SELF-ESTEEM - I need that. In Megadoses.
December 19, 2013 1:07 AM   Subscribe

Time to rebuild my psyche. I've been somewhat of a target for the narcissism, drama and toxicity of an entire family for too long. Extreme emotional abuse. Now, it's time for a COMPLETE make-over. This stuff has effected me to the point where I was depressed with an eating disorder and in general just extremely low-achieving in life. So low, it's pathetic - but given the circumstances, understandable. So - my question is this: I am looking for FREE resources, books, seminars, hidden gems out there ( you can memail if that's preferable) on the exact steps, thoughts and actions required to begin to build self-esteem.

Secret Santas, you're welcome to join in as well. I am just too old, too tired and too sick to continue to live from this low-grade state of existence a moment longer. Now - I have to shine. I have no clue, no idea, no support, nothing that will indicate to me how this is done, how it pans out, what it feels like or what the stages are. I'm not seeking anything from Tony Robbins or any other so-called *guru* out there. What I am looking for is solid, peer-based, metaphysical, spiritual, essential soul work. Been researching this for years and years and still have come up empty handed. If there's anything you can offer to this, I am truly all ears. Thank you in advance!
posted by watercarrier to Science & Nature (16 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
A similar question was just asked here:
posted by learninguntilidie at 1:32 AM on December 19, 2013

Tara Brach is a psychologist and founder / teacher at a meditation center in Washington. She has a wonderful podcast that focuses on mindfulness meditations, building compassion for yourself, getting in touch with your true self, etc. She really goes in-depth with specific ways to cope with whatever difficulties you might be facing. You can stream her talks and guided meditations from the website linked above or download her podcast for free on itunes and also through the podcast app on iphone.

Listening to her podcasts has done SO much to help me build self compassion, strength and awareness during some really tough situations. I hope they will help you too.

I'm so sorry you're having a hard time right now, things will get better.
posted by lettuce dance at 2:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

What is your current situation with your family? I don't know enough to suggest that you cut them off, but it is hard to heal if you keep exposing yourself to the poison.

Harriet Lerner's books, such as The Dance of Intimacy, can be helpful for learning to deal with difficult people.

As far as self-esteem building work - books are great, but there's nothing like doing things. Build a new skill, try something you've always wanted to try. Join Toastmasters - commanding the attention of an entire room is pretty good for your self esteem. Start running. Learn a language. Obviously these are just suggestions - do something that speaks to you.
posted by bunderful at 4:13 AM on December 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Go volunteer to serve the truly disadvantaged, oppressed, and impoverished. Your plan to combat narcissism with more narcissism ("soul work" to build "self esteem") is circular. Learn what people struggle with that can't be fixed, and the gratitude for your blessings will overwhelm you.

Stay away from the metaphysical quackery. It will let you down. You'd be better off joining an actual spiritual community of whatever sort appeals to you.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

There is Nothing Wrong With You by Cheri Huber. A Zen-based course in recognizing and disidentifying with the mean voices in our heads.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:18 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Go volunteer to serve the truly disadvantaged, oppressed, and impoverished.

Seconding this. Seeing how fortunate I am really changed how I think about myself, my role in the world, and my relationships with others.

I also think that improved self esteem is not something you can "teach" yourself through self-help books, seminars, and the like. The best way to increase your self esteem is through experiential learning. I benefited personally a great deal from finding an intellectual pursuit that appealed to me and gave me new ways to frame my thinking. You might benefit from that, or from something similar - meditation, a new hobby, a new academic course, etc. - all of which can give you a new perspective on life. You might also consider casually studying psychology to learn more about what causes poor self esteem, why we experience it, etc. Sometimes knowing the scientific roots of something makes it easier to move beyond it.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 5:59 AM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

This website ( talks about the importance of being kind to ourselves even when (especially when) we are feeling bad about ourselves. Also check out stuff from Brene Brown.
posted by neutralmojo at 8:00 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

Friends. Even if you're introverted, connect more with the friends you have. Make time for other people, listen to their problems.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 8:25 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

When you are far far down, I think it's important to start small and build your foundation. As your foundation gets stronger, your willingness to reach out and to risk increases.

In practical terms, the best way to improve self-esteem is to learn a new skill. So, start with a small project. Replace a water faucet. Learn how to cook a new dish. Try a simple craft.

Challenging yourself, and figuring out how to resolve any problems that arise during that challenge, will help you prove to yourself that you can do things, and that by virtue of knowing how to do things, you have worth.
posted by vignettist at 8:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I agree that finding something challenging to do and becoming good at it is a great way to boost your self-esteem. It could be something physical like doing a Couch-to-5K or something more intellectual like reading a difficult book, but actually accomplishing things you set out to do is so great. (You have to be realistic about setting your goals, though, of course!)
posted by mskyle at 9:38 AM on December 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

While I agree that volunteering is a worthy cause, doing so in order to see how well off you are compared to others strikes me as pretty repugnant. It is possible for dirt poor people to be better off mentally than someone with significant assets, and using them to make yourself feel even worse about yourself is, well, using them.

Volunteer for a cause that you support, not because you need to feel better about yourself, but because you want to support that cause. Self-esteem will follow from that.
posted by disconnect at 10:40 AM on December 19, 2013 [6 favorites]

I think there is such a thing as healthy self regard, read up on inner child work, think back to childhood passions and check out the sensitive podcats by Kaleah La Roche.. and stuff on boundary building.
posted by tanktop at 11:35 AM on December 19, 2013

Martial Arts.
posted by luckynerd at 1:04 PM on December 19, 2013

I have to say that Spitbull's degrading comments are not supported by everyone here. Certainly not by me.

You are not being narcissistic by trying to heal the parts of yourself that have been damaged by others. I like Tara Branch. I would also suggest reading up on how damaging perfectionism is to the psyche.

I'm in the same boat, so I can't offer too much in the way of guidance, but I will say that a big breakthrough for me came when I had a good, long talk with a compassionate friend (also a good listener) about my deep, core belief that I'm not supposed to exercise personal power or influence for my own purposes. When you are around narcissistic people, your needs and desires get pushed aside in favor of theirs. Eventually, that feels normal and even right.

I think it's our core beliefs that make up the foundation of our self-image and sense of self-worth. Maybe sites like
would help?
posted by SarahBellum at 9:08 PM on December 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone. Will take this one step at a time. Also found this to add to the mix -
posted by watercarrier at 1:40 AM on December 20, 2013

Self-esteem is very much related to perception. As a human being who interacts with reality, there are some things you have control over (which you may choose to change in healthy ways), and some other things that are simply your context, or things that happen around you, or to you, and you cannot change these. You can however teach yourself to change your perception of those things which you cannot control (things such as The Past, or the fact that someone you loved dumped you, etc.).

I had extremely low self-esteem as a result of childhood abuse. When I hit rock bottom and was thankfully able to get therapy through my insurance, my therapist decided to train me in willfully controlling my perception of things. It’s a lot of work at the beginning, but then it becomes second nature.

If you are not willing or able to do therapy, consider the Mood Gym. I swear it provides exactly the same kind of information therapy gave me. What you will learn here is to recognize patterns of thought that not only make you miserable, but also make your misery a self-fulfilling prophesy (read this study on how when you are convinced others expect you to fail your performance actually suffers). These unhealthy and irrational patterns of thought are called Cognitive Distortions. You need to get good at spotting them when they crop up in your brain, and once you recognize them as irrational, you must replace them with what is more likely to be reality.

Another interesting concept to read on is Explanatory Styles. Pretty much, when faced with an upsetting situation, you want to explain things in a positive way. Explanatory styles are based on whether you think an event is caused by you VS. others; is permanent VS. temporary; or is global VS. specific.

1.Let’s imagine that you said hi to your coworker ”Bob” and he gave you an ugly look and ignored you.
Internal explanation related to you (“He is mad at me, what did I do?!?”)
External explanation related to Bob, or the weather or whatever (“looks like Bob is having a bad day”)

2. Now, let’s say you have been applying for jobs but have not had luck for a couple of months:
Permanent explanation based on everlasting shittiness (“people can tell I just AM an incompetent loser, why am I even trying?”)
Temporary explanation based on the current circumstances (“Maybe people aren’t impressed with the look of my resume; I will redesign it and make it trendier.”)

3. Finally, let’s say your SO left you without so much as a good bye text message.
Global, pervasive explanation (“Nobody I love ever sticks around, sooner or later they see who I really am and leave me”)
Specific explanation (“I am hurt, and I wish Pat had told me what provoked this. All I can do is be strong and move forward. I will get over this.”)

See that this does not mean you are denying the issues. You recognize them, and you choose to perceive them in a rational way, avoiding jumping to irrational conclusions (like all the cognitive distortions that blame you or confirm the world is against you), blaming yourself when you are not to blame, or blaming yourself in ways you cannot resolve.

Sometimes you WILL fuck up. Everybody does. What matters is that you know when you actually have fucked up, and how you deal with it in order to come out of the issue as someone who moved forward in knowledge, experience and maturity.

And lastly, be NICE to yourself. Treat yourself like a guest. I mean it. If you drop a plate and brake it don’t tell yourself off mentally, realize it’s just a plate, and treat yourself with kindness, respect, and patience. Eventually you will start to also love yourself. Also, this will teach you to be more compassionate in the reading of other people’s characters. If someone cuts you off when driving you can choose to think “WHAT AN ASSHOLE” or “who knows what kind of day this person had?” Completing the circle, a more compassionate reading of others will make it easier for you to believe people are more likely to have their own issues, rather than to simply hate you for being YOU.

Message me if you have any questions or feel like talking. I have been where you are and this week, two years after I started my mental makeover, I finally completed my treatment for depression. I am officially not-depressed for the first time in more than 10 years!
posted by Tarumba at 5:50 PM on December 20, 2013 [4 favorites]

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