Nobody is born disliking themselves. Along the journey growing up, far too many people develop the habit of making themselves miserable by becoming their own best and constant critic. I recently read a new book by Anneli Rufus called "Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself" (Penguin Books, 2014) which has valuable ideas for each of us, no matter the level of your self-esteem.
If your self-esteem is diminished, who stole it or what lowered it? Your parents may have projected their own self-esteem issues on you, but you have a choice about rejecting those old messages and not carrying them forward in your life with you. Picture yourself now looking in the window of your childhood home when you are about age 4. What do you see? What are you doing? Are you by yourself? Are you with family? What is the four year old you doing, seeing, hearing and feeling?
These early memories may connect you with your authentic self before your self-esteem took any hits. If there was abuse or anger in the home, it may remind you of how you began to be at war within yourself. Either way, you can choose to return to your birthright--- being at ease with yourself and others and authentically your unique self. I remember that line on a decorative sign I saw recently: Be yourself, as everyone else is already taken.
Rufus explains the unhealthy habits that people with a sense of unworthiness and low self-esteem develop. Here are the things we should stop doing in order to heal past wounds in this area and start
nurturing our own esteem:
1. Telling lies.
2. Apologizing too much, including for things that we had nothing to do with and weren't responsible for.
3. Indecisiveness, or difficulty making choices.
4. Ruining our own fun, by worrying even when something wonderful is happening.
5. Acting. Many people feel they have to "fake it" in social situations or in relationships rather than being authentically yourself.
6. Being stuck in the past.
7. Deflecting praise.
8. Being perfectionistic with ourselves.
9. Difficulty saying "no".
10. Hating our bodies.
We can stop these habits or reflexes that entrench us in lower self-esteem by reversing each behavior. Be honest. Stop apologizing for errors that you didn't make. Savor joyful moments. Be you. Be gentle with yourself. Stay in the present, knowing we have all made mistakes in our past. Accept compliments graciously with a warm smile and a hearty "thank you". Say 'no' and set boundaries. Let joy sink in. Appreciate your body and be gentle with it by treating it well. Speak up and express what you want and what you prefer.
Realize that everyone has weaknesses and strengths. So do you. You can decide not to spend any more time on self-loathing talk. Making peace with yourself and becoming your own best friend is all about realizing that you've usually done the best that you can at a certain time in your life. All any of us can really change is what is happening now. Cultivate your strengths and your quirkiness. Set your intension to be as kind to yourself as you would to a dear friend or family member you love.
Self-loathing, Rufus writes, is at the core a kind of prejudice against yourself. Most of us wouldn't judge anyone else as harshly. Think of all the wonderful things you could do on the planet without wasting energy on harsh self-talk and low self-esteem. It may be time to update your internal hard drive if it's critical and harsh. Choosing to shift from being your toughest critic to becoming your own best friend is an important first step. Irecommend burning your membership card to the low self-esteem club, and Anneli Rufus's book is a great way to start.