Self Esteem, Step One: Evict the people who aren’t supportive of your from your brain. They’re not doing anything constructive. Every single time you start to feel good about yourself, the voices come in with “you aren’t good enough”, or “you shouldn’t feel this way.” Every time you take a chance to do something you’ve always wanted to do, the voices say, “You’re too fat for that,” or “Everybody will ridicule you if you try dancing/jogging/rock climbing/poetry reading”.
Those voices, the ones of society which has brainwashed us all our lives, are not doing us any favors.
I have a friend who is very successful in what he does. He’s owned his own business in the past and decided it wasn’t fulfilling enough, so took a job elsewhere in the same field, but doing something more fulfilling to him. He is in a couple of social organizations and does very well in them. However, he’s in another social club where he was treated as if he doesn’t know anything. This third organization was pretty clique-ish, and he never fit in with the ‘cool kids’ of the organization. Even with all his successes, this one group was able to impact his self-esteem.
We were discussing this recently, and about how he changed locations of this social group, going to another group (closer to his home) in the same organization. One that wasn’t so clique-ish. He was surprised that people liked him and didn’t think he was a dummy. He became one of the ‘cool kids’ of the club, although he never acts like it. (My friend is honestly one of the more humble people I know.)
If he could be affected by a year or two worth of being told and shown how stupid he was, how worthless, how his ideas were never correct, even with years of successes in other areas of life, how more so people who’ve been treated this way for decades? Or most of their lives?
I’ve recently learned to identify which thoughts that come up are ‘my’ voices and which are other people’s voices. Now, some voices that are not ‘mine’ are acceptable. Any thought that is supportive, whether it’s mine or whether it’s somebody else’s (like my husband or supportive friends) are allowed to stay. They build me up and help me in my recovery of my self esteem. They are the thoughts that make me think I really do have some talent for this or that, that maybe a I can make a living off my artistic abilities. Or that I’m worth something just because I exist.
The voices that don’t get to stay are the ones that are abusive and non-supportive. The ones that make you feel less than two inches tall. The ones that make you question your own reality. You know, the ones that say, “Maybe I just don’t have enough will power to make a diet work”, “You can’t do that thing, you aren’t good enough!” Sometimes, because we’ve been brainwashed by society in general and friends and family in specific, those thoughts come in our own voices as well.
The thing is, those thoughts don’t serve us. All they do is keep us from really living, from believing that we have the right to be. That we have the right to exist. And that we have the right to enjoyment of our existence (as much as anybody else does). Those thoughts, those ideas that tell us we aren’t good enough or as good as or anything else denigrating have to be evicted.
It’s a lot easier said than done.
When I first started in my path of recovery, I couldn’t even identify which were the detrimental thoughts and which were the supportive thoughts. I couldn’t identify which friends were supportive of me and which were toxic to me. It took many years to be able to identify the difference. You’d think that would be easy, wouldn’t you? But it wasn’t for me.
I got so used to being judged and found lacking for something as superficial as the size of my clothing that I couldn’t identify that somebody who told me “You know I love you, so you know I’m saying this only with your best interests in mind, but you’d be so pretty if you just lose about 100 pounds” was being toxic to me. But that’s what brainwashing does. When you are told over and over and over that red is really blue, you come to believe it.
Identifying the toxic messages, and then evicting them from your brain each and every time they come backis a major part of building self esteem. And evicting them each and every time they come back is really the key here. Brainwashing happens through repetition. It’s going to take repetition to break it. It’s going to take conscious effort to get rid of that programming.
I found it became easier after a while. I didn’t blame myself so much for things beyond my control (I’m sick, therefor God is punishing me; I’m fat, it’s my fault for eating too much, therefor I deserve the contempt society heaps on me). After a while, I could even see how it’s society’s issue, and they have to deal with it.
It’s YOUR brain. You don’t have to let anybody you don’t want to have access to it. It’s a conscious choice, and one that may have to be made hundreds of times a day, but it is possible to make it. And making the choice to evict the toxic voices is one that will eventually help build your self esteem.
*NOTE: I apologize for not getting this posted earlier. Unfortunately, my mother-in-law (whom I am primary caretaker of) fell today and we’ve been dealing with the consequences of her fall. At this point, it looks like the damage is minor, but it will take a few days before we can be sure if she’s broken a bone or not. I planned to have this up by 10 this morning. In the future, I do plan to have the posts up earlier than 3:15 MST.