Self-esteem is defined as how we feel about ourselves and has to do with how we value ourselves. It has to do with almost all of the choices we make in life, from partners to jobs to choosing friends. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family it is likely that your self-esteem may have suffered or not been properly developed into a healthy sense of self. This is common.
Parents who are not able to validate your feelings, thoughts or ideas are unlikely candidates for developing self-esteem in their children. If you are called names, emotionally or physically neglected, constantly criticized or ridiculed as a child, chances are you didn’t feel great about yourself. This follows you into adulthood and may actually have changed the course of your life.
Many depressions and anxiety problems stem from self-esteem issues. If you don’t have the confidence to design a life of your choosing you may be living a life that is not truly about you. If you dislike yourself to the degree you feel unloveable you may be living alone when you would really would prefer a partner. You may not be socializing as you fear ridicule and rejection. You may feel so unworthy that you are chronically angry at the world.
There are many good resources on this topic and delving into it in great deal here is beyond the scope of this post. What I wanted was to provide you a starting point and a feeling of hope that whatever course you are on can be corrected. We are all in this boat of life together and we all have doubts about ourselves at some point. Its a matter of not letting the doubts win out. It is about learning emotional tools that allow you to feel as good as the next person. Because you are.
Here are 5 things to remember in beginning your journey to a healthy self-esteem:
- Recognize and respect your own resilience-You probably already possess some of this and don’t realize it. Just making it through a dysfunctional family background builds some resilience. You made it! We cannot control our backgrounds or families or the things that happen as we go through life, but we can control how we come out on the other end. Just having a healthy set of coping skills in place as well as a social support system can help you through tough times. Knowing you are a survivor already helps you to feel better about yourself.
- See life as a process not a one time occurrence-Look at your life as a journey. Your journey may have started slowly or unhappily, but luckily you aren’t stuck there forever. You have your future in front of you to control. You are not doomed to an unhappy life. You will have to do some extra work to learn the emotional skills necessary, but it is just learned material. You can learn or you wouldn’t be reading this.
- Everyone makes mistakes along the way–Everyone, no exceptions. Making mistakes is part of life and the journey. Mistakes can be corrected. If you suffer from poor self esteem you probably are afraid of making mistakes or you expect to make mistakes and therefore let others decide important things for you. The problem with that is that they bring their own baggage to your decision making and may be making bigger mistakes with your life than you would ever make! Your life will never feel genuine to you until you call the shots, mistakes and all.
- Face the fears-You may live in fear of many things. Decisions, as discussed above are usually a biggie. There is also the fear of being alone, being unloveable, doing things on your own, or just facing life in general. You may be so afraid that you are completely overwhelmed. It is ok to have fear but you cannot allow it to run your life. We all have some degree of fear and that is healthy. Too much is not healthy. You can be afraid of something but do it anyway.
- Ask yourself the right questions-Instead of asking yourself why you are depressed or how you came to be depressed or anxious, ask yourself how you can eliminate these destructive emotions. Ask yourself how emotionally healthy people look at life or relationships or whatever you are struggling with and learn from them. Ask yourself what you can do everyday to feel better. Learning new emotional skills is what will help you turn the corner.
You deserve a place in the world and the world deserves to hear your true voice, unencumbered by fear and low self-esteem.