, with no promises of what would happen at the end?

Good luck.
posted by crabintheocean at 9:34 AM on November 5, 2009


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