How do I gain back my self-esteem?

October 2, 2008 at 2:43 pm 6 comments

Once again I turn to a search phrase that brought someone to my blog. This question caught my eye. My first response is a couple of questions: Did I ever have self-esteem? If so, what happened to make me lose it? How do I gain back self-esteem? How do I gain self-esteem if I never had it? How do I gain self-esteem?

In accordance with my problem-solving attitude these days, I can immediately reduce them to one important question: How do I gain self-esteem? Whether I once had it or not, doesn’t matter right now. What happened to make me lose it — well, I could analyze that to possibly avoid falling into the same trap again, but it also doesn’t really matter. Did I ever have self-esteem? That’s kind of like asking myself how much money I would have if I’d never spent any of it all my life. What’s gone is gone.

In a roundabout way, I’m on the path to establishing self-esteem on various levels. A really good way to do it is to take on challenges and see how well you can do. My new job has been providing that. The other day I caught myself feeling inadequate as I watched a film that one of my new colleagues had made. It documented their work over the past year. On the one hand, I thought it was beautifully done and very touching to see how involved each of the colleagues is. On the other hand, when I saw all the handiwork, arts and crafts and generally innovative things that they did, I got a bit nervous.

One of the positive (?) sides of my marriage was that my husband took care of a lot of the day to day stuff. Repairs and renovations he either did himself or hired someone else. In the early years, I did try to help. I actually liked the idea of fixing things up. But his perfectionistic approach and criticism of how sloppily I did things soon put a damper on my enthusiasm. So I let him do more and more. It has gotten to the point where I don’t know how to do things I used to know how to do! This lack of knowledge is not good for one’s self-esteem. It makes you feel incompetent.

This realization (yesterday’s prize accomplishment) dismayed me for five minutes to an hour, but then I decided: It’s a gift! Yes, it is indeed a gift that I have a job where I work with warm-hearted, enthusiastic, caring people who know how to do things or figure it out if they don’t know. It is a perfect opportunity for me to learn! It’s okay that I don’t know all that practical stuff that “normal” people my age should know. I have my other abilities.

So to gain self-esteem, I suggest taking on challenges and saying: “So what if I’m not perfect?” Of course, I can only speak for myself, but this is definitely working. A few affirmations like: “I am okay.” “I am just the way I am supposed to be.” “Life continues to offer me opportunities to increase my knowledge, my abilities, and to widen my horizons.” Rather than view this lack of practical experience as a “deficit” I prefer to consider it an area that needs attention and improvement. But that doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with me. I learn quickly, can ask for help, can ask questions, and who the hell besides me really cares if I get it right the first time? I am my own worst critic. Other people are encouraging, understand it if I don’t get it right, are impressed if I do get the hang quickly, and are generally so caught up in their own stuff that they don’t get so involved in what I can and cannot do.

I have been my own worst enemy. I have had high expectations, little patience and constantly made demands — some of which were quite impossible. My approach now is: I am my friend. I try to treat myself as well as I treat other people — with patience, consideration, understanding, encouragement and love. It seems to be taking root. I was actually surprised that I would react so mildly to their impressive demonstrations of handiwork ability in the film. A couple of years ago, I might have panicked, tried desperately to avoid any situation in which I might have to help (for fear of my inadequacy being “discovered”), or possibly even quit rather than face the embarrassment. I’m not here to be perfect. I am here to learn, experience, grow and discover. On the lighter side, when I do make a mistake, I can laugh and people laugh with me. They are often relieved to see that others make mistakes as well. Just like me, they tend to have high expectations of themselves.

So, that is my take on how to gain self-esteem these days: Learning by doing. Take on challenges and learn. You’ll be surprised and satisfied with what you accomplish. That’s why it doesn’t matter if I used to have self-esteem and lost it, or if I’m just developing it now. The point is: It’s here!

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Entry filed under: Coping, going back to work. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

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6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lola Snow  |  October 3, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    “Life continues to offer me opportunities to increase my knowledge, my abilities, and to widen my horizons.”

    I like this one! I’m going to use it everyday, because at the moment life seems to be offering me a tonne of these opportunities LOL! No seriously though, this is a great post and an important message.

    Reply
  • 2. diaryofarecoveredbulimic  |  October 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    Hi there Lola! You’ve got the idea! Just keep on laughing and enjoying one golden opportunity after the other. 😀

    Reply
  • 3. SanityFound  |  October 5, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Beautifully put huns and so very true, a daily battle but as you put it “so what if I am not perfect?” Wows!

    Reply
  • 4. diaryofarecoveredbulimic  |  October 6, 2008 at 8:03 am

    You don’t even WANT to be perfect! That’s just a figment of the imagination and we think other people expect it of us. It’s just massive pressure we put on ourselves. Let it go! Enjoy being you, the special person you are! Beyond perfection. In the realm of being one’s true self — including the whole authenticity package — the question of perfection does not exist. You simply are.

    Reply
  • 5. bojinx  |  October 7, 2008 at 6:28 am

    This is awesome! You know… My old colleagues knew that if someone was going to question something it was me… I like to understand things properly… and I won’t stop questioning until I do!!! And… more often than not it was my questioning that brought about…or should I say, made them realise any loopholes in their plans… It was through my questioning that we all realised where plans sometimes fell short… NEVER stop asking questions!!! About anything and EVERYTHING!!! I love learning! And how do you learn if you never ask… and with knowing comes understanding… with understanding comes pride (at oneself) and with this pride comes self confidence… and self esteem!!! So, NEver EVER stop questioning! I think its a tool that not enough of us use!!!

    Reply
  • 6. diaryofarecoveredbulimic  |  October 7, 2008 at 7:25 am

    I agree with you totally, as I know myself I don’t ask as many questions as I could. Odd, that reluctance is often out of false pride. And like you said, with understanding comes pride. So it really does make sense to be honest, ask questions, and discover. I’m still trying to figure out life. Some acquaintances thought that once I got a job it would get my mind on other things and then I wouldn’t think so much! Whatever gave them that idea?! 🙂

    Reply

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