Tonight I want to talk a bit about self identity, self esteem and confidence. It ties into my previous post on depression and anxiety a bit, in that depression and anxiety have always fed my low self esteem and lack of confidence, and now that I am finding that I can have these things while still battling depression and anxiety, I want to share a bit with others my own experiences and lessons, and some things I have come to believe.
Monday, September 21, 2009
I used to have terribly low self esteem. I loathed myself. I thought I was the most worthless piece of nothing that ever existed. I blamed myself for everything bad in the world, and for every time someone was rude to me, or downright nasty to me, I convinced myself it was my fault. I spent far more energy than any human being could actually maintain on trying to please everyone around me.
My whole life, for the first 30 something years, I did everything I could to make people happy, to make them like me. I genuinely believed if there was anything that people were unhappy or angry about, it was my fault.
I was a walking doormat.
Strangely enough, there were plenty of people who told me just that. You're nothing. You're fat, stupid, lazy, greedy, ugly, worthless, pathetic. Some of these were my own family, some were people that called themselves my friends. Some of them were absolute strangers on the street. I believed them. Despite giving every ounce of energy I had to being, doing everything I could to please everyone else but myself, I believed them that I was worthless.
Then I was diagnosed with depression, and referred on to a psychologist who specialises in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). Through CBT I retrained my brain to be able to recognise the patterns in my behaviour and thinking that were damaging to me. I learned to like myself. My self esteem grew. As did my confidence. Slowly but surely, I began to actually love myself.
I know, I know, when you hear the words "love myself" you think of having tickets on yourself, or being up yourself. But when you truly learn what it is to love who you essentially are, it's not like that at all. It doesn't mean you think you're perfect or flawless. It doesn't mean that you think you can't make mistakes, or there aren't things about yourself that you can hone and improve. It means that you respect who you are, are proud of doing your best when you can and see your value as a human being.
Nor does it mean that you're all shiny and groovy forever. Sometimes you forget to love yourself. Sometimes the confidence and self esteem slip a bit. Then you have to rework it, relearn all those lessons and find your way again.
I am a work in progress, and always will be.
One of the big lessons I have learnt over the past year is that it doesn't matter if people don't like me. I don't need them to. What matters is that I like me as I have to live with me 24 x 7.
I spent so many years trying to make everyone happy and get them to like me, but even when I did everything I possibly could to make people happy, there were some that still didn't like me. So here I was, trying so hard, with people not liking me, and I was still unhappy. I have learnt that if I work to make myself happy, then I will draw people into my life that DO matter, and they will be happy because they matter to me and I will show them.
Life is not a popularity contest. You don't need to collect the most friends to win. What you do need to do is value the people that matter to you the most, and give your best to life.
If people don't like me, fair enough. I don't like some people myself. A lot of people really. It doesn't hurt me if people don't like me. All I ask of people who don't like me is to leave me alone. If you don't like me, why are you bothering to expend any energy on me? As the saying goes, the opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. If I don't like someone, I travel in the opposite direction to them, not hang around paying them attention. I don't like them, why would I want to pay them any attention?
But what really matters to me is that I can be proud of myself. I try to ask myself with every decision "What will I be proud of later." Doesn't mean I always make the right decision, but it means that I make a lot more right ones than if I didn't ask myself that question!
There are a lot of people who don't like confident women. Some don't like confident men, but more don't like confident women. Women are supposed to be demure and dainty and humble. Women are supposed to be always giving, to be always supportive and enabling. Women aren't supposed to be proud of themselves. Women aren't supposed to not care if they're not liked.
Instead of walking away from those women, the people that don't like them feel the need to bring them down, to "put them in their place". NOTHING pisses these people off more than a woman who refuses to be "put in her place". What a bitch! She refuses to bow to what I think she should be, to conform to how I think she should behave!
I have a place. That is not for anyone other than ME to determine.
I remove those people from my life who want anything for me other than my happiness. Yet despite the cries of "You selfish bitch, you'll have no friends, you'll die alone and miserable and bitter." from these people who cannot bear the thought of someone simply walking away from them.
Yet here's the funny thing. Since I learned this lesson, the lesson of self esteem and confidence, the lesson of "I am beholden to no man/woman, other than myself." I am happy. And I have more truly wonderful people in my life than I ever had when I was trying to please everyone else. The connections I have made may not be as widespread, but they are far, far deeper. There is a sense of peace in me that I never had before. I feel light and strong and balanced. I carry no burdens of other people's bad behaviour longer than the time it takes for me to disengage from them.
Again, that doesn't mean that I don't still have bouts of self loathing, of fights with the black dog of depression and waves of anxiety, fears and worries. But it means that I can take a deep breath, stop and look around, see the people I love and who love me as I am, and set myself back onto the path again.
I want other people to feel what I am feeling now. I want others to know what it's like to let go of having to have the approval of others just because those others are vocal and domineering. I want to share this peace and strength. The only way I know how is to tell my story and share my experience.