I've been getting a disturbing number of letters lately that tell me way too many of you are dealing with a lot of long term self-esteem issues. And boy, do I relate. If you'll allow me to get a little personal here, let me express to you how very damaged mine has been over the years.
My first husband took great pleasure in letting me know on a daily basis that "I was lucky to have him." And he was quick to point out every possible inadequacy in me — either real or imagined. It became an absolute truth: I had no value. Over time, I came to believe it completely. I cared less and less about taking care of myself, because what was the point? Poor self-esteem then feeds on itself, and it began a downward spiral that I did not truly begin to climb out of until a few years ago.
Self-esteem is an issue for many people, especially women. And in these days of ultra-thin models and SuperMom expectations it shouldn't surprise us. What is surprising is how quick we are to accept another person's judgement and how serious our lack of faith in ourselves can become.
Self-esteem can be hard to define. More than just feeling good about yourself, taking pride in your accomplishments or liking what you see in the mirror, self-esteem is concerned with the way we judge our own worth.
We tend to look at the equation backwards. We think that how we look dictates our level of self-esteem when in fact it is our self-esteem – our ability to see ourselves as having value – that dictates how we react to the face in the mirror.
Low Self-Esteem and Depression:
In my own case, there's little doubt that it was my lack of self-worth that fed a depression that could have become quite serious. The lower I felt, the more I turned to comfort foods – carbohydrates and sugars – to numb the pain. And the more of them I ate, the more they made me crave. The weight piles on, and we feel worse about ourselves, and others are not shy about pointing out their disdain, either. It's not difficult to see the progression when one can later look back on it from a new perspective.
The World Health Organization (WHO) uses low self-worth in its description of depression. Low self-esteem makes you your own worst enemy. Thoughts of "if only I were prettier, if only I were thin, if only I was popular, if only I was strong enough to fix this..." crowd out everything else.
Even if we receive praise, the voices inside our own heads discount it. Like Julia Roberts said in Pretty Woman "the bad stuff is easier to believe."
The symptoms of depression are often internalized, and so the problem may be dismissed as unimportant, hormonal, or just a part of growing up. Statistics show that, worldwide "fewer than 25% of those suffering from depression receive appropriate care". Over time, it affects every aspect of your life.
How Do We Improve?
We need a way of handling the little day-to-day setbacks in our sense of security and significance. It all starts with our thinking. We have to retrain ourselves to think of "what is true about me."
Low self-esteem feeds on negative messages and thoughts so don't indulge in self criticism. Why are you joining the other side to wage war against yourself? Silence your inner judge.
Don't always try to please others. It is considerate when you care about others feelings but aren't your needs just as important? Don't neglect yourself!
If you're reading this, you've made a decision to follow a healthy low carb lifestyle. It's a wonderful step toward regaining your self-esteem as well, but the same self-doubts can allow you to listen to others who doubt your resolve, or to cave when someone tries to sabotage your efforts.
Don't try to be like someone else. This leads to lack of self worth and confidence. You are unique and you cannot be someone else. Strive to be better, yes, but don't criticise yourself for not being as successful, as beautiful, as slim or as popular as someone else. You deserve better.
Don't take life or yourself so seriously. Failure just means you are not successful YET. Everybody fails on their way to succeeding, don't look on it as failure but as a means to learning. Perhaps you just need a change of direction. Problems can make you stronger if you strive to overcome them.
Focus on your successes. If you've lost 20 pounds and have been "stuck" for a few weeks (or months,) focus on the wonderful success of how much you've lost SO FAR, and know that it will happen when the time is right. Lack of confidence feeds on your feelings of failure and inadequacy, and can give you back that "what's the point?" feeling that leads to abandoning your plans and goals. Remember the truly successful things you have done in your life. Reward yourself when you do succeed.
Feed your brain. Read inspiring books, listen to uplifiting music. Don't underestimate their power to affect your mood and your sense of self-worth.
Most of all, surround yourself with those things and people that are positive and life affirming. So-called friends that remind you of your past failures or reinforce negative feelings are not friends at all, and have little place in your newly self-valued life.
And don't try to be perfect. You've got a better chance of getting struck by lightning in a house you won from Ed McMann.
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