Right around the age of twelve is when I noticed a lot of talk around self-esteem. I didn't dive into the research enough to realize that developing high self-esteem is the last thing I needed, and I am now undoing that damage years later.
You know that feeling when you're with your family or friends and you're singing along with
them to that bop on the radio that you can't NOT sing?
And then, to interrupt that wonderful moment, one of you sings a different lyric than the other. What happens then? Well, only one of the biggest battles for truth known to man.
Kidding. But, you all google and try to figure out who is right and who is wrong. Now, remember that betrayed feeling in your gut when you find out that it was actually you and not your friend who was singing it wrong?
It's like when you trip on the a crack in the sidewalk and then glare at it like it's NOT your own fault. The feeling of betrayal during your mis-step on the street and misinterpretation of song lyrics is quite similar to the emotions I felt when I discovered what self-esteem actually is.
Stay with me. This is important.
Self-esteem became a very hot topic during the age when I first started understanding personal development. I had already tried different counsellors and wasn't loving the styles, but I didn't stay with one person long enough for them to tell me what I had been doing wrong.
Self-esteem is essentially how you dictate your worth, based on how much you think others value you.
Can we just stop and think about that for a second?
Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself, based on others feelings ...to which you can't control.
I spent so many years thinking that my value was determined by the quantity and quality of the people in my life. If someone left me, I was unworthy.
Self-esteem was straining my relationship with myself and others. The circumstances and situations didn't matter, it was all on me. I was incapable of being loved and undeserving of the people that I cared about.
My value was determined by what people thought of me. In may ways, it still is. But I have chosen specific opinions to care about. Those whom I value myself are significant enough in my life to have a valid influence on my self-worth, like my family and closest friends.
But it wasn't always this way. Self-esteem causes you to believe that anyone and everyone is right in what they think of you. I stopped seeking out people whom I thought I didn't deserve. I let anybody leave without a fight. I kept the bar at a safe level so that I could keep people in my life.
Looking back on this now, it seems crazy that I ever cared that much! But I didn't understand that I should only be focusing on what I CAN control when I was younger, and I'm learning to undo this now.
How am I doing this? Self-compassion. Contrary to self-esteem, self-compassion is about being kind to yourself no matter the circumstances.
I am deserving, because situational factors have massive influence over how we act. Not just for myself, but for those who actually have left me. If no one has told you this yet, I will kindly share that not everything is about you!
It's not fair to put so much pressure on yourself to be valued by others. It's not fair to you and the people in your life. If you learned about self-esteem too young as well, I'm here to tell you that self-compassion is the way to heal.
We're our own worst critics. It's so important to look at all the factors that are coming into play when others don't value you, because it could have nothing to do with you.
Even then, at the end of the day, you spend most of your time with you. If you can't show yourself compassion, it's hard to expect others to do the same.
One way that I've started to train myself for self-compassion is to list 3 wins that I've had every day. This could be super simple, like getting some fruit for your lunch.
We don't realize how hard we work every day for ourselves. Whether you've struggled with self-esteem or not, this is a really important practice to implement.
After chasing self-esteem for so long thinking that it was important to my mental state, it was hard to face how damaging it was. But isn't it better to work hard and better yourself than it is to stay in a deteriorating state?
I'm changing the narrative in my head, slowly but surely, and I know that you can too.