Low self esteem is something we all struggle with
This is an ongoing battle, not just for me, but for the majority of people. Sometimes even the most confident people aren’t really, they just seem like it…
This was always something that baffled me growing up, I would look at really confident people and think how is that possible? I used to think things like ‘I could never say that,’ or ‘I wish I could get people’s attention, I wish they’d notice me.’
…And then there was that time that I fell in love with someone self assured, he told me I looked beautiful everyday, only to break up with me three months later because I wasn’t ‘confident enough.’ Oh boy that one hurt, It took sometime to recover.
I’m not sure why I had such bad self esteem growing up, but if you feel similarly don’t despair, it turns out there’s something you can do about it, it’s something you can improve and work on each day and life continues to get a little better as you do, I promise.
Find Out Why and Heal the Past
I guess firstly you have to figure out why? Then, what do you want for yourself In the future? There’s always an ‘event’ too, the thing that makes you want to change.
For me, it was that bad break up, a hurtling moment that cast me into the darkness and the uncomfortable reality that I wasn’t happy with myself.
It hurt so much, I actually hated myself even more than I had before.
I remember thinking ‘If I was just a better person, he’d still be with me.’ Wow. It even hurts reading that. What an Arsehole…
So that was the moment where I really decided to address myself and think okay, I need to heal and I need to grow.
Although at the time I felt utterly heart broken and humiliated, so it kind of looked like me sat in my pyjamas, hair looking like the lead singer of the cure and tears pouring down my face and I was probably listening to something like ‘all I could do was cry‘ by Etta James.
I love listening to music, especially when I’m sad.
So the ‘why‘ part for me, was that I had a really harsh inner critic. I set my standards high (which isn’t a bad thing) but I crucified myself when I didn’t get things right and I gave up way to easily and refused to keep pushing for my dreams, it was like a cycle. Criticism, falling at the first hurdle and giving up, criticism, depression, repeat.
This was a self learnt system that I had developed, it stopped me from hurting and humiliating myself, I didn’t know at the time that there were other ways to think about life.
I had bad anxiety, I used to drink a lot and I rarely went outside sober, if I did it would usually end in a panic attack.
I always fell for bad guys (when I was drunk) who told me I was beautiful.
I was always looking for validation, acceptance, someone to like me, except the only person I needed to like me was myself. I didn’t realise this at the time…
Where I picked up my bad thinking habits from…
I could sit here and complain about my parents but I’m not going to do that. Obviously, a lot of bad thinking habits were formed at this time. We all have struggles in this life and honestly my parents did their best.
They also worked full time stressful jobs and I was kind of left to my own devices most of the time. I felt like I was in the way a lot and they had very little time to themselves. Deep down I felt like a burden as my education cost a lot after receiving a scholarship for a private school.
So like any other teenager I used to escape. I used to escape in books and writing, I still do…
My father who separated from my mother when I was very young, had bouts of schizophrenia and spent a lot of my childhood sectioned.
I think that as a child the implications of having a parent with mental illness was incredibly difficult. I still had contact with him but thankfully didn’t live with him.
I willed him to get better and almost blamed myself for his illness. I also kept quiet about it out of fear people wouldn’t understand.
The point is I probably formed a lot of my unhealthy thinking habits during this time and they stayed with me until I decide to change them.
My Teenage years; being self conscientious is normal
When I got to my teens, I became very body conscious. I hated the way I looked.
I thought if I could change my body people would like me, crazy right?
In my mind I saw myself as ‘an over weight ugly duckling’ and my parents kind of reaffirmed how I felt by booking me in to see a dietitian (they were trying to help) and laughing at me when I couldn’t fit my legs into some ankle boots because my calf’s were too big. I still have body issues with my legs.
I comfort ate my problems and then hated myself for doing it.
Then one day, I decided I was going to change. I was fed up with being laughed at (although I think this was all in my head) and I began on a long quest for my ideal body.
I started to loose weight and exercise, I started running, I felt better. I started to get confident. I started to change my diet and my eating habits, I cut out sugar, I lost more weight.
I became obsessed, I got angry with myself for eating, I calorie counted, I lost even more weight, I got really thin.
Guess what? I was 21 at this point and I still wasn’t happy.
I was tired, hungry all the time and my boobs had shrunk. I’d lost my curves and my figure. I didn’t feel like the woman I wanted to be….
It was around this time that I met that ex boyfriend of mine that I was talking about earlier.
So there I was at this pivotal moment in my life, unaware that I was about to change a life time of unhealthy thinking habits and learnt behaviours.
If I said the next few years were easy that would be a lie.
I had a whole heap of trauma I had to deal with so I decided to face it, then I decided to get cognitive behavioural therapy to deal with my anxiety.
I learnt a bunch of coping mechanisms to help me calm down when I was having a bad day.
I wrote a mantra and I repeated it every morning and night before I went to sleep. I still do.
‘You are enough, you are beautiful, you deserve to be happy, your life is your life and no one else’s to live.’
I wrote a list of qualities that I liked about myself and I added things to it when I thought of something new.
I learnt to listen to my inner critic instead of running from it or blocking it out with booze and I realised it was so nasty. I was a bullying myself. I was literally my own worst enemy. What an awful way to think…
I retrained myself to think positively, every time I heard that negative voice in my head I stopped in my tracks and told myself that I wasn’t going to think like that anymore and thought of something positive instead.
This one is difficult, I still struggle with this one now. Sometimes I catch myself saying something like ‘I’m such an idiot,’ and I have to remind myself that saying things like that to yourself isn’t good.
Even starting this blog, I’ve doubted myself so many times but I’ve just pushed through that. In a way I think that’s what confidence is all about, having the ability so believe in yourself. Have your own back, even if no one else does.
I deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy. Don’t let anyone take that away from you and stop doubting yourself.
Protect yourself, look out for yourself. BE your own best friend. When you start to feel this way you stop being so vulnerable. You start to achieve amazing things, you push through barriers and you become your whole self.
Confidence is a super power that we all have. Sometimes you just have to work hard, take the time to heal yourself, learn to love who you are and believe that you deserve it, because believe me you absolutely do.
I hope you enjoyed my journey, let me know if you’re struggling with low self esteem or you’ve been through something similar in the comments below.
It’s so easy to fall into bad thinking habits or run from your problems.
It’s not easy to change but it is possible.