Self-Esteem by Susan Peabody Mar 13, 2015 12:49:38 GMT -8 havefaith, loveellen, and 4 more like this
Post by Susan P. on Mar 13, 2015 12:49:38 GMT -8
Adapted from her book Addiction to Love
One of our members posted recently about self-love. She said it was the key to recovery. She is absolutely right. Love addicts are alienated from the most important kind of love, the love we offer ourselves. Do not worry about becoming self-centered. This won't happen. You will just find serenity and an inner contentment beyond description. This will make it easier to wait for the right partner to come along and to weed out people who are not good for you. Here is an article about how to build up your self esteem.
From Soren Kierkegaard in Works of Love. . . "When the melancholic dejectedly desires to be rid of life, of himself, is this not because he will not learn earnestly and rigorously to love himself? When a man surrenders himself to despair because the world or some person has left him faithlessly betrayed, what then is his fault except that he does not love himself the right way."
It is hard to know whether we are born with self-esteem, and then sometimes lose it, or whether we are born without it and never get a chance to develop it. Either way, the lack of self-esteem (what we call low self-esteem) is a painful disorder. It can be seen as both a mental and spiritual wound.
Even if children are born with a natural reservoir of self-esteem, they need to be validated by the people around them if they are to build on that sense of self-worth. Love and attention are the most important forms of validation. Unfortunately, sometimes things do not go the way they should and children do not receive the nurturing they need to thrive. Instead they are neglected, abandoned, and sometimes abused. This causes children to unconsciously assume that something is wrong with them. They don't want to believe that the grownups around them are bad (this would be too frightening), so they conclude that they themselves are bad or flawed. If they are flawed, then they assume that they are worthless.
Neglect can range from mild to severe. Abuse can be sexual, verbal, or physical. Shaming a child is the worst kind of verbal abuse. It robs children of a positive self-image. (It is important to note that not all neglect and abuse occur inside the home. Many children are neglected or abused at school.)
It isn't always easy to measure the relationship between the degree of neglect or abuse, and one's level of self-esteem. Usually, the more you were neglected or abused the less self-esteem you have. However, this is not the only factor that should be considered when trying to measure the impact of neglect and abuse on self-esteem. One should also consider the level of sensitivity each child is born with and any insulation they might have had while growing up.
Sometimes neglect and abandonment do not stem from the absence of love, it is unintentional. For instance, the death of a parent is unintentional, but it is perceived by a child as abandonment. Many children feel abandoned just because their parents have to go to work. Even if neglect is unintentional, the impact is the same. Children feel something is wrong with them, and they develop low self-esteem. When I was five years old, my mother got very ill and I was sent to my grandmother's house. I was not intentionally abandoned, but I felt abandoned and neglected. When I came home, I was not the same child, and the perceived abandonment contributed to my low self-esteem.
Trauma, even the kind that is unrelated to neglect or abuse, can also rob children of self-esteem. This is because children typically think that they are bad when something bad happens to them. (Unintentional trauma can be an accident, a prolonged illness, a frightening experience, etc.) This is a cultural belief as well. People throughout the ages have associated a carefree life with worthiness. They think they are bad if hardship comes into their lives and good if there is abundance. In the Bible, Job asks God why he is suffering such hardship since he was such a good servant.
Parents are also like mirrors, and should reflect an image of loveliness to their children. When parents are shame-based, or have low self-esteem, they reflect a negative image to their children who then conclude (unconsciously) that they are flawed as well. This is how parents pass on shame and low self-esteem even when they are trying to be good parents.
Once a child has low self-esteem, it begins to feed on itself. Due to their poor self-image, children are incapable of compensating for neglect and abuse by loving themselves. They are also unable to accept the small of doses of love their parents do provide, or the love of other people they may meet as they are growing up. This triggers more shame and low self-esteem, which in turn produces other painful emotions and conditions such as:
feelings of alienation
a profound hunger for love
an exaggerated fear of abandonment and rejection
feelings of deprivation
feelings of emptiness
confusion or fear when love is available
anxiety when things are going well
some kind of addiction
There are numerous ways that these painful feelings might impact a person's life. Some people will become painfully shy, while others will have illusions of grandeur to compensate for a poor self-image. Some people will lack ambition, while others will be over-achievers. Many people will become people pleasers, while others go to the other extreme and become anti-social. One of the most serious consequences of low self-esteem is the self-loathing that results in self-mutilation.
Most people with low self-esteem suffer emotional pain. Fortunately, this pain can become a bridge to psychological healing. At some point pain becomes an identified problem. Then the person is motivated to get help.
Building Up Self-esteem
I want to start out by saying that some people have to work harder than others to reclaim their self-esteem, and twice as hard as hard to keep it. It would be nice if once we all felt good about ourselves we could maintain that feeling, but usually it doesn't work out that way. Self-esteem can be elusive. One minute it's there, and the next minute it seems to have vanished. I would also like to point out that while many of the following suggestions will help you build up your self esteem by validating yourself, other recommendations will encourage you to utilize the validation of others to enhance your self-esteem. This may seem contradictory. Many people feel that we can love ourselves unconditionally from within and have no need for the love of others. However, I feel that we do need some outer validation. We are only human, and no matter how strongly we believe in ourselves we need a little support. What is important to remember, is that our validation of ourselves should come first and it is more important that what others think of us.
1. Adopt an attitude of self-acceptance or self-love. This means really understanding that you are a worthy person despite your shortcomings. This is a mindset.
2. Once you have a general acceptance of your worth as a human being, spend some time focusing on your specific attributes. This enhances your self-worth. Just don't get carried away.
3. As part of your new positive thinking campaign, learn how to superimpose new information over your old negative tapes. (Negative tapes are all the hurtful and inappropriate things people said about you while you were growing up.) This is the best way to diminish inappropriate self-criticism which erodes self-esteem.
4. Reclaim your self-respect -- the pride or satisfaction that comes from:
Honoring your own value system
Handling adversity well.
Self-respect, which is a kind of conditional love, does not necessarily contradict the notion that you should love yourself unconditionally. Both concepts are important to maintain self-esteem. You must try to find the balance between loving yourself unconditionally and pushing yourself to do things that will engender self-respect.
5. Surround yourself, whenever possible, with people who affirm you (people who like you just the way you are). Like it or not, your relationship with others can erode your self-esteem. So make a point of choosing your friends carefully. You did not have a choice about this as a child, but as an adult you are free to pick and choose most of your companions.
6. Consider reading books about building up your self-esteem and healing your inner child. This promotes awareness which is an important step is overcoming low self-esteem.
7. Get to know yourself -- who you are, your values, needs, wants, taste, etc. How can you value what you do not know?
8. Stop trying to be perfect. No one is perfect. We all live in the shadow of perfection and are perfectly imperfect.
9. Do nice things for yourself. Take care of yourself. This self-care validates your self-worth.
10. At the same time, do nice things for other people. There should be some balance in your life between taking care of yourself and being kind to others.
11. Stop comparing yourself to others. You are special in your own way and this is the attitude you must have about yourself.
12. Learn how to receive, especially if you are a people pleaser or have always had a monopoly on giving. Stop dismissing compliments and returning gifts. Let the love come in.
13. Be creative. Everyone has a talent and they should use it. This stimulates self-satisfaction and reinforces the positive things you have been thinking about yourself.
14. Stand up for yourself, especially if you don't usually do this. Remember that you value what you take care of. Standing up for yourself means:
Setting limits (saying no)
Expressing your opinion
Walking away from neglect or abuse
Being assertive when appropriate
No longer apologizing when you haven't done anything wrong.
15. Make amends if you have hurt someone. (If you are codependent make sure you are the guilty party. Codependents are known to apologize just to keep the peace or out of misplaced guilt.)
16. To protect your newfound self-esteem, prepare yourself mentally for those times when people try to drag you down (people you can't avoid like co-workers). Learn how to keep from taking them so seriously, as well as how to filter out inappropriate criticism.
17. Some people just can't wake up one day, after years of devaluing themselves, and suddenly know that they are worthy people. If this is true for you, you may need something to take the place of the mirroring of love that you did not get from your parents when you were growing up. You may need a dramatic shift in consciousness before you can practice self-acceptance. This shift in consciousness might occur if you awaken to the love of a “Higher Power.” In other words, when you know that you are loved unconditionally by a benevolent force in the universe it is sometimes easier to take a second look at yourself and conclude that you are a valuable and worthy person.
If you work very hard on this task of building up your self-esteem, you will have taken a great step forward. Your life will change and you will be genuinely happy—perhaps for the first time in your life. And it gets better. There is no end to the happiness you will know when you love yourself.
Write about your own self-esteem in . . .