I have spoken to very few of my readers in real life, consequently many of you don't know about the struggle that I've had with poor self esteem over the years. We're not just talking about feeling a bit low in confidence here, but something which is much, much more disabling. So, I bought a book on beating low self esteem. The book covers things like reasons for low self esteem, why we behave as we do (when we have low self esteem) and sets a framework for climbing out of the rut. I've only had a quick flick through so far and have only just started reading it properly. So far I have discovered that:
1. previous situations lead to poor self esteem - it may be one bad situation, multiple bad situations (of any magnitude) or just not enough good situations
2. these situations lead us to make a conclusion about ourselves which is wrong or biased - these conclusions are called "the bottom line"
3. at some point in time those conclusions were understandable and made perfect sense - especially if you were a child and had limited understanding anyway
4. people with low self esteem are always on the lookout for situations which confirm their bottom line or conclusion - this is known in many circles as hypervigilence - or reading too much into things I call it.
5. people with low self esteem often "tune out" to positive things, which makes it even harder to feel positive
6. people with low self esteem often have negative predictions- basically "what if" questions like "what if I do x and y happens". People get annoyed with me about this all the time - my mum often tells me to stop putting barriers in my way.
7. these negative predictions lead to anxiety and to people setting up unhelpful coping mechanisms which are helpful in the short term, but in the long term just lead to more anxiety and reinforce the bottom line.
Some of my bottom lines (biased conclusions about myself) are:
1. I am worthless
2. I am unlovable
3. Nobody will like me no matter what I do
4. It will never be perfect enough
5. I am a bad person
Some coping mechanisms based on these would be:
1. In a group situation, let everyone have their say first because nobody really wants to hear what I say anyway.
2. Don't bother making new friends because once people get to know me they won't like me anyway
3. Don't bother trying because it will never be perfect enough- if I do try, work myself do death getting it perfect
It's easy to see now that when I was a child, these were perfectly logical conclusions based on the feedback that I was getting. But now that I'm older they hold me back. At work I am told that I'm too quiet and don't contribute enough in meetings. I find it difficult to make friends because I'm so scared of rejection. The list just goes on and, for the sake of my sanity, the has to stop!
I can't even put into words how empowering it is to finally understand why I behave as I do and why I have such poor self esteem. I feel like now, more than ever, I can actually do something about it. It isn't just a personality trait, it something that I learned due to past situations, and it's possible that I can set up new ways of thinking and finally find the confidence and self-appreciation and self-loving that I've always dreamed of!