Sometimes we all cut some corners to get what we want or need. Want to stay home on a beautiful day after a long winter? Call in sick. Don’t want to cook dinner? Act like you don’t know how. It’d be easier if someone else were helping you with a project? Exaggerate the difficulty.
In DBT, Linehan outlines 4 primary factors associated with loss of self-respect.
- Lie—Tell lies, exaggerate, act helpless when you’re not and over time your self-respect will slowly erode. Sure a few little white lies or a slight exaggeration here and there aren’t going to significantly impact how you feel about yourself, but a pattern of bending the truth will whittle away at your self-esteem.
- Compromise your values—If you want to lower your opinion of yourself, sell out your values, especially for reasons that aren’t important. Often people find themselves compromising on values in an effort to keep the peace. It’s hard to rock the boat and sticking up for yourself can sometimes feel like you’re risking a relationship. But failing to stick to what is important to you can alter your connection to your own sense of self. Over time, you may feel that you don’t really know yourself anymore.
- Apologize Over and Over—We all make mistakes and apologizing is an important part of maintaining relationships. However, over apologizing—apologizing for having basic needs, for asserting yourself, for asking a question, for being in someone’s way or not anticipating their every need—is a sure way to lower your sense of your own worth.
- Be Unreasonable—If you’re not fair, whether it’s towards yourself or others, you’re ultimately going to feel it in your sense of self. Do you regularly take advantage of someone’s naiveté? Do you allow others to push you around out of fear? Taking unfair advantage of someone who has less power than you or allowing others to take advantage of you will hurt your sense of self.
Often, acting in this way works to get us what we want and need. However, a pattern of interacting with others with lies, exaggerations and helplessness can leave you without much sense of personal worth. The occasional lie isn’t going to have a significant impact on your self-esteem, but lying often will.
Photo by Nathan Csonka, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.