In my last post, I talked about some events that we all go through in life: (1) when we notice that we are different, (2) when we notice the gap between where we are now and where we would like to be, (3) when we face rejection and failure, (4) and when others put us down. These are all normal parts of life. Whatever thoughts you meditate on about yourself, though, can shape your self-esteem. In this post, I’ll discuss some of the common unhealthy ways we might think about ourselves.
When we notice we are different, negativity may sound like this: “The way I am is unacceptable,” “I need to be like them in order to be acceptable.” These beliefs will cause you to try to make changes to yourself when change is not necessary. If you are rewarded with a feeling of acceptance after giving into this lie, that’s not good. The act of changing then becomes your defense mechanism and you can become dependent on this unnecessary activity. Your personal sense of acceptance from doing this will only last a short time before your core belief about your differences resurfaces and you go back to thinking “the way I am is unacceptable.”
When we notice the gap between where we are now and where we would like to be, negativity may sound like this: “I am not good enough the way I am,” “I need to reach this point in my life to be good enough.” Although self-improvement is a good thing, these unforgiving beliefs will cause you to overexert yourself, possibly to the point of workaholism, and for most of the time, you won’t feel good about yourself.
Next, rejection and failure. Yes, a lot of times, not always, we experience rejection and failure because we may not be good enough in our abilities. But a lot of people, in the face of rejection and failure, think “I’m not good enough… as a person.” Thinking like this is unhealthy. With this kind of thinking, you develop a dependence on acceptance and success to give you a sense of worth. Perfectionism also results from not learning how to be ok with rejection and failure.
And finally, there are times when others just straight-up put you down. Who are they to sum you up and judge your value as a person? But if you believe the negative judgments about yourself, it will break down your self-esteem.
In my previous post, I mentioned that habitually thinking negatively about yourself could lead to low self-esteem, social anxiety, and perfectionism. There’s a lot more. You’ll be dependent on your different control mechanisms to regulate your sense of worth. You’ll think you deserve less or more in life by how your performance fluctuates. You won’t be able to help but judge the value of others in the same twisted way you judge your own value. And you’ll be less happy. It sucks.
So how do we turn this around? You’ll have to wait for my next post.