I’ve struggled with self-esteem issues since I was a kid. I mean I was chubby and weird, so that’s not a huge surprise! But then in my second year of high school I got sick, and remained sick for almost two years, during which time I didn’t have the energy to be so negative on myself. And when I came out the other end I was just so happy to be alive and healthy that all those negative thoughts didn’t get to me much.
They slowly returned in university with the onset of depression and anxiety, and have weaved in and out of my life since. And as I got older, the negative thoughts evolved. When I was young I recall it being a constant fear and paranoia about what other people were thinking (which I know is a classic symptom of Social Anxiety Disorder), but as I get older it’s been more of a struggle with self doubt and self judgement. It’s a constant stream of never-ending negativity.
// I’m a terrible friend. // I can’t do this job. // Why would anyone love me? // I screw everything up. // I’m an embarrassment. // What’s the point in trying? // I’m a failure. // I give up. //
And the longer my life stagnates, the more intense the negative thoughts become. The more friends I lose touch with, jobs I’m rejected from, relationships I’m in that fail, etc, the more I start to doubt myself. I know this is something that everyone struggles with- I just wish I knew how they get through it! For me it leads to crippling anxieties and the mentality of ‘why bother?’ and assumptions, that are correct in my head (and maybe in reality).
// Why bother applying for this job because I’m not going to get it. // Why bother trying to stay in touch with this friend because they clearly don’t want me in their life. // Why bother trying to date because no one in their right mind would ever be interested in me. // Why bother trying this or that because I’m only going to fail. //
I let myself fail before I even try. Sure, there are a lot of things I’ve done, even when they’ve scared me. Many times even because they scared me. But in my mind everything I’ve done has been a failure in its own way. University and grad school, moving abroad, travelling, projects- all the things that people tell me are accomplishments- I’ve never seen them as that. I focus on everything in those experiences that went wrong, and how that was all my fault and I should have done better. And I use them as excuses not to try new things.
I got thinking about this because few days ago I had a job application that asked me what other people like or admire about me. Not knowing how to answer, I decided to ask on Facebook. People were very kind in their answers, but they were difficult for me to read because I don’t believe them about myself. I wish beyond reason that I was courageous, or kind, or determined. But I’m not. Or I’m not enough of those things. Enough of what, I’m not even sure. But there’s something missing.
I don’t expect to ever feel “I’m awesome!”, but I’d like to find a way to stop holding myself back.