Low self-esteem has eroded my quality of life. Most personal issues I have seem to stem from this core deficiency. What are some strategies to combat low self-esteem?
posted by ChipT to health & fitness (13 answers total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
As I approach 30, I've been thinking about the things that I want out of life and why I haven't gotten them yet. More specifically, I've been thinking about the personal struggles I deal with on a regular basis. Depending on the day, I focus on different things. Sometimes, it's self-confidence. I can be shy and this results in insecurities. Sometimes it's self-control. I scold myself for not being more disciplined in pursuing my goals. But I've concluded that, overall, my core problem is self-esteem. All other personal issues I have seem to stem from this core deficiency. And I'd finally like to ask for help.
This is a bit tl;dr. Basically my questions are as follows:
1. How do people/children develop positive self-esteem in the first place?
2. What are some strategies to develop positive self-esteem?
3. How does one retain positive self-esteem (Regular psychological exercises? Mantras?)?
First, this is a list of the ways in which low self-esteem has eroded my quality of life:
1. As previously mentioned, it results in shyness. There is nothing wrong with being shy. And being shy is not a sign of low self-esteem. But for me, low self-esteem manifests as shyness. I struggle to make conversation when I meet new people. I obsess over everything as conversations proceed. Even with people I know well, I am fearful saying something dumb or worse yet, having nothing to say at all. So the friends I have tend not to feel like close ones. And, while I don't actively avoid interactions, I tend to spend more time alone than not. This makes me feel left out.
2. I often feel self-conscious. Of the way I look or of what I have to say. I catch myself speaking quickly, like I want to get it over with. As a result, people ask me to repeat what I've said, which of course makes me more self-conscious.
3. I'm not as ambitious in action as I am in thought. There are plenty of things that I know I'm capable of, but due to a combination of indecision and inaction, I tend to stay in the same place personally and professionally. This indecision and inaction comes from a fundamental feeling that I don't measure up to others who have what I'm targeting. If it's a job, I believe that despite being intelligent and capable, I maybe lack the experience or knowledge required. If it's a hobby, I believe that I lack the skills. If it's a romantic relationship, I believe I lack the charm or the maturity. For any appreciably difficult goal, I'm convinced I'm not good enough. But it's not a fear of failing.
4. Except when it is a fear of failing. I won't try things unless I'm reasonable confident that I can succeed. Or at the least I won't make an embarrassingly novice mistake. It seemed better when I was younger because everyone was a beginner. But now, there are so many people doing amazing things and are my age but more often much younger. I know the cliche, "everyone has to start somewhere" or "everyone was a beginner at some point". Even "everyone has their own strengths", but maybe I'd feel better if there was something I felt I was exceptional at. Of course it's relative and I'm not "bad" at photography or soccer or snowboarding. But when I hope for expert, beginner or novice is disappointingly disappointing. I feel like, at this point in my life, I should have conquered something. But my photos are average or lucky, my programming is flawed, my athletics are mediocre, and I'm surrounded by people who are published, running their own companies and pursuing PhD's. How am I supposed to try anything when the bar is set so high? But of course who set that bar?
5. I can't seem to give myself credit for the things I do achieve. I do have a lot of things to be proud of, but somehow they never seem to be good enough. I'm unable to feel happy or proud of myself because anything I do is but a small step in the direction of a very remote goal. It makes me feel worthless and unaccomplished. And as a result, I feel ashamed and embarrassed.
6. I find it hard to celebrate the achievements of others. Every step forward for someone else is a reminder of how deficient I am. As a result, I pretty much shun Facebook which is essentially a hot spot of positive announcements. Births, marriage announcements or new jobs, all of it is grating. Sometimes, this even turns negative and I find myself actively wishing that someone would fail. I hate to admit that sometimes I dislike people because they're successful and happy. That says more about me than it does about them. I physically feel pangs when a friend announces an engagement. Even party and vacation pictures remind me of how much happier everyone else seems. That's the key word too, "seems." Because most people don't publish when they feel lethargic, unmotivated, lonely, or untalented. You self-select the good parts and edit the bad ones. I try to remind myself of that, but with such a strong concentration of other people's positivity in one place, it's easier to just avoid the whole thing.
How much of my life have I wasted because of this problem? How many opportunities for success and happiness have I missed because I won't allow myself to grasp them? I remember being 14 and hoping that if not today, one day I would feel ok. If, 15 years later, that still doesn't prove to be true, something's wrong.
Most of the time it's subtle. Day-to-day, I feel pretty good. Mostly content even. I have a high tolerance for discomfort to the point where I forget I'm uncomfortable. But sometimes, it's debilitatingly agonizing. I don't consider myself a negative person (though I may be becoming so), but rather than being pessimistic, I feel like I'm simply realistic. Do I need a healthy dose of separation from reality? I try to stay positive but, perhaps because I'm so used to this dejection, optimism feels false and undeserved.
Now here's the rub. Externally, one might not conclude any of these things about me. Externally, I'm a graduate of a very esteemed college with a stable job. I have a girlfriend and I own a condo. I'm friendly and easy to talk to, athletic, and talented in many different areas. If anyone even suspected that I have perpetually low self-esteem, they would question why when I seem to have achieved so much. But I guess that's the thing, it doesn't matter how other people view me, it only matters how I view myself (...unless of course they view me negatively in which case I take their opinions as valid).
Would love to hear about others struggling with similar issues and how you push for progress.