For as long as I can remember, I struggled with low self-esteem. It has been a constant thing in my life but it became crippling in the last 5 years or so.
In the simplest, most relatable way, low self-esteem is you waking up every day, not liking yourself and thinking every other person is better than you. You wish something would be different, not just physically, but in every other way.
From a friend’s POV, I was a chameleon. A yes person who was under the radar always, could easily blend in and not draw attention to myself. I doubted myself so much that it moulded my personality and beliefs. I didn’t have an authentic self, so I was all my family and friends needed me to be because I was scared of being judged.
By bottling my opinions, I was perceived as easy going, but at what cost? I disrespected myself by allowing others to influence major decisions in my life. I didn’t trust myself to make choices for myself. And to be honest, that seemed fair because somehow, everybody around me felt older than I was.
I withheld what I needed from others and was unable to communicate my emotions. Everything depended upon my desire to measure up, and if I felt I wasn’t (which I usually did), I would beat myself.
It’s important to note that certain emotions go side by side with low self-esteem, like the need for validation, the fear of judgement, and the lack of confidence. These could be determinants of your self-worth. I wrapped my not being able to feel confident in myself with anger. I believed that if I was angry, people would fear and respect me. My self-worth was really low and my coping method was saying, “okay”, “yes”, “that’s fine”, and “it’s no problem”. At first, I tied my self worth to my weight. The slimmer I was, the more confident I felt. When I doubled in size, my life turned upside down. I later lost all the weight within a couple of months, but that didn’t stop me from wishing to be someone else. You see, the thing about validation is that we all love it, however, there’s a thin line between validation and dependence that can be crossed so easily.
What I didn’t understand until I became self-aware was that being authentic requires real vulnerability. I kept thinking, what if I said what I really thought and nobody agreed? How would that make me feel? Honestly, even as I write this article and think about people reading about my flaws, it scares me. It is a daily fight. A constant battle. Once I understood where I was hurting, it became much easier to know how to step up and support myself.
I grew up around people who were inconsistent and it was bound for me to develop the same pattern in my own life. Patterns like being afraid to take risks, pleasing people at my detriment, and constantly doing things against my will. Today, I wholeheartedly believe I am as worthy as my friends, family, and any one I ever have or will date. I make decisions, I share my opinion, I walk away, I let go, I take risks, I let people in, and I experience a level of happiness I didn’t even know was possible. Still, in all these, I still see myself as a “smallie”.
I sometimes still believe I’m not grown up enough to take certain decisions, handle certain projects or do some things because, how can I be? The aftermath of this is in me playing small. It’s in my constant disbelief that I earn as much as I do. It’s in me not being able to understand why people appreciate my work so much because, how did I get here?
As I became more inquisitive and self-compassionate, I was able to reflect on my life and identify the things that had been draining me and standing in my way. The most important thing I’ve done is work on my relationship with myself. I’ve learned to love myself, accept myself, and get to know myself. And, let me tell you, it has been a bumpy road with many trips and falls along the way. If you are suffering from low self-esteem, you don’t have to wait to hit rock bottom, or wait another ten years. Start working on yourself, taking charge of your narrative and accepting and loving yourself for you you are. You deserve it.
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