There are a multitude of reasons we might suffer from low self-esteem or low self worth. Some of us might have grown up with challenges of anxiety, depression, dyslexia or attention deficit disorder and weren’t graded as high as their friends. Others maybe had parents who got divorced and internalized the message, “It’s my fault, I’m not worth them staying together.” Or maybe a parent left altogether leaving a sense of not worth love. It could also be that some may have suffered a trauma of physical or emotional abuse and felt they deserved it and therefore felt less than. The bottom line is that we internalize such intense self-judgment that our self worth is nowhere to be found. We are constantly re-traumatizing ourselves with this barrage making it impossible to climb out. We do not accept ourselves and self-love is a distant, if not rejected concept.
It may seem so simple to say, “Just love yourself”, but it is anything but easy. The practice of increasing our self worth is the process of learning how to come home to ourselves, becoming more aware that the self-judgments stem from somewhere and they are only interpretations, not facts. We who have low self worth are doing it to ourselves at this point. What I mean by this is that we are hating ourselves day in and day out and this energy of hate gets directed to a part of us that we dislike. That part of us is still “part of us”, therefore this toxic energy get sent inward and we are the ones who are infected by it keeping us feeling rejected, unaccepted and unworthy. It’s almost as if we have this blob of wounded energy inside of us and what we do is keep sending spears and arrows at it wounding over and over again so we always feel vulnerable.
Somehow our minds believe that if we keep judging it and avoiding it, somehow it will go away. Is that how healing works? If you have a wound and do not care for it, avoid it, and at times even rub dirt in it, does it heal? No, in fact, it may often get infected and lead to a larger problem. So it is with our emotional wounds as well.
One reason I am such a proponent for the intersection of mindfulness and psychotherapy is that at the core of mindfulness is learning how to pay attention, on purpose, in a non-judgmental way. That is also the core of learning how to accept ourselves which goes hand in hand with self worth. A voice may scream out “I DON’T WANT TO ACCEPT MYSELF, I REFUSE.” This is a voice in a lot of pain and resistance to it won’t work. What it needs is the very same thing we all need, which is an attitude of compassion. This may be a part of us who has been very wounded and so imagining this voice as a little child in pain may help initiate this feeling of compassion. We are now the adults and it is up to us to be the caretakers of our younger emotional wounds. We can, nonjudgmentally and unconditionally, give these parts of ourselves love and attention. This takes patience and persistence as we are changing some long worn habit patterns of the mind.
Changing the way we interpret these wounds from enemies to wounded little parts of ourselves needing love can create a dramatic shift in how you relate to your own pain, stop the continual onslaught on yourself worth, and help you cultivate more compassion, peace, and well-being in everyday life.
As always, please share your stories, thoughts, and questions below. Your interactions provide a living wisdom for us all to benefit from.
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Prof.Lakshman (April 29, 2009)
David Rogers (April 29, 2009)
From Psych Central's website:
PsychCentral (April 29, 2009)
From Psych Central's Dr. Elisha Goldstein:
7 Ways to Mindfully Boost Self-Esteem | Mindfulness and Psychotherapy (May 1, 2009)
Last reviewed: 29 Apr 2009