If there’s one thing I know about it’s shitty self-esteem. I’ve had one for decades and I know that sucker is a parasite that leeched onto me just like an alien from a James Cameron movie from the time I was about 11 years old.
Until then I got my identity from my Dad, who thought I could do no wrong. When he died the most positive voice in my head as silenced, replaced instead by the voices of other family members who thought I was too arrogant and spoiled and needed to be taken down a peg or two.
That means since childhood I lost my ability to trust my own identity. I spent decades trying to find the One who, like my dad, gave me back what I lost.
I was doing it all backwards. I was, am and always have been enough to be The One for myself. In doing so I’d find others who would see me for who I was and validate that positive self-image.
Or as Stuart Smalley would say, “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone-it! People LIKE me.”
The trick was (is) learning to trust myself so that I could ultimately trust others. Instead… I found myself floundering from one abusive relationship to the next because deep down I felt that was what I deserved. No one made me a victim, I *chose* to believe I was one.
And perception is a very powerful thing.
Lemme give you an example of the insidious nature of low self-esteem.
It starts out as a little nugget of self-doubt.This could be in anything from the clothes you wear to the things you do or even the friends you make. You’re too afraid to trust in your own ability or in other people, so you begin to feed this nagging question with more and more validation. You start to search for the evidence that supports the doubt, rather than the stuff that would boost your confidence that you are perfectly competent and can make these choices for yourself.
Say you just bought a new outfit. You love it at the store, it makes you feel sexy/pretty/confident. Then you get home and you try it on before you have to go out into the world… y’know… where all those other people are – those people who have historically been less kind than a dressing room mirror.
So you begin to question whether or not the outfit looks good. You no longer trust that initial reaction BECAUSE it made you feel good. Instead you stare at the mirror from all angles with the same, unanswerable question. “Does this look good on me?”
It’s actually a very simple question. You either like it or don’t. But low self-esteem means you’ll talk yourself out of liking it because you feel you’re not supposed to feel confident/sexy/pretty.
Suddenly what gave you all that confidence is now sucking you dry. You no longer trust yourself to make this decision. You go find someone else and ask them, “Does this look good on me?”
You’re not asking so they’ll say, “Yes, I love it!” because even if they say that you’ll still doubt it, and have to go ask someone else. You’re looking for the validation that you look like crap… because that’s the nagging thought you can’t get rid of. And here’s the funny part: it doesn’t matter WHAT YOU LOOK LIKE.
This isn’t about the clothes or how you look in them. What you’re REALLY worried about is that you will be judged for having the confidence to be sexy. Because you think you don’t have that right you will allow the opinions of others – specifically the ones who don’t give a crap about you – to decide who you are.
The same is true with relationships. A person with shitty self-esteem is a bottomless pit when it comes to love. Someone who doesn’t think they’re worthy of you will constantly and forever be picking at you to find the crack in the veneer. They don’t love themselves so they really don’t understand how you can. And of course if you do love them you’ll spend the time trying to convince them why, but it doesn’t matter. This is a bottomless pit, remember. Everything you throw down into it to build them up disappears into a murky black hole never to be seen again. That’s why you have to tell them over and over again, “You’re worthy. You’re beautiful. You’re amazing. You’re loved.”
But until they decide that for themselves, they’re not going to listen to you. They’re going to listen to the people around them who validate the worst thoughts they have about themselves because that’s what they want to believe.
Ultimately you face the fact there’s nothing you can do to convince them they’re worthwhile. And if you have a healthy self-esteem you know you simply can’t go on wasting your precious energy on someone hellbent to doubt it, so inevitably you’ll leave. This just validates their worst thoughts even more.
It’s not that they can’t be loved, it’s that they can’t love. They can’t trust that someone would care about them because they obviously do not care about themselves. They align themselves with frenemies who would use them and treat them like crap because they feel like they’re not worth a more mature and equal friendship with those they admire. This makes them doubtful, distrustful, needy and desperate… which repels other people who could have genuinely liked them. To love/befriend someone like this is a full-time commitment to futility, one that anyone WITH self-esteem will avoid like the emotional plague that it is.
Low self-esteem therefore becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy. The only one who can fix it is the one who has it.
I know this because that has been my revelation this past year. All the mistakes I made stem directly back to my crappy self-esteem. I didn’t think I was worth certain relationships or certain successes, so I surrounded myself with those who would – in ways both subtle and quite glaring – would reinforce that I needed to be kept at arm’s length. That I wasn’t good enough. That there as something wrong with me.
I’ve come to learn the only thing wrong with me is thinking I wasn’t worth a better class of friends. I’m worth more than the posers and the users who would scope out those weaknesses and play them like a finely tuned violin just to get me to do what they wanted.
That’s the thing about shitty self-esteem. Like attracts like. The people you attract usually have shittier self-esteem, and need you beneath them in some way in order to feel better about themselves. And just like you’ll never be convinced you’re good enough, they’ll never be convinced you think you’re low enough. So they’ll whisper those passive-aggressive, backward compliments in your ear to remind you of your place, especially if you start acting out on any newfound confidence.
You want to know who your friends are start acting like you are worth a damn. Those who need you doubtful and insecure will be the first to try and cut you back down to size. If they’re not doing it to your face, they’ll do it behind your back… often to other equally doubtful and insecure people they know they can control by pretending to be so supportive and so sweet.
In the end you realize the Kool-Aid was poisoned and you only have yourself to blame for choosing this kind of person instead of the ones who believed in you so much they didn’t feel the need to throw meaningless words down your bottomless pit.
They were simply waiting for you to figure out you were worth a damn all on your own… because that’s the only way you’d ever fill yourself up.
So when you talk to yourself, get rid of all those doubtful questions and insecurities. Don’t wait around for permission to be yourself and act on your beliefs. Shitty self-esteem is a choice and you can always make better choices. You’ll lose some “friends” when you make these changes but trust me when I say the people who matter won’t mind… and the people who mind DON’T MATTER.
Like attracts like. If you’re attracting the wrong people, then make changes to yourself reinforcing that YOU ARE WORTH IT. But it’s up to you to make it so.
Make it so.