If you’re reading this I gather you gained something of use in part one of low self esteem and that’s fantastic. Personally, once I got over the surprise of having low self esteem I found it comfortable to admit it to myself. It meant I had something to work on and after being in and out of mental health clinics and going through a variety of psychologists, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, therapists, counselors etc.
So in the last post I mentioned how people with low self esteem have beliefs which they take as facts about themselves. The issue is the definition of a fact; a piece of information presented as having objective reality’ whereas an opinion is; a view, judgement, or appraisal formed in the mind about a particular matter’. Therefore the opinion or belief you have about yourself is not a fact. The difference is this ‘I have blue eyes’ is a fact, ‘I like blue eyes’ is an opinion. A fact can be cross checked, an opinion can not be.
The value we have for ourselves, the ideas we have of ourselves and the judgements we reserve for ourselves are all opinions. You may say to yourself ‘I am stupid’ but that’s a belief, a negative belief. Believe me when I say there is someone out there a lot stupider than you who believes they are vastly more intelligent than you. You may be absolutely hopeless at maths or geography or school in general and that’s fine.
I’ve been through school and got good grades, I went to university and got a good degree and let me tell you, my class had some right idiots in it. I met people in university that I was shocked were able to dress themselves in the morning, nevermind write academic papers. Then I realised I had a few lecturers who didn’t know their arse from their elbow and they all had PhDs. Academia is the only measurement of intelligence, it is the measure of a very narrow field of intelligence. As Einstein said
Everyone is a Genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.
Just like if you think you are dreadful at sports, it doesn’t mean you are and that isn’t the only way to measure yourself. Someone out there will be awed at your sporting ability because you have more than them. Plus you perhaps haven’t even found the right sport for you. Now I warn you this is a slightly longer post than you may be used to but there’s a lot of information to get through to help you over your self esteem issues.
Where do we form these negative opinions?
Early life experiences weigh heavily in how we see ourselves. Basically at some point the belief we have whatever it is made sense at the time we developed it. Perhaps one of your parents called you stupid, and put you down consistently, it therefore makes sense as a child to develop the belief that you are stupid. Everything in early life from schools attended, area lived in, parents, siblings, peer group etc. will affect the beliefs you have formed up to today.
Here’s a list of where you may have developed your beliefs;
- Punishment, neglect and abuse
- How we are treated by our parents or guardians will have a massive effect on the person you turn out to be in later life.
- Psychological scars can run deep from unfair and/or extreme punishments, neglect, abuse both verbal and physical, frequent punishment and frequent put downs.
- A person who undergoes this will unsurprisingly have issues later in life with their self esteem.
- Difficulty in meeting parents standards
- Less extreme punishment but coupled with constant criticism will negatively impact one’s self esteem.
- If your guardians and loved ones frequently focused on your weaknesses and rarely acknowledged your positive attributes you will also naturally develop negative self beliefs.
- If your parents frequently teased you, told you could have done better or that your attempts weren’t good enough it will affect you poorly.
- Not fitting in at home or school
- Being the odd one out at school or the ‘weirdo’ can have a negative effect on how we value ourselves.
- Not being like your siblings who your parents or you perceive to be more successful or better people
- Your achievements may not have been celebrated like your siblings
- These can all lead to you developing negative opinions of yourself
- Difficulty in reaching the standards of our friends
- During adolescence your image is very important.
- You may not have had the same clothes as your friends
- Perhaps you were ‘fat’, ‘plump’ or ‘well built’ and you felt inferior to your friends
- The media portrayals of the ‘right body’ etc. will also have an effect on you at this age
- Skin issues, braces, uncommon ailments etc. will all have their effects on your self esteem
- I had cystic acne, braces and I was stick think at 14, I know what negative body image is like. Then I became a powerlifter at 17 and I developed this constant belief that I was fat even though it was very clearly muscle. Then it further developed into a belief that my muscles weren’t big enough. Body image issues have always plagued me and it’s something I still fight today.
- Being on the receiving end of other people’s stress or distress
- Parents who have stressful jobs or are going through distressing events may not be able to give their children the attention they need with their own problems
- In these circumstances, parents or guardians may lash out at their children and this can have severely adverse affects on children.
- This lashing out with frustration, anger etc. demonstrates unhealthy coping mechanisms for children which will again will have negative affects on your mental well being.
- Your family’s place in society
- The view of our loved ones and our family by society also affects our opinions of ourselves, it’s not just how we are viewed
- If your family were on the receiving end of abuse, hostility, prejudice or abuse then you will develop negative beliefs about who you are
- An absence of positives
- Not receiving enough attention, compliments, warmth, love, affection and positive affirmation will affect how a child views itself and the world and these views will carry into adulthood
- Some parents or guardians can be emotionally distant, you may feel you can’t complain because you were always provided for materially but never emotionally
- If you compare your experiences with those of your peers you may develop an even worse opinion of yourself
So now that you have these things in your mind I want you to think very carefully about the experiences you have in your past that have contributed to your negative self beliefs. Here’s an example from when I did this exercise.
- I would be screamed at, punished unfairly and verbally abused
- ANytime I failed someone was there to say ‘I told you so’
- Both my mother and sister were always very stressed people and I was the medium to which they released their anger and frustration
- My mother punishes me by ignoring me for days or even weeks
- I’m told to talk about my problems but when I do I’m made to feel like they aren’t important or a big deal
- I was screamed at, cursed at, hurt and verbally abused from a young age
These are only a few items from my list but you get the picture. Although all my issues and most people’s will focus on their youth and childhood it is important to note that some people will develop low self esteem in later life from multiple hard knocks. So if your list is full of things from your present that’s absolutely fine! You’re just in a different place to most people but the problem remains the same so you will continue to benefit from these self esteem posts.
Now I know this was a long post so I’m going to break it into two pieces, take some time to just chill out now. I know how difficult the exercises in this post can be and just how tiring they are! So take a break, have a cup of tea and a digestive and take a gander at part two when you’re rested. In part two we will look at how the past affects the present and how to protect ourselves from these negative opinions we have about ourselves. Until then have a good rest!