Improving self-esteem

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Improving self-esteem

Post by StrangePanda on Sat Apr 25, 2015 6:06 pm

Hello nerdloungers! I want to make a thread about self-esteem and how to improve it. I… really don’t like myself. And it’s hard to hope someday someone would be interested in me if I think that if I was a guy I wouldn’t date me neither. And even if we talk about just life in general, my bad self-esteem often get in the way and makes me feel like crap.

This summer I really really want to start feeling better about myself (both appearance and personality).  I’m tired of hating myself.

I would like to hear all your advices, thoughts, stories, personal experiences, maybe some books or videos you saw, anything that you think could be useful not just for me but for anyone struggling with their confidence. I know it's pretty hard to find someone who mastered the art of being confident at 100% but even if you had some small victories I would like to hear about them too.


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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Jayce on Sat Apr 25, 2015 10:26 pm

I'm a person that has struggled really badly with managing self esteem ever since childhood up until a year or two ago, mostly due to bullying by other people/parents, also my shyness, solitary interests, lack of friends, lack of knowledge on how to build self esteem. In the present I do feel a lot better.

I got external help by going to counselling and it really did benefit me, especially since they gave me lots of coping strategies, and I had someone to talk to about my issues. However counselling isn't the solution to your problems though. It's advice. You still are going to have to go out your way to implement your solutions.

In fact the first time I was aware that my low self esteem was a problem that can be solved was during my early sessions in counselling. Before then I never really tried and was too boggled down in my spiral of stress to think about anything else. The first time I went to counselling was at the end of Grade 12 in high school for me.

My biggest turning point in my life would definitely be starting university. I actively decided to better my life, and implemented strategies to help me do so. Some active strategies I use are:
Knowing my triggers of sadness/anxiety/low self esteem and being aware about it, coming up with strategies in order to combat it, having more positive interactions with other people (when I was younger most of my interactions were very negative).

I set alarms on my phone everyday, one at 9:30 am to remind me to not compare myself with other people and one at 6pm telling myself that I matter, and that I'm important, and I'm going to lookout for myself. I have another alarm at 11 am telling me that I should work hard today. I use the event setup thing on my calendar on my iphone to do this.

I generate positive interactions by socialising a lot more, especially using university events to my advantage- I find this to really help me.

I work really hard in changing the things I don't like about myself or finding some compromise.

I exclusively fork out some time for my hobbies/socialising just so I feel better.

On rare occasions that I'm unsure or feel distressed, unhappy, I will go to my friends, I'm willing to go to the counsellor again though things have been going really well so I haven't needed to. I will also remind myself of the things I learnt in counselling. When I'm really unsure I have also used this thing that my university has created, to help me. http://counselling-pdp.sydney.edu.au/.
Panda, maybe you can check with your university to see what help is available? At mine they also run workshops to help out with anxiety, stress etc... and it does help.

I exercise on average three days a week at the gym, it's kind of like my way of meditation since all I need to do is run on the treadmill or do some bench presses while listening to music and it keeps me happy- if I recall correctly, exercise releases endorphins. It also helps that I'm studying education in university, where we do look into the importance of well being for young people.

Personally, my biggest inspirations have always been fantasy stories- the coming of age ones targeted at a teenage audience usually about a nobody, going on adventures and they become awesome at the end. I have always read them since I was a kid, and always personally wished that I was as amazing and heroic as those protagonists because I was the complete opposite (kind of similar to how they were at the beginning of the story), it was what drew me to that kind of fiction. So I grew up with knowing the attitude of striving to reach my goals, not giving up, and pursuing what I want. It was just that I was never brave enough myself to go do so, because I never thought it was possible. So once I did I went and did everything I could to help myself out. And I'm still doing it.

There are probably a whole heap of other stuff as well but at the moment this is what I thought of.

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Guest on Sat May 02, 2015 11:37 am

Given the potential for this thread, it's disappointing to see it so empty.

I'm guessing that like many of us, you've already heard/read of ways to improve your self-esteem. But it's never enough is it? Not when the problem is summoning the motivation to do said work because you have fuck-all guarantee of whether you'll actually feel better.

Am I wrong?

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by nearly_takuan on Sat May 02, 2015 2:15 pm

Is self-esteem requisite for confidence?

I haven't been pondering as long as I usually do when I post stuff like this, but right now I'm thinking it isn't.

Maybe it's only because it feels like the biggest component I personally feel the absence of, but I'm thinking the critical thing is self-trust.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Caffeinated on Sat May 02, 2015 3:31 pm

HermitTheToad wrote:Given the potential for this thread, it's disappointing to see it so empty.

I'm guessing that like many of us, you've already heard/read of ways to improve your self-esteem. But it's never enough is it? Not when the problem is summoning the motivation to do said work because you have fuck-all guarantee of whether you'll actually feel better.

Am I wrong?

I think you hit the nail on the head as to why I didn't have a response to this thread initially. I've certainly posted things in other discussions that have helped me. But this idea of a person having trouble summoning the motivation is what stumps me. I don't know how to wrap my head around that one exactly. To my way of thinking, the motivation is inescapable. Because you are the only you that you get. There's no customer service hotline, no return policy, this is it. Your one and only body, your one and only mind, your one and only self, your one and only time on earth. So enjoy it, make the most of it. If that's not enough motivation, I don't know what else to say, I'm stumped.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by kleenestar on Sat May 02, 2015 10:00 pm

I will give you the same advice I give anyone who asks me this question, which is that trying to raise your self-esteem is a trap. The thing you want to be working on is self-efficacy, and it's both easier to do and more effective.

Self-efficacy means "do you believe that you are able to accomplish your goals?" Basically, it is your belief in your own effectiveness. Self-esteem without self-efficacy is always going to be a hollow construct, able to be pushed over at the touch of a feather. Self-efficacy, though, breeds self-esteem, because you can be justifiably proud of yourself for meeting your goals.

The simplest way to build self-efficacy is to set extremely small and manageable goals, but ones that happen every day or even more than once a day. For example, when I was working on self-efficacy around healthy eating my first goal was "eat one bite of fruit or vegetable every day." It seemed absurdly simple, and yet my ability to do that small thing showed me that I could trust myself to do bigger things.

If you choose to do this, a few tips:
- Every time you hit your goal, actively celebrate. Punch the air and say "YEAH!" Pat yourself on the back. Tell a friend you did a great thing. You are teaching yourself not just to hit goals but to think of yourself as someone who can.
- Whatever you do, do not increase your goals too fast. You can always do more if you feel like it on a given day, but the purpose of doing this is not to actually achieve the thing you are working on. It is to retrain your brain to trust itself, and to help you develop strategies for taking action on things that matter to you.
- The goal you choose should be something that's as much as possible within your control. So, to use a dating example, "Get someone's number" is a terrible goal, while "Make eye contact with one stranger" is a good one.

If this is helpful, I'm happy to answer questions.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by PintsizeBro on Sat May 02, 2015 11:06 pm

I will second kleenestar's suggestion. Trying to improve your self-esteem can very easily be a trap. But setting goals, even small ones, and accomplishing them will help immensely. Even if you don't feel better about yourself after meeting your goal, you still met your goal, and that is cool.

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Guest on Sun May 03, 2015 7:51 am

@Caffeinated: You've stumped me in turn. If thinking "I'm all I've got" was all it took, then I think we'd all be enjoying ourselves a bit more.

If I only had the absolute bare minimum respect for my mind, body, self and time on this Earth, why on earth would I care to look after myself?

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by CP96 on Sun May 03, 2015 8:02 am

kleenestar wrote:I will give you the same advice I give anyone who asks me this question, which is that trying to raise your self-esteem is a trap. The thing you want to be working on is self-efficacy, and it's both easier to do and more effective.

Self-efficacy means "do you believe that you are able to accomplish your goals?" Basically, it is your belief in your own effectiveness. Self-esteem without self-efficacy is always going to be a hollow construct, able to be pushed over at the touch of a feather. Self-efficacy, though, breeds self-esteem, because you can be justifiably proud of yourself for meeting your goals.

The simplest way to build self-efficacy is to set extremely small and manageable goals, but ones that happen every day or even more than once a day. For example, when I was working on self-efficacy around healthy eating my first goal was "eat one bite of fruit or vegetable every day." It seemed absurdly simple, and yet my ability to do that small thing showed me that I could trust myself to do bigger things.

If you choose to do this, a few tips:
- Every time you hit your goal, actively celebrate. Punch the air and say "YEAH!" Pat yourself on the back. Tell a friend you did a great thing. You are teaching yourself not just to hit goals but to think of yourself as someone who can.
- Whatever you do, do not increase your goals too fast. You can always do more if you feel like it on a given day, but the purpose of doing this is not to actually achieve the thing you are working on. It is to retrain your brain to trust itself, and to help you develop strategies for taking action on things that matter to you.
- The goal you choose should be something that's as much as possible within your control. So, to use a dating example, "Get someone's number" is a terrible goal, while "Make eye contact with one stranger" is a good one.

If this is helpful, I'm happy to answer questions.

Seconded. I'd also say try to make one of these regular goals something skill-based, but base the goal around practice rather than achievement. For example, say you want to learn how to draw, set a goal of "practice sketching 20 minutes every day" rather than "draw a picture-perfect human face." Simply practising is an attainable goal whereas a specific outcome might not be realistically achievable, but with practice that outcome becomes more likely in the long run. One of the things that has helped me massively with self-esteem is developing a repetoire of skills I know I'm good at, and the best way to build skills is through regular manageable practice.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by StrangePanda on Sat May 16, 2015 6:58 pm

Sorry for not answering, I appreciate that you took time to write something here, it's just I find this topic tough for me and I kinda avoided answering because it's sometimes painful to think about what's wrong with me and why can't I be normal... Like I want to feel better but at the same time it's so difficult to face my demons. Sorry for the dramatic words here, I don't know how to explain.

HermitTheToad wrote:
I'm guessing that like many of us, you've already heard/read of ways to improve your self-esteem. But it's never enough is it? Not when the problem is summoning the motivation to do said work because you have fuck-all guarantee of whether you'll actually feel better.
Am I wrong?

Well, actually, I have the motivation but don't know how to do said work, I mean really how do you do that? Theoretically I have an idea of what I'm supposed to do, like telling myself affirmative things, not seeking external validation, believing in myself, finding small things to love about myself, etc., but in reality I can't make this work, not when my self esteem is on the ground level, there is nothing much I like about me and my efforts seem fake and I don't even believe myself when I try to think I'm not that bad. I can say all I want to myself but it takes as little as looking in a mirror and seeing the old same Panda and all my efforts collapse and die and I'm again where I started.

Caffeinated wrote: Because you are the only you that you get. There's no customer service hotline, no return policy, this is it. Your one and only body, your one and only mind, your one and only self, your one and only time on earth. So enjoy it, make the most of it. If that's not enough motivation, I don't know what else to say, I'm stumped.

That is exactly what a friend said to me when I had the unfortunate desire to talk about my self-esteem. This person has and always had a pretty much good self-esteem and didn't have particular problems about it. I don't know if you are in the same situation and never had been in a self hating state of mind, I don't want to make assumptions. I understand that I'm the only me that I get but it doesn't stop me from not liking myself. It's like a background noise in my everyday life, I can't get away from it. What do you do when you can't find things about yourself, your body and your mind that you like?

Sorry folks for being that negative. Usually I try to avoid thinking about all of this but it is always here in my head.

kleenestar wrote:I will give you the same advice I give anyone who asks me this question, which is that trying to raise your self-esteem is a trap. The thing you want to be working on is self-efficacy, and it's both easier to do and more effective.


Thanks for the advice, I like how pratical it is. What steps would you do to feel better about your appearance and your personnality? I don't know how to be self efficient about these two without external validation. Do you want me to list things I don't like about myself to find possible ways to work on them? If you have time for this, of course!

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Enail on Sat May 16, 2015 7:43 pm

I wonder if, instead of trying so hard to love things about yourself, it might be better to work on not focusing on your thoughts about yourself so much. Trying to force yourself to think positive thoughts about yourself that you don't believe seems sort of like when you're a kid and your parents keep trying to get you to play with the kid of some friends of theirs and the more they push it, the more it makes you dislike them just because you resent being forced. Maybe instead, just try to notice when you're thinking something negative, something evaluation-y about yourself, and consciously put your mind on a different track? Small concrete goals can be good things to focus on, so I'd think Kleenestar's self-efficacy plan could work well with this way of approaching things too.

This is getting a bit rambly, thinking-out-loud, but I'm not honestly sure self-esteem has to mean going around loving stuff about yourself all over the place; to me, that sounds like a strangely relational kind of relationship to have with oneself. Like, I am me, I don't need to have an opinion about me all that often because I'm not interacting with me as if I'm another person, I'm just being me while I interact with the outside world, or other people, or with thoughts and ideas in my head. What I think about myself is only relevant when those thoughts prevent me from making good judgements or when they get in the way of my interaction with the world or other people or thoughts, so maybe just being able to set aside the negative thoughts could be useful in itself whether or not you'd still have them if you stopped and thought about them?
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Archetype694 on Sat May 16, 2015 9:27 pm

This is an area I have long struggled with, and while I have made progress still have a ways to go.

I wish I could give you an answer as to how to summon the motivation.

For myself it was a combination of things; getting older and being unhappy with my current situation, a feeling of loneliness, and slowly getting over the heart break of ending a long term close friendship.

Frankly I think I became tired of feeling sorry for myself, perhaps life is not quite what I wish it to be but the only way things will change is by my own hand. Another huge part of gaining motivation was finally learning how to love oneself which is something I have never been quite able to pull off until recently.

As said above setting minor goals and then achieving them can go along way in improving one's outlook. For myself it was throwing myself into activities that I know I would likely horrible at, things that would force myself out of my comfort zone.

One was taijiquan (tai chi), being a big guy graceful movements were never my forte, however I am happy to say I have been progressing at a good pace. Another has been improv, I have found it to be useful in getting past my reserved nature with new people, and helpful in my conversation skills.  I have a long way to go in both areas but my improvement is something I take pride in, which help bolster my self esteem.

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by StrangePanda on Sat May 16, 2015 10:18 pm

Enail wrote:Maybe instead, just try to notice when you're thinking something negative, something evaluation-y about yourself, and consciously put your mind on a different track?

One of my favorite coping skills, whenever I feel like falling into the depths of self hate, is that I try to find someting to occupy my mind with, like a book or a series and I throw myself into it. The downside is that when I happen to not be busy I'm left alone with my thoughts and all that I avoided to think about falls on me pretty hard. I don't know if running from my insecurities is better than to face them. Uh-oh

Enail wrote:
This is getting a bit rambly, thinking-out-loud, but I'm not honestly sure self-esteem has to mean going around loving stuff about yourself all over the place; to me, that sounds like a strangely relational kind of relationship to have with oneself. Like, I am me, I don't need to have an opinion about me all that often because I'm not interacting with me as if I'm another person, I'm just being me while I interact with the outside world, or other people, or with thoughts and ideas in my head.

Well, if the outside world showed at least some signs that I'm not an unloveable human being then maybe I wouldn't have to wonder what's wrong with me. I constantly feel inferior, not like I have a lot to offer. I feel ugly and repulsive.

I used to have a neutral opinion of myself until a few years ago. I knew I wasn't that good at something or wasn't that pretty or sociable or whatever but I was mostly okay with that because it didn't interfere with my life. Like yeah, I didn't have much friends but I was in a new city, it was understandable, I was sure it'll get better in a few years. No one asked me on dates or was interested in me but I was young enough to think that it's okay, not everybody has a boyfriend at that age. Then I slowly became aware that maybe it's because of me. I started to wonder if I was good enough for anyone. Aaaand here I am, in the end of my mid-twenties, still undateable and not with many friends. People just don't seem to like me very much and guys aren't interested in me. That certainly says something about me, no?

If I could somehow learn to appreciate myself then maybe I would stop so desperately wanting external validation because I certainly am very desperate.

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Enail on Sat May 16, 2015 11:24 pm

StrangePanda wrote:
Enail wrote:Maybe instead, just try to notice when you're thinking something negative, something evaluation-y about yourself, and consciously put your mind on a different track?

One of my favorite coping skills, whenever I feel like falling into the depths of self hate, is that I try to find someting to occupy my mind with, like a book or a series and I throw myself into it. The downside is that when I happen to not be busy I'm left alone with my thoughts and all that I avoided to think about falls on me pretty hard. I don't know if running from my insecurities is better than to face them. Uh-oh

I think it's good to be able to distract yourself when it's getting too intense. I'd say maybe another tool to add to that is practicing redirecting your thoughts even when you're not actively distracting yourself - not running from your insecurities, but training your brain not to default to them. Are you seeing a therapist? I'm very much not an expert, so standard disclaimers apply, but I hear about cognitive behavior therapy as good for this kind of thing. You could give something like MoodGym (online CBT self-training) a try to see if it might be a good fit for you.


Enail wrote:
This is getting a bit rambly, thinking-out-loud, but I'm not honestly sure self-esteem has to mean going around loving stuff about yourself all over the place; to me, that sounds like a strangely relational kind of relationship to have with oneself. Like, I am me, I don't need to have an opinion about me all that often because I'm not interacting with me as if I'm another person, I'm just being me while I interact with the outside world, or other people, or with thoughts and ideas in my head.

Well, if the outside world showed at least some signs that I'm not an unloveable human being then maybe I wouldn't have to wonder what's wrong with me. I constantly feel inferior, not like I have a lot to offer. I feel ugly and repulsive.

I used to have a neutral opinion of myself until a few years ago. I knew I wasn't that good at something or wasn't that pretty or sociable or whatever but I was mostly okay with that because it didn't interfere with my life. Like yeah, I didn't have much friends but I was in a new city, it was understandable, I was sure it'll get better in a few years. No one asked me on dates or was interested in me but I was young enough to think that it's okay, not everybody has a boyfriend at that age. Then I slowly became aware that maybe it's because of me. I started to wonder if I was good enough for anyone. Aaaand here I am, in the end of my mid-twenties, still undateable and not with many friends. People just don't seem to like me very much and guys aren't interested in me. That certainly says something about me, no?

If I could somehow learn to appreciate myself then maybe I would stop so desperately wanting external validation because I certainly am very desperate.

Do you have some things that you do on your own that you enjoy? Especially things that are using your you-ness rather than distracting yourself passively, stuff like dancing your head off to ridiculous songs, playing music or doing something else creative but low-pressure, some kind of exercise or mental challenge - not something to be good at, just to have fun? It seems like your ability to enjoy your own company has taken a big hit from not feeling like other people appreciate your company and turning that against yourself, maybe you need to spend some time re-learning that you can be with yourself enjoyably. You can't force that connection by staring nose to nose with yourself and trying to act like bffs, but maybe you can build a new friendship by starting with quietly (or loudly!) doing something you like side-by-side with yourself.

And how do you feel about trying to find some ways you can offer something in the outside world, in a very low key way? If you don't feel like you can connect with people or bring something to the table for friendships or romantic relationships, would offering something a little more straightforward and concrete be something more manageable? Volunteering for something easygoing, looking for a language exchange partner if there's a language you know a little of and wouldn't mind practicing (you don't have to be good at the other language to be able to offer something, the part that helps your language partner is you being willing to talk with them in your own and to be patient if they struggle), something like that? It might also be a good way to practice forming social connections without the pressure of feeling like you're not offering anything if you're not whatever you feel like you're not.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Guest on Sun May 17, 2015 7:15 am

One thing that helped me a lot is taking a minute to focus and dwell on all of the good moments that happen. We're wired to focus on and remember the bad more than the good, because the bad tends to be the stuff that could harm us. So we don't remember and play-by-play our good moments with the same intensity as the bad.

But you can actually write those good moments and the emotions attached -- pride, satisfaction, etc. -- to the same memory banks by talking a moment to fully experience the moment. When I started taking a minute to say to myself, "I just finished this paper, and it was hard, but I'm proud of it," or "my boss just complimented me on how I did this task -- I'm valued by her, and that's vey cool," or even, "the cherry blossoms give me joy, and the sun is warm," will help those moments be a part of your day's experience when you look back at it.

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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Caffeinated on Sun May 17, 2015 7:16 pm

StrangePanda wrote:
Caffeinated wrote: Because you are the only you that you get. There's no customer service hotline, no return policy, this is it. Your one and only body, your one and only mind, your one and only self, your one and only time on earth. So enjoy it, make the most of it. If that's not enough motivation, I don't know what else to say, I'm stumped.

That is exactly what a friend said to me when I had the unfortunate desire to talk about my self-esteem. This person has and always had a pretty much good self-esteem and didn't have particular problems about it. I don't know if you are in the same situation and never had been in a self hating state of mind, I don't want to make assumptions. I understand that I'm the only me that I get but it doesn't stop me from not liking myself. It's like a background noise in my everyday life, I can't get away from it. What do you do when you can't find things about yourself, your body and your mind that you like?

I'm sorry if my response seemed dismissive of your problems or your point of view. Probably it was as useful as someone telling me to get rid of anxiety by just not being afraid any more.

It's true that I don't generally struggle with self-esteem, and definitely don't hate myself. Typically if I feel bad about myself it's in relation to having done some particular thing that I feel bad about. It'll usually be that I've done something unkind, in which case I should apologize and try to make amends; or I'm avoiding something ,generally some kind of work that needs to be done, in which case I should face what I'm avoiding and get started on it.

I feel like positive self regard is the direct outcome of feeling that you're following the guidelines of your moral compass. If you're going against what you feel is right, then it would make sense to feel bad about it, and that would provide motivation to change your actions to come into line with what you feel is right. I think this view is one of the positive things that came from my religious upbringing.
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Re: Improving self-esteem

Post by Kaz on Mon May 18, 2015 3:39 pm

I had a serious struggle with self-esteem in my late teens during a period where I was very depressed and on-and-off issues with it since, if not nearly to the level it was then. What helped me is kind of complicated, so...

STEP ONE: I had to realise that the over-the-top things my brain was throwing at me (about being completely worthless with no redeeming value) were not objectively correct. It's been a while, but I *think* I mainly got there by learning/reminding myself that there were things I was good at and things I did which were worthwhile. One of the ways I did this was by writing fanfic, which I got into for very different reasons but which I found really helped to shore up the ruins of my ego via good reviews. Here was something I'd created all on my own and a random stranger was telling me it was good! That they'd liked it! That it had given them enjoyment! When I had my brain telling me that I was completely worthless and contributed nothing of value to the world, that was something solid to hold onto and go "wait, no, that's not right," something that had more heft than things like "but people like you! You can't be that bad!" (which my jerkbrain could find a million ways to undermine).

Another thing I did with my therapist where looking back I'm not sure why it worked and which I'd be leery about recommending was rebuilding my belief in my own intelligence. Straight-As were sort of expected in my family (not in a "straight-A or ELSE" way but in a... my brother and I were bringing them home all the time so they ceased being special or worthy of remark way) and so the fact that I was getting really great grades with almost no effort was just... not something that really registered, anymore. Instead, I got super-focused on the things I wasn't doing so well at (social stuff...) and berating myself for being stupid. So I did stuff like IQ tests with my therapist and she'd be or at least act shocked at how well I did and that would set this seed of "I'm... actually smart, right? Actually good at stuff?" growing in my head. The reason I'm not sure I'd recommend this is because it seems pre-programmed to end up with your self-esteem relying on academic achievement and I'm not entirely certain why it didn't for me. It's possible I'm forgetting some important bit of what the therapist did and said.

I think a lot of the things people have mentioned fall into this category and there's something else I stumbled on later which I also think could be really helpful here...

STEP TWO: Once I'd achieved a semblance of a belief that I was actually kind of okay as people went and definitely not the worst person in the world, it was time to attack the intrusive negative thoughts. I basically took on "I deserve to live and be happy" as an axiom, something that was a given fact and not up for debate. And then I just sort of... killed all lines of thoughts that attacked that. As soon as the "you're a horrible person and the world would be better off without-" started up I'd just go "NOPE I am NOT DOING THIS I refuse to entertain these thoughts!!" and sort of... cut it off right then. Part of that, as you may have noticed given how I talked about them *g* is that I don't treat these as thoughts that I'm thinking. I treat them as coming from a chemical imbalance of some sort, intruders on the part of my brain that's really *me*, the same sort of thing as if you get a "do/say X!" thought popping up when X is horrendously awful and not something you'd actually want to do in a million years. It may be easier for me to do this because the thoughts really do feel like that and they were and are really over the top. Over the years I've taken to fending them off with a sort of "I'm the... worst person in the world? Really, jerkbrain? Worse than Hitler? Pull another one, it's got bells on" sardonic thing, but being able to do that is probably a result of experience. *wry*

I really don't think this step is possible without step one, because you need to be able to believe that these things you are thinking are *not true*, even as you're thinking them. Does that make sense?

STEP THREE (which may make a lot of sense as STEP ONE): Something I've done in the intervening years which has helped a lot, I think, is try to practice compassion and kindness towards other people and lay off petty judgementalism. Stuff like... say I see a woman buying five tubs of ice cream and nothing else in a supermarket checkout. It's easy to become judgemental about her eating choices. I cut that off by imagining situations that paint her in a sympathetic light. Maybe her boyfriend who she's deeply in love with just broke up with her and she wants comfort food. Poor her! Maybe she's having a huge party and forgot to buy dessert and just ran out to grab some. I hope she has fun! Similarly, trying to feel good for people in my life who had something nice happen to them or did something nice (rather than jealous). Curtailing nasty gossip... possibly trying some nice gossip. That kind of thing.

It might sound a little kumbaya, but I've found that not only do I much prefer thinking of people like this, the more I extend compassion to the people around me the more glaring it becomes if I have none for myself. At some point, I started thinking: "Would I think of a friend the way I am thinking of myself right now? Never. Would I think of my *worst enemy* the way I'm thinking of myself? Also never." And that sort of... sunk in. That in a weird sort of way, I was being arrogant - that *I* was the one human being on Earth who was uniquely horrible with no worth whatsoever, that I was the single person to whom no sympathy should be extended ever. And that this was for the crimes of... being a bit annoying sometimes? Occasionally getting snappish or feeling selfish? Wha?

*looks up* Right, I wrote a novel! I hope some of this helps you, anyway - I have absolutely been in the "my self-esteem has hit rock bottom and is digging" place and I hate seeing other people there.

Kaz

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