Self-esteem reflects an individual's overall subjective emotional evaluation of their own worth. It is the decision made by an individual towards the self.
You cannot love someone else before you love yourself. I know this sounds cliché, but let’s explore this a little further.
You might have said to yourself at some point in time “If only this person was nicer to me,” or “If I had felt more supported in that particular situation, I would have been fine." "I would have been able to show a better part of myself.”
We project our inward state outward and expect a resolution to happen by the grace of someone else’s action. We often get hurt further, though, rather than find a resolution.
Self-Esteem and Why You Are Looking for Love When You Have Been Hurt
When as a child or as an adult you suffer constant and relentless abuse by being put down and belittled, that can be very disheartening. Especially when you went through that as a child and that psychological abuse persisted for a length of time.
Out of that hurt, you compensate, and you either hold on to it or move to the opposite of that pain. If you have been made to feel unworthy and useless you might have either taken that on and drowned in that feeling, or you actively attempted to reach the opposite of that feeling which is wanting to be worthy, loved, accepted, honored, and to feel adequate. Most likely you will move between those two states of collapse and activation on a rotating basis.
That search for the opposite of unworthiness, when maintained on an unconscious level, always projects itself outward. It could express itself as wanting to be right or perfect, constantly wanting to improve your body image, an obsession with how people see or perceive you, wanting prestige and recognition, being overly studious, overly pleasing or unnecessarily getting into arguments and fights.
If you have been made to feel unworthy and useless you might have either taken that on and drowned in that feeling, or you actively attempted to reach the opposite of that feeling which is wanting to be worthy, loved, accepted, honored, and to feel adequate.
The trouble in all of these actions is that your attempt to find the solution outside of yourself will always turn out to be insufficient in the end, because that very search for perfection is a compensation and an attempt to avoid the very pain you are experiencing on a deeper level.
Healing Child Abuse and Neglect
When you become aware of your projection out of lack of self-esteem and see that you created it out of a need for survival, out of necessity, you can ask yourself, “What is the opposite of that projection?”
When you are looking for acceptance in whichever way you are projecting that outwardly-- what is its opposite?
Is it that--on a deeper level--you are experiencing a sense of non-acceptance, feeling a lack of self-esteem, or unworthiness?
As an exercise, can you hold yourself there for a moment and tap into that hurt of inadequacy and unworthiness? Not by drowning and losing yourself in it, but by allowing yourself to feel the pain of it.
While doing this, most likely memories will start to flood in about when and with whom these feelings were present. Now see if you can let those thoughts come and go but without giving over-importance to them. Stay connected with meeting the hurt and the sensations in the body by allowing the pain to be felt.
You might find that there is a person or several persons in your past who were insistently giving you that feeling of inadequacy, feeling of worthlessness, and the feeling that you were unloved and over time you have internalized that voice—it has become your own inner critic.
Working The Different Layers of Trauma and PTSD
Again, when you see this process you are able to achieve a little distance, a little less identification with a pattern that has become so automatic and hardwired in your thoughts and nervous system.
That little space you create in that moment of insight is important because you can build on that. You can see that you weren’t stupid; you just weren’t given the tools to flourish and stimulate your intelligence in an all-around way.
As you keep working with these emotional patterns and connecting with the deeper layers of them, you will start to differentiate between what really is yours to carry, and what you have taken on through your environment and education.
Once you clear some of the pain and Post-Traumatic Stress that relates to this theme and the specific persons involved within a therapy setting, it becomes time to start voicing your anger and boundaries. Expressing and voicing boundaries, again first in a safe therapeutic setting, assists in giving back what isn’t yours to carry any further and will effectively reestablish your self-worth, self-esteem, and will help to diminish fear and anxiety.
How is your self-esteem? Leave a comment below.