Self-Esteem & Self Image Struggles & Self Hatred

Too often self-esteem means we see ourselves in a harsh critical light. This video captures exactly how deeply we twist reality and fail to see ourselves accurately. The video made me cry because I see this struggle with self-image & disgust on a daily basis.

Our culture, our mother’s voices, our friends who are prettier than we are or strangers who make an offhand comment all layer to feed our self-image problems and we end up being very self-conscious. The pain of our nose that’s too big, or face that’s too long or, or, or….the endless list of problems in how we disparage ourselves and thus lose track of who we really are.

Far too many women have a ruthless internal dialogue that combines their self-esteem with a distorted way that they see themselves which then robs them of confidence.

Whenever anyone does something “kooky”, I always believe there is a purpose too it. There is a way that being harsh with yourself works: “If I know all the ways I’m really ugly then no one can surprise me or hurt me by saying something because I already know.” This is only one possibility, ask yourself how you value being so critical with yourself.

I believe there is a sadistic flavor to the criticisms women apply to themselves and then a masochistic flavor to receiving the torture “Of course this is true, I knew it all along.” Consider the idea it’s a deadly self-inflicted “feeling loop of emotional danger”. “You can’t hurt me any more than I can hurt myself.”

The beauty of the above Dove ad is that it set’s up an honest experience that helps the “subject” literally see the distortion she’s created and compare it to a new reality. The experience creates
a more accurate reality side by side with the self distortion. We learn the most from new experiences.

I had two women just yesterday that I suggested that they watch this video over & over & over so they might “borrow” the experiences from the women in the video.

Women hide away buried in self-hatred believing that they are troll like creatures that don’t deserve to come out into the light. “No one would want to have sex with me because I’m so ugly.” They are unwilling to expose themselves to being vulnerable because they project their own beliefs & fears onto their partners. When their partners plead with them they do not feel this way, the pleas are completely ignored.

There is a huge range to the different degrees that women do this. There are beginners in self-hatred who have self-esteem problems who have weekly moments of feeling unworthy to those with body dysmorphic disorder who torture themselves every hour.

If you have self-esteem issues, try asking a trustworthy friend to be honest with you about what they find attractive about you. Digest what they say instead of blowing it off and build some new layers of acceptance & confidence within.

Ask yourself how would you act differently if you believed you are worthy & attractive?


What is Self Esteem? What is Confidence?

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What is confidence? What is self esteem? They are both about learning how to believe in yourself, accepting your dark side and giving up trying to make everyone else happy but yourself. You have to risk exploring your own wants, learn to live with your own humanity and risk mistakes in trying out new adventures or ideas.

It was a very difficult day a couple of weeks ago, because I had 4 lovely women who did not believe in themselves & it made me very sad. Each one had a unique story. It  is not surprising how many women struggle with this because it is culturally pervasive.

Somehow they manage to look in the mirror and not see their own beauty. Many hold great jobs and don’t recognize their own talents. Many are completely lost without a guy to recognize their value. Many hang on to unworthy relationships because being alone lacks any value.

Feminism was all about women not feeling they are unworthy. I find it disconcerting that the legacy instilled within me by feminism hasn’t translated to younger generations. It was all about recognizing choices & carving out your place in the world based on what mattered to you, instead of being dependent on other’s definitions.

It’s as if so many people have a giant, yawning, empty hole inside of them that can only be plugged up with a partner to make them feel attractive & worthwhile .

Feeling attractive doesn’t mean beating yourself up because you have some perfectionistic idea of how you should look. The Greek roots for the word perfect intended a very different meaning: “complete in all its parts, full-grown, of full age” (From Strong’s Greek on the Internet). I love the true intention of the word.

Feeling a quiet dignity within means knowing you are attractive in some concrete way.  We are all a mixture of attractive & unattractive parts, within & without. Accepting the mixture as valid is part of growing up. Growing up as Perls said “is honestly facing painful situations”.

Confidence comes from embracing the whole of who you are.

Confidence comes from developing more range to who you are.

Confidence comes from discovering how to be more creative to find meaning in your life.

Confidence comes from trying something new and feeling more accomplished.

Confidence comes from less people pleasing & more discovery of your own path to being reasonably satisfied.

Life has lots of hard parts to it; it’s a roller coaster and not a straight line of happy progress. Reduce your expectations of being perfect & accept we all have dark sides to work on as we grow older. It is only possible to age to perfection, not achieve it in your 20’s or 30’s.

Learn to interrupt the critical voices in your head that feed your low self-esteem by saying a true positive for every negative. Take all the energy you turn against yourself and turn it into doing something new, exciting or different to explore the world in greater depth. Make some glorious mistakes to learn more about your strength of character.

Low self-esteem & lack of confidence can be changed if you are willing to stop being passive. Do the work to grow & take steps to make your world larger.

Shame, Self-Hatred & Self Destructiveness; Obstacles to Change

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Shame, self-hatred & self destruction are often all intertwined. These three make the road to change an obstacle course. This is a triangle of defeat & can stop growth in its tracks. It’s a trap that absorbs all of someones energy and it’s hard to crawl out of…..

The real danger is that all three can lead to a Niagara Falls of bad choices that simply confirm that these terrible feelings are accurate. This is the triangle of Hell: the three spin round & round & round & round with no hope in sight.

Unfortunately over the years, this constantly disappointing dark horrible place becomes the most comforting solid reality that can be grasped. It becomes a truth whether or not there is any evidence.

Shame is a spiral of quicksand that can be suffocating. You have to find the courage to swallow the shame & to be determined to persevere because we all have things to be ashamed of…’s part of being human. The point of shame is to pinch you to not REPEAT your bad choices.

Self-hatred is the fuel for addictions & eating disorders. The key is to accept that both the good & the bad reside within. Self hatred means you believe that the bad erases the good. Ultimately this is a dead-end, because we all have dark sides that we must learn to embrace. All we can do is work at making our bad part smaller every decade.

Self destruction is a pattern of wanting to erase yourself….a belief that you don’t deserve to take up space on the planet. Self destruction can be found in those who tell obvious lies or in the profound satisfaction of having power by doing crazy things. Self destruction is the piling on of bad choices that are scary to those that care about you far more than you care about yourself.

What are the opposites of these three??? It’s the opposites that provide the clues for healing…

The opposite of shame is acceptance (which is one of the reasons AA is so successful). No one who is honest dies without regrets. Allow shame to pinch you enough to not repeat your mistakes; that’s really all you can do. Accept the mistakes of the past & get determined to get on track.

The opposite of self-hatred is understanding that we are all good & bad. Own your dark side as a part of you. Learn to let the bad sit quietly next to the good instead of the more typical bad erasing the good.

The opposite of self destructiveness is making life enhancing choices instead of choices that are a pattern of little deaths. So instead of hiding in your room depressed try the small step of taking a walk every day.

All 3 of these are difficult demons to battle because they are deeply held core beliefs. They can only be changed in small steps…….and there is no doubt that small steps layer over time to create success, if you want to fight for real change.

Self confidence can only come from accomplishments. Accomplishments can only come from taking risks & making mistakes.

Self-doubt & Insecurities Rob You & Relationships

It is easier to hide out in the familiarity of self-doubt than to face the hard work of building self-esteem. Self doubt is like an old familiar friend that we want others to take care of. Looking for reassurance outside of ourselves & avoiding staking a claim on our own life has become ordinary.low self esteem, poor self confidence, poor self esteem, how to find confidence

A woman has extremely hysterical temper tantrums & says terrible things to her partner because deep down she wants the reassurance of being loved no matter what. “If you loved me you’d forgive me” she demands because that’s how it was or wasn’t in childhood. Her agenda; it’s your job to make me feel ok.

Putting someone else in this constant position of “make it ok for me” allows no room for the other person’s needs. Sometimes we seek out relationships with people who ask too much of us, because we are looking for confirmation that we are not ok. This is one way to avoid the responsibility of figuring out how to feel ok within ourselves.

Young people tell me they want to star in a rock band but they don’t practice or they want to go to culinary school but haven’t looked up the requirements on the internet. Finding the courage to risk discomfort and trying something new is the path of building security & confidence. Youth is a time to experiment & adventure, it’s sad that I see less of it than ever before.

People keep their worlds very tight & small, avoiding new experiences and the wisdom garnered from mistakes. People want their partners to fix their insecurities. People get high or drink to bury their insecurities, instead of learning how to face the shadow side of who they are.

Only through self-awareness, ownership of misdeeds & interacting in a more authentic way can anyone build their self-esteem. Confidence comes from doing things that are difficult & sticking with the journey. Success is meant to be discovered, not expected.

So try putting in a tile floor or a new toilet by yourself. Plant a garden, go back to school, learn to ride a horse. Passivity isn’t going to get you anywhere. Do something that scares you & earn some self confidence instead of expecting your partner to fix it for you.

Other people can’t solve your battle with self-doubt. That’s your job. Self acceptance is something that has to be worked on. We all have to take any opportunity to be more honest about hard things with someone you love, which in the long run, can be very empowering.

Facing harsh realities about our own lives makes us stronger. No one else can do that for us, which is how we build greater security within. Everyone has a pile of self-doubt. It’s making the effort to make more of life & pushing out into the unknown that helps us feel stronger.

Feeling Invisible? Consider your part in it.

Many people swallow too much of who they really are. They stop themselves from disagreeing with others, they smile & nod instead. Women & men bury themselves in too many hours at work or in being an expert caretaker of others and then ignore defining themselves.

So many parents lack identity when their kids leave home. In retirement people find themselves at a loss. There is a freedom to both of these events that requires effort to do it well by continuing to grow.feel invisible, I feel invisible, invisible to you, low self esteem

It’s important to decide that your job isn’t all there is to who you are. Taking some risks and trying out new roles is crucial to define more of yourself.

As mentioned in previous posts, anxiety can rob you of making your world bigger and more interesting.

Not being discouraged when the volunteer coordinator at the nonprofit you called doesn’t call you back. Not giving up when you try something and don’t like it. Finding your voice to make yourself more visible is crucial – disagree, make suggestions and issue invitations. Speak up instead of swallowing so much of your own truth. Do you only talk about other people without ever describing something about yourself?

The primary thing is to give up needing everyone to like you. Accept that 25% of the world won’t ever like you, 25% will like you without qualification and the remaining 50% will be indifferent to you. Look over reviews at – even the most highly rated places will have serious detractors and the most negatively rated places will have fans. It’s just not possible to make everyone like you.

Ultimately it’s about finding more range to who you are. We are all lopsided. Being a “homebody” is OK but it’s boring without some additional range outside of that. Ask yourself, what’s the opposite of a homebody? A social butterfly?

So you’re never going to be a social butterfly but you can find a place between being a butterfly and a homebody by asking people to do things with you, finding interesting places to go and new things to try out.

Is the opposite of a homebody a traveler? An adventurer? Then try a weekend trip to somewhere you’ve never been and might be curious about. Or try eating out somewhere that serves a cuisine you’ve never tried or a style of eating that you’ve never experienced i.e an Ethiopian restaurant where your food is served without utensils. Be sure to break down new ideas into smaller steps you will actually follow through with.

Visibility means coming out of hiding. Pay attention to what you value about the camouflage. Being choiceful is what makes you mentally healthy. There are many times where camouflage is a good thing – you’re not trying to erase that part of you, only trying to expand the possibilities of who you are.

Building Anchors Within & the film The Man From Nowhere

Koreans make the best films about revenge. There is no doubt about it. Revenge is a very primitive emotion that all of us experience; whether it’s the high school teacher who didn’t think you’d amount to much or an old lover who dumped you.The Man from Nowhere, Revenge, How to build self esteem, building self esteem

Korean director Chan-wook Park made a very disturbing trilogy of movies. Oldboy, Sympathy for Mr.Vengeance & Lady Vengeance are all very unforgettable. They examine the power of revenge and how it drives people to dark places.

It is desperation, revenge and loneliness that feed the dark places in each of us or when we are missing our anchors within. In The Man From Nowhere, made in 2010, our hero is devastated by grief. He is lost except for the friendship of his young neighbor.

Recovering from grief means having more than the two anchors of work & partner. Our hero only has those two and when he loses his wife he abandons his work and is called the ghost by people in the community. The actor Bin Won has the most amazingly sad face ever on film.

What else is important in your own life? What holds you together & makes you tick? Everyone needs all sizes of anchors. A small one might be a favorite t.v. show that makes you laugh or the smell of ripe homegrown tomatoes in July. A medium-sized anchor might be dinner with friends or a weekend away. A large anchor might be reading or gardening.

It is anchors that help you decide not to cave into your dark side to exact revenge. It’s having too much to lose in your life to act badly (& I don’t mean owning stuff).

The more anchors you have to tether you to the earth, the better off you are.

Without anchors people get lost in their intense revenge, intense ritualistic eating disorders or lost codependently in a relationship with someone else. The beginnings of determining your anchors is to learn to sort out your wants. Start by discovering small wants and build upon them.

When you are anchored within yourself then you will find it easier to forgive. It is forgiveness that is the opposite of revenge. The high school teacher didn’t really know who you are….the lover who dumped you did so prematurely, there wasn’t time to learn from your mistakes. Forgiveness allows you to recognize the complicatedness inherent in each situation. Revenge is too simplistic, there are only good guys or bad guys.

WARNING:These movies are not for the faint of heart. All three are intensely violent. Hopefully, just watching these 4 movies will kill off anyone’s desire for actual revenge.

Has anyone seen any of these 4 movies?

What Can be Done About Low Self-Esteem?

Low self-esteem is definitely connected to a lack of practice in making choices. “Go along to get along” has to be a choice, unique to a situation, instead of a life style. If it becomes a life style, you will lose track of who you are.

Many people arrive in therapy and describe themselves as feeling lost. They’ll go on to describe themselves as not really knowing who they are because they’ve catered too often to someone else in their life. It might happen when catering to an elderly parent, to a spouse or letting their children’s needs, be too high a priority. Being a parent, partner or caretaker does not mean losing yourself in the process. If you feel invisible you’ve had a part in allowing yourself to be erased.

Learning to have more self-esteem involves learning to speak up for yourself. Someone will tell me, they don’t know what they want and then go on to describe how unfair things are. That small beginning of irritation at the unfairness of the situation is a clue to what you want. Think of how things could be more fair if  you speak up, or take action or (fill in the blank).

Staying hidden to be the nice guy only helps you to finish last, silent with a pile of unspoken resentments. Resentments bury unacknowledged wants. Growing up with this pattern does not mean it has to continue in adulthood.

Self-esteem requires the risk of defining yourself and letting people know. It can be very confusing to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t speak up for themselves. A relationship where both people have self-esteem does mean having a relationship where there will be more struggles because there are often two different opinions instead of one that is dominant and the other that isn’t heard. The struggle is worth it because things are more interesting and better decisions are likely to come out of the struggle.

Self-esteem means saying “No” and being able to manage not being liked or getting rejected. If you are bad at this it only means you need more practice. Imagine if President Clinton had been more honest about having sex with Monica. There might be more respect for him even now.

So many apologies by Tiger Woods and other celebrities fall flat because they lack genuineness. Sincerity can only grow from honestly taking responsibility and coping with failure. The humility of acknowledging mistakes is part of building self-esteem that has real resonance.

Rocking the boat, saying no, coping with rejection, practicing choices and acknowledging the wants underneath rejection and wrestling with failure are all part of the path to authentic self-esteem.