What follows always seems to be absent in our discussions about self esteem.
Articles on “how to heal from low self esteem” are all over the internet. And the advice they offer drives me crazy.
Find a New Challenge
Learn to Be Assertive
Focus on Your Positives
Take Care of Yourself
Avoid Negative Self-Talk
If you’ve tried any of these remedies, you know none of them work, which makes you feel like a loser because you couldn’t fix the problem, which is the last thing you need right now.
To get any victory here, you’re going to need to start with one of the most painful questions you can ask.
Where did your low self esteem come from?
Hint: you’re not born with it.
The #1 Cause of Your Self Esteem Issues
You didn’t come out of the womb with low self esteem.
Someone gave it to you.
Sometime in your early, formative years, someone passed their low self esteem to you. In many different ways, this person (or persons) conveyed the message that you’re not worth much.
And you believed them.
Maybe you were physically abused, sexually abused, screamed at. Perhaps it was more subtle. Maybe you were neglected too much – not enough for the neighbor to call Social Services, but just enough for you to believe there’s something wrong with you.
I have a friend who’s parents follow her around 24/7 and tell her what she’s doing wrong.
She’s grown up feeling like an idiot and can’t shake it.
Or what about the guy who’s parents only loved him when he did something good? He’ll spend the rest of his life only feeling good about himself when he manages some kind of accomplishment. He’ll live from mountaintop to mountaintop, struggling to be present in his own family because the only thing that matters is success.
Low self esteem drives all manner of problems from relational discord to addiction to suicide.
Unfortunately, most people have it.
And what drives me nuts is the fact that most of the articles and resources aimed at helping people heal don’t deal with the most important truth about your low self esteem.
It came at the hands of someone else.
The Best Self Esteem Advice I Ever Took
That might not sound like an epiphany to you, but that truth has a huge bearing on your healing.
Because your low self esteem came at the hands of someone else, the remedy is going to have to come through the same medium.
You’re going to have to spend time with people who love you, people who see the real you. Positive people. Healthy people.
These people, through their words and actions, just like the people who gave you bad self esteem, will tell you over and over again that you’re OK, that you’re not a bad person.
This truth about you can only come from someone else.
You can’t think your way out of this, or change something and watch your low self esteem magically disappear.
But because we don’t like who we are, we surround ourselves with the pretty people, the successful people – and they’re the worst. Their self esteem is just as bad as yours, they’ve just found a way to cover it up better than you have.
Healthy people don’t worry as much about style and other cultural alternatives for self worth. They’re not the sexy people; the people everyone wants to be around. Most of them can be found at churches, volunteer organizations, and nursing homes.
How boring is that?
But these people can, and will, change your life. All you have to do is put yourself in their arena. They’ll do the rest. It’s who they are.
Years ago, I drank the Kool Aide and started attending church. Because of my career, I ended up in a tiny, conservative, Evangelical country church in Texarkana, Arkansas.
While that might sound like death to you, it was the beginning of the end for my low self esteem. I was mentored by one of the elders who was an expert at encouragement. I became friends with the youth pastor who never took issue with my many unsavory qualities.
To be sure, this congregation wasn’t without its kooks. But for the most part it was filled with people who were committed to helping me see the truth about myself.
It’s who they were.
I’ll never forget them, or what they perpetrated against my low self esteem.
Now, as a Stay at Home Dad and a volunteer at our church, I deal with the unsavory qualities of others on a regular basis. I don’t spend nearly as much time as I should in the company of healthy people, but I get enough to keep moving forward.
Looking back on the last 20 years of my life, and at whatever success I’ve had in restoring my self-view, I see a long line of people who stood by my side and spoke truth, over and over again, about who I am.
Without friendships like these, I’d be a wreck.
If you’re struggling here, you’ll get nowhere without people in your life who have a healthy view of themselves. They’re the only ones who can undo the self-lying that you’ve been living with for so long.
Drop what you’re doing and find these folk.
They’ll change your life.